Millennials and Onboarding

As members of the Millennial generation – otherwise known as Gen Y – begin to enter the workforce, workplaces and organizations must change to meet their unique talents and challenges. Employees of the generation have different expectations for their working lives and careers, and the savvy organization takes these into account from the moment of hire and through the onboarding process.

Who are Millennials?
Millennials are members of the generation born between 1980 and 1995. They are a generation that came of age in an era of increasing technology and economic uncertainty, both of which shape the way they approach work and life. While millennial employees are often dismissed as lazy or self-involved, in reality their unique approach to work and life can be an asset to organizations that know how to leverage them.

Common traits of Millennials:
• Preference for multitasking
• Highly connected, via social media and other communication technology
• Tech-savvy – Millennials have grown up using computers and other technology
• Desire to be recognized for their efforts
• Desire for instant gratification and feedback
• Team-oriented and collaborative
• Close to their parents
• Expectation of work-life balance, high value on personal time

How Do Millennials Differ from Other Workers?
Millennials differ from workers in older generations in several important ways. Millennials are generally more tech-savvy than older workers because they have grown up using technology, and with the expectation that technology will continue to evolve. They are thus very comfortable with computers, social media, and other technology. Being comfortable with social media may mean that Millennials need extra coaching on professional communication and what levels of personal transparency are appropriate in the workplace.
They have also come of age as multitasking – which may mean they are more productive, but may also mean they have difficulty focusing on one task for an extended period. They tend to be collaborative and team-oriented and to work well in groups. Millennials have a greater expectation of work-life balance at the earliest stages of their careers than older generations do, and also want to know from the first day on the job what the opportunities for advancement are in an organization. Finally, Millennials expect to be recognized for their work and to receive regular, detailed feedback. They need one-on-one mentoring and individualized attention from supervisors and managers.

Investiture Socialization – Let Them Be Themselves!
One method that works well when onboarding millennial employees is investiture socialization. In this process, managers and supervisors draw on Millennials’ unique traits and perspectives and allow these employees to be themselves. Allowing millennial employees to be themselves not only helps to alleviate any anxiety they may have about being inauthentic – a particular concern for this generation – but also allows managers and supervisors to see their strengths and weaknesses in action. Finding ways to incorporate millennial traits such as tech-savviness into the onboarding process is another key aspect of investiture socialization, as is spending one-on-one time with the new hires.

Informal Rather than Formal Onboarding Processes
Millennial employees respond better to informal onboarding processes. Day-long orientation sessions, lecture-style orientations, and endless reams of paperwork are at odds with Millennials’ preference for multitasking, technology, and (at times) instant gratification. Finding ways to onboard Millennials that draw on their preference for fast-paced, technology-based, and personal interactions is likely to engage these new hires. Putting onboarding material that might otherwise be delivered in lecture format on DVD or in podcast form, for instance, may be more engaging to the millennial new hire. Assigning a manager, supervisor, or team member to deliver the onboarding material to the new millennial one on one rather than in a large group setting is also more effective.

Engaging the Millennial Employee
One of the most important things that a manager can do in the onboarding process is engaging the millennial employee. Millennials are interactive – they thrive when they can explore, do, and experience. Finding ways to engage Millennials throughout the onboarding process not only ensures that the process goes smoothly, but helps get them invested in the organization. An invested employee is an employee more likely to stay with the organization for the long run.

Create an Informal Program
As we learned in Module 4, Millennials are more likely to respond to an onboarding process that is informal and personalized than one that is formal and impersonal. Leveraging a Millennial new hires preference for technology, multitasking, collaboration, and for exploration when creating your onboarding program is key to its success. Millennials are likely to become quickly bored with day-long, lecture-style orientation sessions, or onboarding activities where they have little interaction with others. Coupled with their shorter attention spans, these impersonal approaches may leave Millennials feeling disengaged.
Some ideas for creating an informal onboarding program that will engage Millennials include:
• Use technology like videos, podcasts, or webinars in place of lectures or meetings
• Meet with employees one on one or in small groups
• Use a mix of activities and break the onboarding process into chunks
• Allow for some exploratory, unstructured time if possible

Engage Employees One on One
Millennials are accustomed to a high degree of interaction with their mentors, supervisors, and other important people in their lives. They also thrive on collaboration and feedback. Taking time to engage employees one on one throughout the onboarding process, from arrival through the first 90 or 180 days, provides them with the interaction and feedback they need to feel comfortable and competent. One on one interaction with millennial employees need not always be formal; simply taking the time to check in or have a brief chat helps to engage them. During onboarding, engaging Millennials one on one instead of in large group settings is a good strategy, as it provides the sense of investment and the opportunity for meaningful feedback and interaction.

The Role of Human Resources
Human Resources play an important role in onboarding and retaining millennial employees. The role of Human Resources in onboarding Millennials is not just to ensure that paperwork is filled out and policies followed, but to serve as important gatekeepers to the organization. When onboarding Millennials, Human Resources should take the time to stress all the valuable things the organization can offer the employee – vacation time, benefits, flexible scheduling, and more. Millennials who are new to the workforce may not think to ask about these issues, and those that have been in other jobs have high expectations from the organizations in which they work. Human Resources plays a valuable role as onboarding ambassador when working with Millennials. Taking the time to determine what Millennials care about, and how HR can deliver that, is a key part of bringing this generation of workers onboard.

The Role of Managers
Managers play a vital role in onboarding Millennials, and not just in practical ways such as providing paperwork and office tours. Millennials thrive when they have lots of FaceTime with mentors, managers, and important others in their lives. Because Millennials respond best when engaged one on one, managers can and should take on many of the onboarding tasks that might otherwise be handled by a trainer or HR representative in a large group. Managers provide the structure and feedback that Millennials need in order to feel competent at a new job. Managers can also gauge an employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and concerns and customize the onboarding process to address these.
Source: Millennial Onboarding Workshop