A new take on engaging employees

Posted On May 6, 2014

Anytime you set about offering advice on a topic, someone will be out there offering opposing advice.  When you hire a contractor to work on your house – he invariably points out what the person before him should have done differently. So, it’s not surprising that there are some differing views on how to handle the needs of different generations of employees in the workplace.  My first book on managing across the generational divide is titled “Motivating the ‘What’s In It for Me?’ Workforce” and focuses on ways that business leaders can adjust to engage Gen X and Millennial employees. This week I read an article in Forbes that suggests this is the entirely wrong take – we shouldn’t be trying to engage Millennials at work, we should be more focused on appreciating what they bring to the table.

It’s an interesting perspective. The author views the concept of “engaging” employees as the corporate buzzword du jour, and considers it somewhat demeaning to think that Millennials must be cajoled into wanting to contribute and be successful. She counters that Millennials already want those things – they just need to be appreciated for what they bring to the table. I can see her point…to a point.

Companies do want engaged, committed, enthusiastic employees, and they do have some responsibility for creating an environment that fosters such attitudes. In fact, I fully agree with the five tips that are offered in the article.  I suppose I struggle with the aversion to the word “engage” itself.  Has it become such a buzzword that it has lost authenticity, making younger employees dubious of efforts at creating engagement? Possibly.  For a company to successfully engage its employees, especially its Gen X and Millennials ones, it must do more than consult a fun interior designer to create a sense of energy and collaboration…it must be authentically energetic and collaborative. Part of that is recognizing the gifts each employee and each generation of employee brings to the table, and authentically supporting those gifts. In fact, authenticity itself may be the number one factor to creating an engaged, dedicated? passionate? workforce.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials, Work, Workplace