Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, and, according to a recent report, they’re also the hardest group to engage. A new Speakap study, "Technology’s Role in Managing and Retaining Employees," reveals that millennials present a unique challenge to human resources. (Note that Gen Z workers also pose a challenge, but they’re not the majority of the workforce and they’re not quite as hard to engage.)

According to the study, which targeted HR professionals in retail, hospitality, entertainment, construction, consumer goods and other industries, respondents said their biggest challenges were as follows:

  • Recruiting and retaining top talent;
  • Ensuring the onboarding process is smooth and informative;
  • Creating a positive, tolerant, trusting work environment; and
  • Helping employees achieve professional goals and advance careers.

When asked to rank the specific HR communications expectations of millennial and Gen Z workers, these were the top expectations:

  • 46% of HR respondents said their millennial and Gen Z workers want an employee communications platform with a similar functionality and experience to social media.
  • 47% of HR respondents said their millennial and Gen Z workers prefer to have questions answered in real time.
  • 56% of HR respondents said their millennial and Gen Z workers are less likely to disconnect after working hours.

Why millennials are the hardest group to engage

The findings are not a surprise to Erwin van der Vlist, co-founder and CEO of Speakap. "This age group has grown up with technology and mobile devices in their hands from an early age." He says meaningful experiences are more important to millennials than products, their views tend to be idealist, and on both a personal and professional level, they are searching for personal fulfillment.

"Whether it’s a customer experience or an employee experience, they have high standards and don’t like subpar experiences." Taken together, he says it’s easy to see how they’ve gained a reputation for job hopping.

HR challenges in managing and retaining employees

The employee experience is a major challenge for HR. "When you talk about the employee experience, it’s important to remember that an experience encompasses the entire journey — from the time an employee finds information about the company online, to the interview process to the onboarding stage, to the long-term process of communicating and engaging with employees," van der Vlist says. And he doesn’t believe the communications process gets the level of attention that it should.

"Another challenge is that so many businesses struggle to tackle and reduce high turnover because they often take a very simplistic and singular approach to it." But there’s isn’t one reason that can define high turnover. "It’s the accumulation of multiple factors — and those factors can change depending on the profile of each employee, not the entire workforce."

Relationship management is another contributing factor. "The truth is that there will always be some division between employees and management, but if proactive steps are taken to forge stronger digital bonds, interact in meaningful ways, and create more transparent access to the management team, companies will be on their way to reducing turnover," van der Vlist explains.

Using technology to improve communication

If we don’t know anything else about millennials, we know how much they value social networks — and companies can use this to their advantage. "One way to communicate with millennial workers on their terms is to encourage them to share, interact, and engage with content posted on enterprise social networks by their fellow colleagues, teams, regions, managers, and even head office, to reduce the high turnover rate within your organization," van der Vlist says.

In addition, companies can use the social intuitiveness of enterprise social networks to provide ongoing learning and develop content. "This will help their millennial workforce not only improve their job-related skills, productivity and performance, but it will also make them feel personally fulfilled in their roles and more satisfied with the company."

To address turnover, companies can gain insight from people analytics and data. "HR teams can integrate survey tools, such as Hyphen, SurveyMonkey, and Qualtrics, into their employee communications platform to make it easier, quicker and more efficient to survey employees in real time about their job satisfaction, culture alignment, and overall employee experiences," van der Vlist says.

Feedback is an important part of improving the communication process and can also help the company bridge the gap between millennials and management. "HR teams can also use the data to understand key HR/employee experience challenges, trends and areas for improvement, both for individual workers and the entire staff as a collective group."

To recognize and reward employees when they reach milestones, et cetera, consider using an employee communications platform. "This not only increases employee morale, but it also makes millennials feel more valued, supported and appreciated," van der Vlist says. "All of these result in happier and more engaged employees in the long term — and that means they will be less likely to hand in their notice."