Onboarding Millennials - the RIGHT Way

Don’t worry – we’re not bashing or touting millennials in this article, but more importantly, providing a practical “how-to” guide on how to onboard and manage the millennial workforce


As of 2016, the generation known as "millennials" comprised 38% of the U.S. workforce. And by 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce (CEO Magazine, Gallup). In other words, whether or not your organization wants to work with millennials now, it will most certainly need to in the very near future. And in order to mitigate risk with the generation that changes jobs like they change their underwear, it’s important to understand how to onboard and develop millennials…

 “A defining moment in anyone’s career is the onboarding process. Onboarding has the potential to set you up for failure or success. As an employee, it determines your developmental track, solidifies your internal brand with the company and serves as your first impression with company executives, customers and colleagues.
— Gallup Coaching Blog


So how can company leaders ensure that they meet millennials where they are without compromising the existing internal dynamic within the company's culture?

Stick to the 3 C’s:

Connection | Collaboration | Continuity


Companies have historically attracted top talent with role and salary. But millennials are less concerned about the paycheck and more about finding connection and purpose within their work. And in a world where 50% of employees are not engaged in their work, and nearly 17% of employees are actively disengaged, employers should delight in millennials’ desire for connection in the workplace (Gallup, 2015).

The best way to facilitate connection during the onboarding process is to lay out what your company’s culture is all about. By outlining behavioral roles and cultural norms, you’re preemptively bridging any initial gaps in expectations… which can really pay off down the road.


As digital natives, millennials have become accustomed to collaboration and feedback. This does not mean constant employee reviews! Rather, it means regularly offering informal advice on a peer-to-peer level. Millennials have an endless commitment to continuous learning. And if they have the right relationship with their superiors (IE: mentor-based), they will not hesitate to ask questions. Sometimes, this craving for collaboration gets confused as a need for constant recognition from their superiors. That’s not (always) the case. Instead – it’s more about the fact that millennials have been taught “certainty,” and in their mind, feedback is a great way to obtain that certainty.

From Seth Godin's “Teaching Certainty”:

"Here's how we've organized traditional schooling:

You're certain to have these classes tomorrow.
The class will certainly follow the syllabus.
There will certainly be a test.
If you do well on the test, you will certainly go on to the next year.
If you do well on the other test, you'll certainly get to go to a famous college.
After you repeat these steps obediently for more than ten years, there will be a placement office, where there will certainly be a job ready for you, with fixed hours and a career path.
People telling you what to do, and when you respond by reciting the notes you took, people rewarding you.
We've trained people to be certain for years, and then launch them into a culture and an economy where relying on certainty does us almost no good at all."


Lastly, millennials crave continuity. Therefore, consistent expectations during the onboarding process are endlessly important. Tell them what you need from them… and stick to it! If you prefer phone calls over email, communicate it. If you find it rude when they’re on their phone during meetings, address it from the beginning. The perceived hyper-sensitivity associated with the millennial generation often comes from incongruent expectations in the workplace.

As each incoming generation disrupts the established company norms, try to see it as an opportunity to evolve and learn. Harping on the inadequacies on any generation, young or old, doesn’t help anyone achieve… it just impedes the process of meeting business objectives.

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Kate Jacoutot

Spire Workforce Solutions, 5575 Peachtree Dunwoody Road Northeast, Building C, Suite 240, Sandy Springs, GA, 30342, United States