Millennials, typically defined as anyone born between 1981 and 1996, currently represent a third of all workers. Most organizations are actively dedicating time and resources to better understand, embrace and empower this group. The good news is that millennials aren't all that different from your other employees — everyone is seeking clear expectations, direct and frequent feedback, ample growth opportunities, increased flexibility and autonomy, and the chance to do meaningful work. The bad news is that your managers likely aren't currently empowered to create a culture of leadership that resonates well with millennials, let alone the rest of the workforce.

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can enact today that will have an immediate and lasting impact  across generations. According to HR and talent management expert Candice N. McGlen, PHR, SHRM-CP, the key to unlocking the power of millennials for your workplace is authentic engagement. That's the focus of her new book, Engage Us Now! The Grassroots Organizing Approach to Mobilizing Employees and Achieving Organizational Success.

McGlen concedes that there are a lot of misconceptions about millennials, but she believes that at the end of the day millennials just want to make a difference. So, how can managers truly engage their workforce?

  1. Be transparent. Millennials crave honest feedback and authentic communication. All too often, typical trickle-down communication tactics result in a muddled end message by the time it goes from the corner office to the front lines. Tell it like it is, they can handle it. "Context is always important," reminds McGlen.
  2. Solicit input. Communication shouldn't be a one-way street. Find out what opportunities your engaged millennials see for you and your organization to help further your cause.
  3. Empower and encourage. Millennials are creative and adept problem solvers. Create a culture where everyone's contributions are valued and where everyone is empowered to implement change. Millennials want to roll up their sleeves and work together to arrive at a successful outcome — especially if they clearly understand and contribute to the broader reason behind the task at hand, which leads us to...
  4. Emphasize the end goal. Millennials crave a purpose-driven work environment. They want to know what positive impact their work will have on customers and the broader community.
  5. Above all, be an ally. Managers should support direct reports by hearing their concerns and acting as an advocate for them within the organization. Take the time to understand your direct report's unique story and objectives. McGlen emphasizes, "it's your job as a manager to really develop leaders and in order to do that you have to be an ally first."

Over the years, we've seen the power of effective performance management, coaching, and communication in action first-hand — across generations, business units, industries, and geographies.

We also know that future leaders model the example set forth by their predecessors. This makes it especially critical that our leaders today learn to create a culture of engagement now, while millennials prepare to take on managerial roles themselves in the coming years.

Lastly, millennials are highly inclined to take an active role in their own personal and professional development. I'd encourage you to share our Leadership Effectiveness Assessment with the millennial leaders on your team. By taking the assessment, leaders will discover their strengths as well as opportunities for leadership development, with the ultimate goal of being a well-rounded leader.

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What are you doing to develop your leaders' capabilities to spark engagement within your organization? Or, if you've successfully engaged millennials at your organization, tell us about your experience in the comments below.