Engaging Millennials in the Workforce

Part One - From the perspective of a Millennial entering the workforce - Addressing stereotypes and sharing the values that motivate.

Natalie Lillie, Intern, Grays Peak Strategies


“Millennials no longer work for you; they work with you,” says Jeff Fromm, Forbes contributor and millennial marketing consultant. This phrase coined by Mr. Fromm encompasses how Millennials contribute and improve team and company dynamics; they are slowly but surely shifting the culture of the workplace to ultimately reflect their values, both domestically and globally.

We’ve all heard the wildly disappointing stereotypes about this generation: “millennials are so lazy,” “millennials are too self-absorbed,” “millennials only care about themselves,” etc. Sadly, as this happens far too often, the unfavorable actions of a few have tarnished the reputation of the entire generation.

On the contrary, Millennials are an exciting, revolutionary, transformative, and fun group of young people that are eager to be a part of a team in order to influence the overall growth potential. In both my personal experience and according to my research, there are two main values that strike a chord in my millennial heart.

1.     Having a Purpose


Millennials need to feel like the work they’re doing, the work they’re investing themselves and their time in, is worth it. They like to feel challenged and will throw themselves into a project if they feel like it tests them. Millennials view work as an entity that either ignites a fierce love of the work or catapults them into the next phase of their career, all the while changing them for the better. Millennials actively look for ways to transform the work place and infuse energy into the space, and I think Optimal Foraging Theory equates to Millennial functioning: translating this biological theory into a social one, Millennials care about maximizing their energy efficiently in order to yield richest benefits possible, and meaningful work yields the best work out of Millennials.

2.     Teamwork


Millennials have always been about teamwork – we’ve always been about boosting each other up, inspirational collaboration, and pooling diverse ideas, thoughts, and skills together. As they’ve grown up with the Internet and social media at the tips of their fingers, Millennials aren’t used to being alone. They thrive in teams and group projects when they not only connect with the work, but care about the people they’re working with.

So, what does this mean, and how can we translate this into the modern-day workplace to cultivate the most productive and positive space? It means that the workplace/the office/the company/whoever is in charge needs to be more than a boss – they need to be a coach, and they need to be a leader. Networking and building relationships have been engrained in Millennial minds, and that idea manifests itself in the fact that a millennial, more often than not, is a “people person.”

With more Millennials than ever in the workplace, and more arriving every day, in order to yield the most positive company culture and results, there are two important notes to remember: 1) emphasize to Millennials how the work they’re doing is meaningful, and 2) make sure Millennials like and feel motivated by relationships with their co-workers and colleagues on team projects (and vice versa, of course!).

Part Two - Thoughts from my recent Multi-generational discussion on this topic. Strategies and Ideas for everyone involved.

Maureen Leif, President, Grays Peak Strategies


This past week I traveled home to Indiana to present at their state conference on how to lead a multigenerational workforce. It was such a fun group of attendees and we had representatives from the Silent Generation, the Boomers, Generation Y, and Millennials. We started off the session asking them to help us create a Word Cloud on their impressions of working with a multi-generational workforce. The most common word response was “Difficult”. I understand this response and the tension that can be created from having different generations in one organization. However, by having an understanding of the different attributes of the generations and by leading to the strengths they each bring to the table, you can bring all the generations together to work and live in harmony.


In a study, CFOs were asked, “In which one of the following areas do you see the greatest differences among your company’s employees who are from different generations?” The responses: Communication 80%, Adapting to Change 26%, Technical Skills 23%, Cross-Departmental Collaboration 14% and No Differences 7%. In our training, we discussed ways to ease the tension between the generations and some of the advice included the following:

  • Do not dwell on generational differences
  • Provide opportunities for employees to get to know each other personally
  • Focus on Collaborative Relationships- encourage debate/discussion
  • Understand your generational differences and your staff makeup
  • Preferred Methods of Communication
  • What matters to your employees
  • Cross-Generational Mentoring
  • Studies show that colleagues learn more from each other than formal training

There seems to be a natural evolution to most things. Technology progresses, attitudes change, people adapt and it starts again. The problem is that it does not always happen at a pace we can predict, and especially in public sector work. We are often dealing with methods and technology that are not commonplace to a younger generation. In this workshop, the participants were interested in how to get Millennials to engage in the kinds of work that is still needed in the Child Support environment, but does not really come easy or naturally to this generation. The Millennials in the room were clear, they have the desire and the intellect to do whatever is needed, but there just needs to be recognition of the fact that what may seem simple and second nature to a previous generation might be completely foreign to them. The example given was customer service over the phone. There was a recognition from the Millennials that this was an important task, and they were willing to do this, but the managers needed to understand that they did not grow up talking on the phone, and may not have the level of comfort needed to be effective at this work. I came away from this workshop, like I often do, learning as I was teaching. As my colleague, Natalie points out in her article, and as I experienced in Indiana, they want to be engaged, and they want to make a difference. It is much more about the impact of the work than it is the methods or skills employed to do the work. It may be the Millennial generation that is reminding us of this, but I think everyone we work with probably feels this way to some extent. We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the difference and the impact of Millennials in the workforce, and they have grown up with a completely different base of skills and technology. But in the end, we all want to do work that makes an impact and we all want to have the opportunity to grow and to learn. So maybe it’s not that we need to make a special effort to engage Millennials, maybe the experience of working with Millennials will help us all make a more meaningful connection to our work.


  • Fromm, Jeff. "Millennials In The Workplace: They Don't Need Trophies But They Want    Reinforcement." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 03 July 2017.
  • Kruse, Kevin. "How To Harness The Power Of A Millennial Workforce." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 11 May 2017. Web. 03 July 2017.
  • Lastoe, Stacey. "And This Is Why Millennials Get Such a Bad Rap." Free Career Advice. The Muse, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 03 July 2017.
  • Now, Prosper. "The New Millennial Values." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 10 July 2012. Web. 03 July 2017.
  • "7 Ways Millennials Are Changing the Workplace for the Better." NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 29 June 2017. Web. 03 July 2017.