E is for Engagement

If there’s one thing that will keep your organization on the right track, it’s employee engagement. There are many definitions of engagement in the workplace, but most agree that it is represented by three main elements: purpose, attachment to the company and the resulting effort employees invest in their daily tasks. To put this more simply, it’s about ‘happiness’ at work. Sounds easier than it is though, right?

Everyone is talking about the Millennials as a demanding, easily distracted and hard-to-hold-down generation. One key prerequisite of the Millennial workforce is to have all content available anytime, anywhere and on any device. This goes for business-related topics as well as learning content. They also expect to be in direct touch with senior managers and consider them as their peers rather than bosses. Many companies are struggling to deal with this type of mindset – both on a business and cultural level.

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Capitalizing on a Cross-Generational Workforce

Perhaps we need to stop separating generations altogether and accept the current workforce as it is – with a mix of age groups who all have strengths to offer. Building teams with a mix of age groups and encouraging cross-mentoring is one way to help people collaborate across generations. Another good starting point is to survey our employees’ wishes and needs. What do our people want out of their job and what will make them feel valued? Deloitte’s fourth annual Millennial Survey found that a staggering 72% of Millennials feel their employer isn’t making full use of their skills. This is a hugely missed opportunity and one that results in a lot of frustration. I’d be interested to see the same survey conducted among the Boomer generation. If they feel their skills are being utilized more effectively, why is that and what did we do differently? It’s worth finding out!

What can Leaders do?

Say we sort out the generational problems as an initial step, what’s next?  I think the real secret to engagement is having great leaders. These are the ones who listen to their teams and make them feel significant to the company as a whole. It’s not just about interesting tasks anymore, but about inspiring employees and making them realize why they as people matter, not just their line of work. Leaders also need to build trust in order for their employees to open up to them and express what they appreciate about their company or would like to change.

For this to happen, our leaders need to have a high level of emotional intelligence and be truly aware of their people’s needs. It also requires strong communication skills. Communication is not just about expressing yourself well, but being able to read your surroundings and seamlessly adapting your message. It means the message has less to do with the speaker and more to do with the wishes and needs of the listeners.

Will this be possible for the Millennials, who are so often accused of being “me-focussed” and so used to communicating via text that speaking to someone face-to-face has become the exception rather than the norm? Only time will tell, but the sooner we start addressing these issues, the more likely we are to overcome them. Start helping people to become better leaders and communicators and exchange skills and ideas across generations. It need not be a complicated process – it can be done through simple and cost-effective mentoring programs within the company.

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About the Author:

Armin is Founder and President of Speexx, the world’s leading online language learning and business communication skills training service. He writes and occasionally speaks about learning languages online and the secret of the Perfect Blend and global talent management, Speexx, e-learning and generally believes in the power of communication. Follow Armin on Twitter and LinkedIn.