Millennials currently account for the largest proportion of the workforce. As a result, much has been written about how to attract, retain, and engage this generation of workers. Some research touts the importance of flexible work schedules and excellent work-life balance, while other sources insist that millennials need beanbag chairs, free meals, and foosball breaks to be happy at work. The reality is that reducing an entire generation of people down to a simple checklist of universal desires is futile. While no single trait can be applied to every person within this large, diverse group, there is one thing we have found to be true for the thousands of people we have worked and spoken with: Millennials value the truth.
Tell Millennials the Truth
It’s simple: in advertising, in business, and in their personal lives, millennials want you to tell them the truth. Contrary to the popular portrayal of this generation as selfie-obsessed and social media-driven, many of them care far less about status and fame than they do about honesty and authenticity. Brands like Jeep and Coca Cola are capitalizing on this by producing raw, unpolished content that tells millennials what they stand for and what they have to offer. This generation has been hyper-marketed to for their entire lives, so the appeal of unfiltered honesty is strong. The same holds true in business: ping pong tables are not the way to keep your millennial employees happy. Instead, be authentic about what you and your company value and represent, and communicate openly about your organization’s successes as well as the challenges you face. By being yourself and embodying integrity and trustworthiness, you will offer the one thing that no amount of food trucks and nap pods can replace.
Ask Millennials for the Truth -- And LISTEN
The truth is not a one-way mirror; it’s a pane of glass. The ability to be authentic and speak truthfully is required on both sides to fully engage millennials. For company leaders, this means creating a safe, supportive work environment where your employees can truly be themselves. It also means asking for honest feedback from your millennial workers -- and being prepared to really listen. Of course, listening does not require you to agree with every opinion, but it does necessitate giving serious consideration and respectful attention to millennials’ thoughts and ideas, and enacting changes where appropriate. Cultivate an environment where authenticity and honesty are expected at every level of your organization. Even disagreements that are rooted in honesty and respect can result in growth and positive change.
Help Millennials Drive Change Through Truth
Studies show that many millennials would sacrifice higher salaries and fancy perks if they knew they were making a difference in their communities and in the world. Providing opportunities where they can have a real impact on your organization through their work and their commitment to telling the truth and living authentically is a powerful way to ensure that your millennial employees are happy and fulfilled in their careers. You might also consider establishing a community service or goodwill program within your company to show your commitment to putting action behind the values so many millennials believe in.
Flashy headlines and catchy monikers may make for memorable depictions of millennials, but they fail to capture what is most important to this generation: the truth. Millennials who are encouraged to tell the truth, empowered to do their best work, and supported as they live out their values are more likely to be engaged workers, passionate brand ambassadors, and loyal employees.