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Tips for engaging millennials in the workplace

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Millennials are now the largest workforce in the U.S. According to Pew Research Center, millennials have been the largest generation in the labor force since 2016. For older managers, this means that it’s absolutely essential to know how to deal with millennials in the workplace – keep reading for important tips for engaging millennials in the office.

Who are millennials?

Depending on the source you use, the generational cutoff years may vary slightly.

  • Pew Research Center says that millennials were born between 1981 and 1996.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau says that millennials were born between 1982 and 2000 and that there are 83.1 million millennials. That’s more than one quarter of the nation’s entire population.

Either way, it’s clear that millennials are now the largest generation. Pew Research Center says that 35 percent percent of labor force participants are millennials.

Also, keep in mind that millennials are no longer children. The oldest millennials have already turned 40 in 2022, while the youngest millennials are around 26. They have education, work experience and real-life experience, and they expect to be listened to and respected.

Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics

The U.S. Census Bureau says that millennials are more diverse than previous generations, and 44.2 percent of millennials belong to a minority race or ethnic group.

The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey found that 56 percent of millennials think systemic racism is a very or fairly widespread problem in society. Many young workers want to see that their employer is fighting against this, and a CNBC survey found that 78 percent of workers say it’s important to them to work at a company that values diversity and inclusion.

In addition to racial diversity and inclusion, millennials also care about gender equality. Monster found that 37 percent of millennials think there is a gender pay gap, and 80 percent think there should be greater salary transparency.

Gallup conducted a study to determine what workers want from employers. While older workers cited the organization’s financial stability among their top concerns, younger workers did not focus on this. Instead, they said they wanted employers that cared about the employees’ wellbeing, had ethical leadership, were inclusive of all people and had open and transparent leadership.

Millennials Hate Talking on the Phone

If you need to contact a millennial worker, you might want to think twice about calling.

It’s not just a stereotype. Millennials, in general, really do hate talking on the phone. Some people in this generation just don’t answer the phone, possibly because of the alarming rise in robocalls and scams.

According to, 88 percent of millennials would rater text than call, and 52 percent of millennials get anxious taking phone calls. Managers who need to contact their millennial workers might be better off sending a text message instead of trying to make a phone call.

Millennials Have Experienced Economic Challenges

The 2008 recession hit millennials hard. According to Investopedia, many millennials graduated during the height of the financial crisis, and they ended up with large amounts of student loan debt combined with high unemployment rates.

The Project on Student Debt says that college seniors who graduated in 2008 had an average debt of $23,200, and the unemployment rate for college graduates between the ages of 20 and 24 was 10.6 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

Many millennials still haven’t recovered from this financial setback. According to the Education Data Initiative, 14.8 million millennials have student loan debt, which is more than any other generation. The average balance per millennial borrower is $38,877.

Now the pandemic is creating new financial concerns. According to Bain & Company, 61 percent of workers under the age of 35 have concerns about financial issues, job security or failure to meet career goals.

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Millennial Employees Want Mental Health Support

Millennials are stressed about money, but that’s not the only thing they’re stressed about.

The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey found that 41 percent of millennials say they are stressed all or most of the time, and 40 percent of millennials and Gen Zers think their employers have done a poor job of supporting mental health during the pandemic.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a study from Mind Share Partners found that half of millennials and 75 percent of Generation Zers had left a job for mental health reasons – and that was in 2019, before the pandemic and the Great Resignation.

Millennial employees want their employers to support mental health. If they don’t get the support they need, there’s a good chance they’ll quit.

Millennials Crave Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

Research from Gallup shows that the millennial workforce expects flexibility and work-life balance, including the freedom to work remotely.

This has always been the case, but the demand for flexibility has increased with the pandemic and the Great Resignation. Bankrate’s 2021 Job Seekers Survey found that 63 percent of millennials planned to look for a new job at some point over the next year, compared to only 33 percent of baby boomers.

When asked about what was important to them, 56 percent of respondents cited flexibility, making this the most common answer. For comparison, 53 percent cited higher pay.

Millennials Want Feedback – Not Micromanagement

The 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday can seem a little old-fashioned. Millennials tend to want more flexibility, and this entails giving them the freedom to get their work done in a way that works for them. In short, millennials don’t want to be micromanaged.

According to Buzzz, differences in work styles between baby boomers and millennials can sometimes cause baby boomer managers to micromanage millennial subordinates. However, millennials don’t appreciate this, and it can lead to a decrease in efficiency and innovation.

Millennials want more freedom and flexibility, but they still want feedback, employee engagement and development opportunities. You don’t have to wait a year to give them an annual review, either. According to, continuous feedback can be a better strategy for engaging and managing millennial workers.

Tips to Effectively Engage Millennials

Obviously, each worker is an individual person, and the management style that works well with one employee might not work well with another. At the same time, it is possible to make some generalizations based on the culture, values and experience that are common in among millennials.

Here are some tips to help you engage millennial workers:

  • Foster an inclusive environment. Millennials are diverse, and they care about inclusion and gender equality.
  • Demonstrate strong values and ethics. Millennials want to work for companies and managers that match their own values.
  • Provide mental health support. Many millennials are struggling with stress and mental health issues, and they want their employer to help.
  • Provide financial wellness benefits. Many millennials are dealing with student loan debt, and their money problems can distract them at work.
  • Use communication channels that millennials prefer. This may mean texting or emailing.
  • Support work-life balance and flexibility. Millennial workers are demanding flexibility right now. Offering remote work opportunities and floating holidays are two ways to appeal to this age group.
  • Avoid micromanaging. No one likes being micromanaged, and millennials want freedom to do their work in a way that plays to their strengths.
  • Give continuous feedback. Millennials want to know how they’re doing, so keep the lines of communication open.

Do you need more tips for engaging millennials in the workplace or dealing with other HR issues? Higginbotham can help. Learn more about our HR services.

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