By 2020, Millennials (those born between about 1980 and 2000) are forecast to comprise half of the American workforce, and by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce. Companies including Ernst & Young and Accenture have already reported that Millennials make up over two-thirds of their entire employee base.

This workforce shift presents even a seasoned leader with new challenges.

Even though the acute threat of COVID-19 will pass, workplace life will not return completely to normal. Although Millennials have developed tremendously, and are a positive addition to the workforce, Gallup data indicates, only 29% of millennials are engaged at work. However, the national engagement average is 34%, sending a strong signal that many millennials feel uninspired, unmotivated, and emotionally disconnected from their workplace.

            Upon reviewing thirty academic and non-academic fact-based reports and articles meant to help leaders work best with millennials during this time, I offer five research-based routes to succeed in this important matter:

  1. Build communication.

The leader who regularly communicates with millennials on job can show real concern for their emotional, mental, and physical well-being can be rewarded with a range of goodies—like decision making, building an exchange of information, and an easier flow of information. Scientists Howe and Strauss highlight several core traits of the millennial generation, most importantly, they feel accountable for their actions in terms of bringing results to the table and they can multitask and improvise when needed, as well. Using social media, regular in-person, telephone, and e-mail communication their favored means of communication—will help develop trusting, ongoing partnerships. Offering forums and inviting casual conversations enables millennials to respond to and take part in important decision-making and overcome any long or short-term hurdles.

2. Acknowledge and Encourage.

Millennials expect to be recognized much more frequently than members of previous generations, notes Mark Fulford, an MBA professor at the University of Central Missouri. Enabling them to bring their whole selves to work endows them with a greater sense of authenticity that ultimately leads to more involvement, reducing business risk. Millennials want to be able to offer their talents and strengths and want to be valued personally. 

A study done by PWC found that Millennials work well with clear instructions and concrete targets, suggesting leaders should focus on whether or not the task gets done well and on time, rather than where or how they complete a task. If a millennial is result-oriented, and delivers high-quality work, the way their time is spent should not be a concern. Recognizing, praising, and celebrating their success will pay huge dividends in the long run.

3.  Incorporate Feedback and Flexibility.

 Researchers emphasize that Millennials like to have the flexibility and dislike having too many rules and regulations. COVID-19 is taking an emotional toll on everyone and might cause leaders to transfer their stress onto others. Adopting the possibility of strength-based and engagement -focused approach, and break things down into small effective steps and strengthen the workforce. Millennials are the first generation to experience a true post-digital and globalizing world. They grew up using technology and remain connected with friends via social networks. Their values are practical and straightforward. This is a great time to prioritize by giving them the flexibility and ease of being in touch with the leaders so that the workflow is undeterred. Setting up a mechanism for continuous flexibility and feedback is of prime importance.

4. Build a casual working environment.

Millennials tend to prefer fewer formal meetings and more open, flexible work environments, according to a Deloitte Millennial Survey. The report recommends creating team workspaces and providing access to informal collaborative spaces rather than formal meeting rooms.  Millennials’ social habits—connecting, talking, sharing, tagging, and creating and distributing content might increase during this quarantine time.  Leaders should take that as a part of the present situation for these employees. Take care to acknowledge the need for work-life balance and avoid judgment.

5. Incorporate eLearning.

Empowering millennials helps them to retain. The traditional eLearning approach lacks connection for Millennials. Adopting inhouse learning strategies resonates for most millennials. They look for growth and advancement on the job and if they don’t find themselves growing, they hop jobs frequently. They have grown up in a diverse world and understand the importance of learning.  They embrace new perspectives. COVID-19, which is affecting businesses all over the world, brings an opportunity to learn new skills. During this downtime, incorporating e-resources to re-skill or up-skill millennials would be a good addition.

According to learning strategist,  Asha Pandey, generational differences affect the learning styles of an individual. Further, learning strategies for Millennials need to be remarkably different, as noted in HR & Millennials: Insights Into Your New Human Capital, by Human Resources Professionals Association

              Essentially, any meaningful change to work culture is must be gradual and business leaders must be committed to bringing that change. The challenge for HR professionals is to spur leadership teams into action to truly involve and empower millennials. 


  • Pooja Shrivastava, Ph.D.

    Executive Coach, Organizational Behavioral Psychologist, and Adjunct Faculty

    University of Oklahoma

    Pooja Shrivastava, Ph.D. is a certified Executive Coach for Leadership Development and an Adjunct Professor of Organizational Behavioral Psychology at The University of Oklahoma. Her custom-tailored approach emphasizes leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and stress resilience to enhance the quality of the global work environment. Her 15 years of experience involves industry training, consulting, teaching, and coaching leaders from corporate, NGOs, military, non-profits, and healthcare organizations.