ICMI Guest Contributor Article. ICMI featured this article on October 10th, 2017.
What do Millennials want? First, they want empowerment - Millennials want individual autonomy, and flexibility, with accountability for all. They want to do meaningful work, to belong and feel valued, to feel a sense of purpose and hope for what they can achieve, and to develop in their careers.
To drive empowerment means nurturing an inclusive and engaged environment, which requires creating a behavioral infrastructure that promotes accountability and action in our contact centers. This includes leadership tactics such as:
- Giving and asking for open communication
- Sharing vision, challenges, and wins
- Soliciting ideas on process improvements and problem-solving
- Encouraging and allowing collaboration among peers and support teams
- Recognizing and reinforcing effort and progress
- Providing individually-relevant learning, and timely and competent coaching
- And, not ignoring tough interpersonal topics or poor performance
The most pervasive and persistent challenge in structuring the supporting processes that fuel Millennial engagement and empowerment is providing useful performance feedback and recognition that promotes skill building and confidence. HBR reported that conversations with hundreds of Millennials made it clear that what they want most from their managers isn’t more managerial direction, per se, but more help with their personal development. Millennials also told surveyors that their number one source of development is their manager, but only 46% agreed that their managers delivered on their expectations for feedback. Supervisors need enough competency to cultivate willing behavior change and inspire career growth, but first, operations leaders have to adopt a single coaching method and implement measures for ongoing analysis and development of frontline leaders' coaching effectiveness.
The second most pervasive challenge is in providing self-serve learning content that is quickly consumable and has immediate application. ATD stated earlier this year that the changing needs and learning styles of a multigenerational workforce—and expectations of Millennial learners in particular—make blended learning more important than ever in successfully engaging your team and building their skills. This evolution of traditional training, combined with the complexity of omnichannel operations, means learning must be delivered at the speed of need, and in a variety of formats, to add real-time value to learners and customers.
An empowered environment satisfies Maslow's psychological, esteem and self-actualization needs, thereby igniting discretionary effort and engaging Millennials' passion and willingness to take ownership of both their customers’ experiences. Creating that engaged, empowered environment, however, requires leaders first give permission, implement supporting processes, and then provide ongoing positive reinforcement for those who take empowered action.
The second thing Millennials want is accessibility - they want to be able to do the job we hired them to do. Given the previously unimaginable access to data and information connecting Millennials with each other and the world, they naturally expect their work environments to provide the same immediacy of access and richness of interaction that is the everyday norm in their personal lives.
A Wired article several years ago noted that having grown up with technology at their fingertips, Millennials just won’t put up with inadequate enterprise technology and knowledge trapped on desktops and inboxes. Fortune also noted that Millennials no longer ask for sufficient technology at their jobs; they expect it, and that often this expectancy has been painted as an entitlement - but what millennial workers really want are the tools to do their job efficiently.
Providing real-time and flexible access to insightful tools and resources that engage and empower Millennials to be successful requires creating a physical infrastructure that includes:
- Contemporary technology that is easy to access and use - not antiquated systems limited in function that sacrifice service or are layered with customizations that reduce efficiency and lengthen learning curve
- Knowledge systems, data resources and training aids that are well organized, easy to get to and navigate, and most importantly, are accurate and up to date.
- Collaboration, communication, and storage tools and processes that make it easy to identify, reach out to, socialize and work with peers, support teams, leaders, and/or customers.
One of the biggest challenges in leveraging technology tools to fuel Millennial engagement and retention is in how to mine and use the breadth of data in the various systems meant to enhance access to customer information and resources. Techvibes reported last year that only 14% of companies had deployed projects to leverage the data they are paying for – and MIT Sloan noted significant Big Data bottlenecks being created by the training needed to teach employees how to locate and use the data. Millennials, the digital natives who transcended demographic status into symbolizing what Forbes described as a Millennial-mindset, are natural process improvers that can aid us in identifying easier, faster, more efficient ways of using data and tools – and they’re naturally engaged when doing so.
An environment equipped with the physical infrastructure that allows employees to perform and service customers optimally, could for Millennials, satisfy Herzberg's hygiene needs for working conditions and thereby avert the dissatisfaction contributing to attrition. Creating accessibility through data, tools, and resources, however, requires leaders make technology and infrastructure investments, implement supporting processes and training, and keep data and applications organized and up to date.