A Millennial’s perspective on employee engagement: Part 1

Sam Milbrath
By Sam Milbrath
November 8, 2018

This is part one of a two-part blog series, which comes just after our first-ever webinar! Last week’s webinar was called Company Culture: Team Building with Food. In it, we discussed what makes a great company culture, the importance of a strong team and several fun ideas for team building with food.

In this blog post, I consider what employee engagement means to me, a “Millennial”—and why it’s so important for your business. Stay tuned for part two on the blog, where I discuss some ideas on how to improve waning employee engagement.

Why is employee engagement important—and especially now?

First of all, what is employee engagement besides a modern-day buzzword? To me, it’s a willingness to commit to a company. And, it’s a cycle with dips and spikes that repeat itself over time and in different situations. We start out engaged and driven until something brings us down temporarily, but we rise with vigor and a renewed passion… or so it’s supposed to go.

Now for the Millennial part. As you probably already know, our generation largely grew up thinking—or understanding, perhaps—that we can do anything we want. The world’s our oyster. Ours for the taking if we want it badly enough. Yolo, right?

So if we only have one life and we can do anything we want, if only we set our minds to it, what’s keeping us from job searching? Or what’s stopping us from leaving your company?

To be totally honest, I’ve taken a break from that world and now freelance for a few companies. Perhaps that’s where my entire generation is going (unless things change). Polyamourous relationships with multiple companies. But what kept me at one company or another for so long? And, after more than a year of freelance writing for Foodee, how do I stay so engaged?

To me, that’s where employee engagement comes in. It’s the only thing that keeps me at a company—or at least contracting for it.

Employee engagement

According to the stats, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. And I can attest to that. When I was engaged at past companies, I was right there with them. Drinking too much coffee and digging into problems, getting creative, honing on my craft—all for the betterment of the team. I was productive, driven, happy and engaged. So were the people around me, because, well, it’s infectious. I literally embodied the company culture. I was part of every club, wanted to join every meeting, and was training people on what made our culture stand out. Everyone wanted to work there and we were growing fast.

But then, only 15% of employees feel engaged in their careers. And eventually, I was a part of that stat.

Why did I become a part of that disengaged employee stat? 

For me at least, I love owning and working on a project from start to finish—especially if it has a clear purpose that aligns with what I care about. I write about autonomy, mastery and purpose often, but that’s what keeps me engaged. I am most engaged when I can run with an idea, without blockers, company politics, hierarchy or communication issues. When I can collaborate with others to make it happen and take pride in my work (and get recognition for it!). I become the master of my skills and then shift to continue learning. I need variety and opportunities for the taking. But don’t we all.

An old boss once told me that you need to be either learning or earning and preferably both. I prefer both, as I’m sure we all do, but maybe that’s the Millennial in me again. When I was learning and contributing to the overall success of the company, but not being recognized (through compensation, advancement or acknowledgment) for my hard work, I eventually deflated. Disengaged.

When I was earning, but not learning or growing, I questioned whether money really mattered to me. I lacked purpose. Yolo. And then I disengaged. Apparently, I’m not alone there. One study found that while 89% of employers believe their employees leave them for money, only 12% actually do.

Employee engagement

So clearly, autonomy, mastery and purpose matter to me—and so does learning and earning. But keeping employees engaged requires more than that. And everyone’s different.

Like I said earlier, I was engaged for years at many companies and am happily engaged to Foodee if there could be such a union. What kept me—as a representative of some of the Millennial workforce—engaged? And, despite the fact that I’m a contractor, what keeps me so engaged with Foodee?

Stay tuned for part two on the blog, where I discuss some ideas on how to improve waning employee engagement. All of this, of course, is based entirely on my personal perspective.

Sam Milbrath

About Sam

Sam Milbrath is a freelance copywriter and content marketer. When she isn’t writing for brands, she's working on her first novel or exploring nature. Check out her work at www.sammilbrath.com

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