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Engaging Millennials

Leadership Articles

How to Get America’s Largest Workforce Invested, Retained and Performing to Their Full Potential.

By Karen Leland

You know who they are. Those unengaged employees who simply show up, do their jobs and then go home, not giving their work a second thought. However, also fairly obvious are fully engaged employees—those who are clearly passionate about what they do, why they do it and, particularly notably, the impact their work is having on the world around them.

Unfortunately, high employee engagement among Millennials—the largest workforce in the U.S.—is proving to be the exception and not the norm. A recent Gallup poll of more than one million participants revealed that less than one-third of Millennials—only 29% —are engaged in their jobs. The data also underscores the critical difference employee engagement makes, considering that business units in the top quartile of employee engagement realise multiple key benefits that directly impact the bottom line.

Specifically, they:

  • Enjoy 17% higher productivity
  • Experience 41% less absenteeism
  • Have 10% better customer ratings
  • Have 70% fewer safety incidents
  • Are 21% more profitable than business units in the bottom quartile
Millennials make up 38% of the current workforce, but in less than 10 years they are expected to account for a staggering 75% of America’s labour pool. This is why today’s savvy forward-thinking employers are seeking innovative strategies to increase employee engagement among Millennials, to benefit all involved now and into the future.  

What Drives Millennial Employee Engagement?
To find the best ways to engage Millennials, it's first important to understand why current engagement levels are so low. In order for engagement to occur, an employee must feel a sense of purpose in their work. While this can take many forms, one means towards this end is empowering employees to make a meaningful and quantifiable impact in helping address environmental and social issues. 

Confidence in their leaders is also critical for employee engagement. A survey conducted by Australian startup Culture Amp found that fully 74% of respondents consider confidence in their leadership as a key driver of engagement. The good news in all of this? The ball sits squarely in the company’s court within its own span of control.

Make It Meaningful  
For Millennials, making a difference isn't exclusively about money. Simply passing around the proverbial cup for charitable donations won't cut it to get staff pools fully invested in a cause or overarching company culture. Rather, there must be a direct, hands-on connection with the problem, issue or goal being addressed. Millennials are motivated to give of themselves and their talents—not just their money. One innovative new online platform and app,, is partnering with businesses and organisations to facilitate exactly that.

In short, xocial makes it possible for companies large and small to achieve corporate responsibility goals and build a socially conscious, cause-minded company culture through fun and simple xocial “campaigns” that galvanise groups for a greater good.  Leveraging a concept it refers to as "competitive kindness," xocial actually measures each participant's favourable contributions with a “XO Score.” This points system is key as it serves as a numeric benchmark for comparison (and friendly competition)—a calculation representing the direct impact or result of a person’s, team’s and entire company’s xocial campaign.

To initiate a campaign, a company simply sets up a xocial profile page supporting a particular goal or cause of their own choosing. The company also specifies various "challenges" that employees can undertake to earn points in support of the goal or cause earmarked for the campaign.

For example, if a company's goal is to improve staff physical fitness and, in doing so, lower the city’s escalating obesity rates (and mortality and economic concerns related thereto), challenges might include skipping the elevator and taking only the stairs, drinking eight glasses of water a day, or taking a local exercise class during the lunch break. 

As challenges are completed, points are tallied and a leader board is displayed on the company's campaign profile page. Visitors to the page—not just employees but also customers and potential customers—can see what the company and its employees have accomplished.

Because xocial makes charitable activities trackable, it provides that much-needed direct emotional connection between activity and impact. This encourages people to give of themselves, not just their money, in order to positively impact society. 

Whether a company seeks third party solutions to foster optimum Millennial engagement in the workplace or chooses to curate an approach in-house, the overarching initiative must accomplish key concerns. This includes giving employees a sense of purpose and empowerment while also giving management a confidence boost. A solid program will also facilitate team building endeavors and curate staff pride in the organisation, all while building excitement within the company culture, itself.

Karen Leland is CEO of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm helping CEO’s, businesses and teams develop stronger personal and business brands. Clients include AT&T, American Express, Marriott Hotels, Apple Computer, LinkedIn and Twitter.

She is the best-selling author of 9 books, including her most recent title, “The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand,” which details proven strategies, best practices and anecdotes from real life brand-building successes to help readers design, build and accelerate a successful brand.

Learn more online at


Contact: Anne Gold,

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