How to Build Real Trust With Your Millennial Workforce

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Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, are entering the workforce at huge numbers.

They’re the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers, but they want something different than the generations before. Millennials are perceived as being entitled and fickle, but they’re actually just unwilling to compromise long term principles for short term gain.

If you manage Millennials you’ve probably scratched your head a few times with this technology-driven generation. It can seem like a tall order to build the kind of trust that’s necessary to build a team when Millennials seem so different from the established workforce.

Building trust with Millennials doesn’t have to be difficult when you understand what’s important to them and build a culture that dovetails with their view of work:

  • Personal growth instead of organizational needs;
  • An interesting career;
  • Opportunities to make a difference;
  • Open communication;
  • Cooperative interdependence;
  • Moving up (or they’ll move on);
  • Flexibility at work;
  • Better work-life balance;
  • Encouragement and regular recognition;
  • Employing technology to reduce workplace friction; and,
  • Technology integration at work.

Building trust

Millennials will know you trust them, and will therefore reciprocate, if you are open about the importance of their contribution to the team and the organization. Give them the visibility into how their daily tasks make the whole company function.

Millennials detest a silo. Remove the barriers that keep people from knowing how their job relates to the greater whole.

It is critical that your company has their technology up to snuff if you want to build trust with your Millennials. You will lose their respect if your WiFi doesn’t work, if their computer time is monitored, if social media sites are blocked, or if any technology is outdated.

You can’t fool a Millennial; they know a company with poor technology integration is doomed and they will jump ship. Any company with a limited view on technology is bound to have trouble attracting and keeping Millennials (or most employees for that matter).

Use your Millennials for their technology prowess. You can build trust by asking them for their insight into your technological processes.

Work-life balance is essential

Ask for their input on how they could use available technologies to streamline work and procedures. You may be surprised at the types of technologies out there and how much easier your work lives could be with some new integration.

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Work-life balance is non-negotiable for Millennials. If your company doesn’t have flexible work schedules, and isn’t willing to at least consider them, you may have trouble even attracting Millennials.

The very idea of flexibility is one of trust. You must trust that your employee can get the work done, regardless of when and where that work takes place. You can build trust with your Millennials by trusting that they’ll do the work they need to do when it needs to be done.

More than any other generation, Millennials respond to the power of encouragement and recognition. They grew up with participation trophies and medals for the whole team.

Build trust with your Millennials by demonstrating your gratitude for their accomplishments. Regular recognition efforts keep Millennials happy and performing. They need encouragement almost more than any other generation, and you can provide it.

What have been your greatest challenges and triumphs while working with Millennials?

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

Carina Wytiaz is a professional writer and Internet marketer, with experience drawn from her time at FranklinCovey, Borders,,,, and several traditional marketing and advertising agencies. She loves helping employees feel more included and valued through exuberant appreciation experiences, and helping companies realize the incredible potential of their human capital.


3 Comments on “How to Build Real Trust With Your Millennial Workforce

  1. Great piece Carina. I don’t think the work life balance component is just a Gen-Y issue.

    Feedback is another critical component to managing gen-Y. Their comfort and constant use of social networks makes them used to constant feedback.

    David Singh – VP Strategy & Operations at

  2. Good points. As a GenY, I agree. Most of what you mention is also contained in our Top 10 Ways to Engage Millennials checklist ( ), including David’s point on feedback. I also agree that many of the things this generation “expects” are not that insane and are not just related to GenY and Millennials (1978-present).

  3. Carina – You hit the essentials necessary to create a millennial friendly work environment. However, your observation that “Building trust with Millennials doesn’t have to be difficult when you understand what’s important to them and build a culture that dovetails with their view of work” strikes me as naive.

    Trying to implement even a few of those initiatives on a systemic level will be extraordinarily difficult in most organizational settings. Autonomy; recognition; interesting work; encouragement; career progression; work/life balance; most, if not all, companies are struggling with one or more of these cultural ingredients today, and thus far the results are far from positive. And this is in the context of the existing workforce; adding the millennial factor will probably polarize whatever adoption process that may have begun.

    The root cause of this reality isn’t all that mysterious, and can be summarized in one word: Resistance. It manifests itself in any number of ways, and trying to deal with it in a linear fashion will feel exactly like whack-a-mole.

    Underestimating the degree of difficulty associated with the Millennial invasion can result in devastating consequences. It requires a level of commitment and communication that very few, if any, organizations have understood and planned for.

    The good news for HR is the tremendous functional opportunity, for adding real value and demonstrating true organizational leadership, presented by this state of affairs. Smart practitioners who grasp the significance associated with this cultural change, which will impact every facet of business as we know it, will be in a position to make the kind of contribution that will guarantee them the kind of rewards and recognition many only dream of today..

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