The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you help millennials feel like they’re part of the company?” is written by Julie Williamson, chief growth enabler with Karrikins Group and co-author of Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice.
Millennials are increasingly responsible for companies’ budgets, staffing, and major decisions. Yet many still seem to struggle to feel like they belong at work. Helping them feel part of the company requires knowing not just how to onboard them into the general workforce, but how to onboard them into your particular workplace.
Millennials face the same challenges as any generation in a new work environment, such as learning a new professional language, navigating different personalities, and understanding reporting structures. But they also face the relatively new challenge of adapting to organizations that are in constant flux. Add to that the fact that millennials have generally grown up in more structured childhoods than any previous generation, and it is easy to understand why they have a hard time feeling like they fit in.
Here are three keys to creating an environment where millennials can grow and thrive:
Let them contribute in a meaningful way
Feeling like a part of something means being able to contribute in ways that have meaning and direct impact. Too often, we sideline new people with low visibility tasks when we should instead challenge them to make a difference. Encourage millennials to bring their previous experiences to bear on the challenges you face.
For example, you might ask them to compare and contrast their approach to a challenge at another company with your company’s method. Invite them to provide input on process improvements and structural changes. At the same time, give them access to opportunities to quickly learn and grow, so they feel confident in making contributions.
Focus on work-life integration
Work-life balance is a thing of the past; millennials are more interested in work-life integration, which means finding ways move between professional and personal responsibilities as seamlessly as possible. Millennials are starting families, buying houses, and traveling the world. When appropriate, they want to be able to show up virtually with relative ease. Provide clear boundaries in terms of expectations for completing work, collaborating with team members, and communication, and be willing to challenge your own assumptions regarding where the work is being done.
There is merit to having a team in one location during common work hours, especially to develop culture and team norms. It just might not need to be 40 hours a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Challenge yourself: Are you automatically dismissing the possibility that people can do great work outside of the office? Try it yourself. You might be surprised by how much you get done working from home one day a week.
Infect them with your passion
If managers appear to be on autopilot, the millennials they manage will go there too. So talk about your personal passion for the company, and the ways in which you feel engaged and a part of something. Sharing that will have a direct impact on how millennials feel about the organization.
There are many opportunities to connect with your own passion and ignite it in others. Consider kicking off a meeting with a comment about why you are personally excited about the project you will be discussing, or sharing how you have recently used the products your company makes.
Make sure other leaders in your organization are modeling the engagement and passion you want to see from millennials. They’re the ones that convey the stories that shape your organizational culture. Consider asking them a direct question in a meeting, like: “Sue, you have a great perspective on why this work is so important to our growth. Would you mind sharing with the team?” Remember, if your senior leaders aren’t talking about it, your newer people don’t know about it.
While these tips are particularly applicable to helping millennials feel included, the added benefit is that they will make any generation feel more like a part of the organization. Keeping these three areas of focus in mind will help you to create a more connected and engaged workforce across generations, and build a powerful talent pool for your company’s future.