3 Employee Engagement Strategies To Embrace Millennials
This younger generation has been on my mind constantly the past few days. I am just coming back from an amazing week hiking and fly fishing in Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks. And while I would love to devote this entire article to sharing my amazing photos and boring you with tales of my countless adventures, I will instead focus on a topic that you may find more interesting and one you will definitely find more useful.
While I had read and studied a lot about both of these crown jewels (Glacier and Wateron Lakes) in the National Parks System, one thing the brochures and websites failed to mention was that the majority of people I was entrusting my vacation to were under the age of 30. For a solid week, every hotel I checked into, every restaurant I frequented, every guided hike or fishing excursion and every single National Park gate I had to pass through was staffed by this younger generation we call millennials. Not one single person I asked for directions, solicited advice from about a trail, or whether to try the bison or the elk burger was over the age of 30.
Apparently, again unbeknownst to me, many of our colleges and Universities, as well several schools in Europe, work hard to recruit and retain millennials to work the short but very busy tourist season. With a vacation season lasting just three months (mid-June to mid-September), who else but a college student under 30 could these National Parks find to work long hours, live in primitive conditions and spend a summer season far from family and friends.
While we hear so much talk and concern about the lack of work ethic and commitment from this younger generation, let me share that what I found on this vacation was quite the opposite. Over and over again with every single millennial I encountered, I found a group of people with a strong work ethic, exceptional customer service skills, and commitment to their teams and their jobs.
We were consistently greeted with bright smiles and a big welcome to the great Northwest, and each one took a true interest in learning who we were, where we were from, and where we were headed in these Parks. They were all so knowledgeable about the area (despite many having been there less than two weeks) and were eager to make recommendations and suggestions about what to see and where to go.
These “kids” worked long hours. Many would wait on us at dinner and be there again at six a.m. when we came back down for breakfast. More than a few young men carried our luggage up flights of stairs due to lack of elevators in these old hotels, and were more than willing to do it all again the next day as we checked out. Time and again we would see the young rangers who had welcomed us into the park still staffing the entrance gates as we left after a twelve-mile hike. And as we engaged in conversation we found ourselves so impressed by their commitment to these Parks and their love of the outdoors as many of these young workers were there for their second or third season.
By the end of the week, my husband and I were not only blown away by the beauty of both Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, but we found ourselves commenting again and again on how amazing, friendly, and just genuinely great every single person who had waited on us had been. It got me thinking, if this is the future of our country, what we can expect in this younger generation of workers, then sign me up!
And it got me thinking: what is the National Parks system doing that we aren’t? Today, so many leaders and organizations are struggling to hire and retain millennials. How is this remote area of the country managing to do such a great job? Now, yes, there is a chance they just got lucky, but honestly when I spent a little time analyzing what they were doing, why these millennials were so drawn here, and what kept them committed and coming back I discovered something. I found a few ideas that we all could learn from and a few employment engagement strategies we could put into place if we want to attract and retain more millennials.
3 Employee Engagement Strategies To Embrace Millennials
Understand & Accept
When it comes to work and life many millennials are living for the here and now. They are interested in what their job is offering them in terms of reward in their professional and personal lives. For boomers who were career-driven from the moment we graduated from college, this may not make any sense, but if you want to attract and retain millennials you need to understand and accept it. This younger generation working in our Parks and the communities surrounding them is not there just for the job. They are there for the job and what the job supports, the lifestyle of hiking, fly fishing, rock climbing etc. that they want. They are willing to work long hours working several different jobs, because it supports a lifestyle that they want. When we look at working with millennials, we need to look beyond the job and understand and accept that their commitment to their job includes their lifestyle and their work/life balance.
Being a boomer myself, I grew up in a world where work and personal life were separate. While I had friends at work it is not where I found my community. For millennials, it is just the opposite, and these Parks and Resorts understand that. These organizations encourage community and actually find ways to foster it. That is why so much of their workforce is the same age and so many are interested in the same things. If you want to not only hire millennials but retain them, you need to encourage community. It was clear to see in most restaurants we visited and in our Parks the staff were friends, they did things together, and they felt as much commitment to one another as they did to their jobs.
Respect & Grant
As I stated before, work/life balance is important to these millennials, and these organizations that employ them in the Northwest respect that. They grant them the time and space to enjoy what they came there to enjoy. In talking with several of these young workers, we found that their employers gave them two days off a week, ensuring it was two days in a row so they could backpack, take long hikes or explore other parts of the Parks. They also over-hired a bit so two or three of their employees could have the same days off to take enjoy these adventures together. This showed these millennials that their employers respected and cared about what is important to them.
Yes, exploring Glacier and Waterton National Parks was quite the experience, but truly the greatest adventure I had
was seeing that the commitment, worth ethic, and passion that is alive and well with this younger generation. As leaders, we need to take a lesson from our National Parks, and build cultures that create time to for work/life balance, we need to encourage and enable our employees to build community, and we need to respect and grant them the time off they want to explore their lives and their dreams. Putting these employee engagement strategies will not only help us attract millennials but ensure we retain and build a passionate and committed workforce.