With more than nine million millennials in Canada looking for career opportunities, companies across the country have a great talent pool to choose from. So, as an employer, how can you meaningfully connect with gen Y employees and motivate them to do their best?

Emphasize teamwork – Studies show that millennials are great team players—credit early exposure to team sports growing up and emphasis on group work in school. So employers should look for ways to include gen Y in group brainstorming sessions where they can contribute a fresh perspective to creative problem-solving. Establishing a mentoring program that pairs younger workers with seasoned professionals is another constructive way to team up sets of employees and encourage learning, understanding, knowledge transfer and collaboration.

Give frequent feedback – Letting gen Y employees know if they’re on the right track is important to keep them motivated and focused. According to the 2013 Ceridian Pulse of Talent, millennials prefer more frequent performance feedback than older generations; they want to get feedback in real time, just like they get tweets from the people they follow. It’s the instant gratification and learning that pushes them to improve. Therefore, look for more immediate and informal opportunities—via email, text message or in-person—to give constructive direction or positive reinforcement. The report also indicates that the majority of gen Y employees prefer non-monetary performance rewards. Organizations should consider offering free personal days off, food, club memberships or even event tickets as a way to say, “Well done!”

Adopt new technology and social media practices – Gen Y is more productive when empowered to use technology. If upgrading or expanding your company’s technology is impossible, consider adopting a bring-your-own-device policy. Then—assuming that your organization has a social media policy—encourage your CEO and other leaders to use blogs, Twitter or corporate Facebook accounts to communicate company messages when appropriate. Leaders who regularly use mediums that resonate with younger generations will be more in-tune with their workforce, and a CEO who is active on social media can give millennials a positive example of a productive corporate social media conversation. While some firms may want to ban the use of all social media at work, millennials will find a way to get around the ban—so adoption, in tandem with a social media policy, makes more sense.

Promote work/life fit and encourage fun at work – Gen Y is comfortable with the fact that the ratio between work and life is rarely an even 50/50 split. They want their work to “fit” the situation they’re in, such as the need to leave early to attend a course and the ability to work from home. Depending on your company’s need for in-person office presence, consider telecommuting options. When it comes to flex time and workplace social activities, have an engagement strategy centred around fun. Buy a pool table for the lunch room. Take everyone out to a movie or to lunch, so that you can get to know your team in a more casual setting. Do whatever works for your company— just don’t discount how much being social contributes to the performance of millennials.

Different strokes for different folks

Rapid technological changes and a workforce that spans four generations make rewarding, communicating with and motivating employees more complicated than ever. Employers need to realize that, while all employees deserve equal and fair treatment, there are generational differences. What works for boomers, for instance, does not necessarily work for gen Y employees—so stay flexible.

Kelly Allder is vice-president of HR programs with Ceridian Canada. Follow her @kallder04 on Twitter.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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