By Jon Mertz

Millennials are here. In 2015, they are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. A recent Elance-oDesk survey highlighted that 28% of Millennial respondents are in management positions, and two-thirds expect to be in management by 2024. Change is here.

Generational shifts happen, yet this one has too many organizations worked up. Any worries need to disappear, however. As with most changes, it is important to share experiences, be open for growth, and engage fully and openly.

Millennials represent great promise in many areas, including effective problem-solving and growing businesses in a purposeful, profitable way.

3 Ways to Engage and Capture the Spirit of Millennials

Effective change is mutual, two sides coming together and collaborating for a better way forward. Engaging Millennials is very similar. There is a spirit within the next generation we need to grab ahold of, and there are many lessons to learn from older generations. We need to begin with this mindset.

Highlighted below are three added ways to connect with Millennials.

1 – Open Field

In the Midwest, the prairies are wide open and vast, yet the work necessary gets done. No different for your business. There is work to be done, and there is work left undone, which is often the prairie of opportunity.

When I was 20-something, opportunity is what I wanted. I did the necessary detailed work. However, there is always an area to innovate and take the lead. Millennials have a similar desire. A balance is necessary – outlining the essential work to run the business and providing the open field to create opportunity.

From a business perspective, this is an ideal way to engage team members. The daily work is done while some efforts are applied to plan ahead and grow the business in new ways. Leveraging Millennials in this manner will help your business expand, innovate, and refresh daily functions, such as marketing, sales, services, and other undefined areas. Millennials also will grow and be engaged more fully in your organization. A win-win.

2 – Transparency

Within the Millennial generation, there is a greater desire for, and enforcement of, transparency in business and leadership. Transparency may be the outcome of social technologies. Through Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, or Trip Advisor, there are many social channels to highlight good services and products and also call out bad outcomes or untrustworthy actions.

A new trend is unfolding with startups, too. Open Startups highlight businesses that have adopted complete transparency in their operations. Some businesses are fully embracing the idea and reality of transparency.

Being open, honest, and accountable with Millennials will produce greater engagement and loyalty. Transparency also enables the next generation to understand different aspects of your business and how everything fits together. A complete business picture is empowering for this generation. With better operational insights and realities, Millennials can make better decisions and understand the accountability of their actions.

No different for business leaders. Transparency is not a one-sided. Leaders need to be held accountable and open with mistakes made and successes achieved. A culture of transparency is the new way to activate team members to perform at higher levels than before.

3 – Purpose Inside and Outside

Purpose-driven is often discussed while frequently misunderstood within business. Each activity done carries a higher purpose. One of the jobs of a business leader is to communicate why doing certain activities create a path forward to a bigger goal. When team members see the connectedness in their work, greater engagement happens through a greater sense of purpose.

Embracing and communicating purpose also prevent a self-centered corporate culture from developing. Purpose is all-encompassing if done right.

For Millennials, purpose is vital.  A study by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Young Entrepreneur Council shows that 30% of Millennials say meaningful work is a top job factor. Within the business, Millennials want to know the “why” of what they are doing.

Complementing the inside purpose work is the role of volunteering. The Millennial Impact Report highlights that 77% of Millennial are more likely to volunteer if they can use specific skills or expertise to benefit a cause. Millennials volunteer at levels similar to older generations. A strong outside-the-business purpose exists.

Volunteering provides team members an opportunity to do good within the communities they work. Embedded within this is applying and improving individual skills and expertise. Better skills and expertise can only benefit the business. So doing good in the community can do good for your business, and better engage the next generation. Once again, a win-win.

The Next Generation: Worry Less, Engage More

Too many articles are written trying to scare other generations into stereotyping Millennials. Most of the articles are not in context to the economic and technology changes that have happened. Millennials grew up in a different time, just as we did. However, there are certain values we share.

  • We all value being given an opportunity to show our worth and grow our talent.
  • We all value trust.
  • We all want to leave a legacy by doing good work sooner rather than later.

We have a wonderful opportunity to support and challenge the next generation. Let’s accept the responsibility for the betterment of our business and leaders.

Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. On Thin Difference, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders. Follow him on Twitter @ThinDifference or Facebook /ThinDifference.