Engaging Millennials Crucial Part of Organizational Development

Organizational development leaders spoke candidly about the generational challenges in today’s workforce during a panel discussion at WorkforceNEXT’s Spring Summit Wednesday afternoon.

While Tom Burley, manager of leadership and talent development for ConocoPhillips, said he doesn’t believe engaging millennials requires an approach different than other generations, he did say each worker has their own needs and desires, therefore communication is crucial – especially during difficult times in the industry.

Bill Fournet, CEO of managing consultant firm The Persimmon Group, said every supervisor should ask their employees three questions:

  • how do you like to be recognized?
  • how do you like to be rewarded?
  • what gets you out of the bed – what’s your passion?

“It all comes down to leadership and fundamental levers. Those are three fundamental questions regardless of the generation and background of your employees,” Fournet said. “But I would venture that 90 or 95 percent of employees’ supervisors don’t know the answer.”

This can help bosses avoid situations like publicly recognizing an employee who can’t stand to be called out in public settings. While the boss’ intentions were good, he didn’t take the time to learn about the employee.

“I think there’s a lot of misleading information and sensationalism around millenials,” said Fournet. “I find them to be incredibly energetic, have a great work ethic and are innovative, collaborative and eager … and raised by parents who told them to try lots of things, do lots of things and then they are coming into some organizations that are not necessarily ready for them.”

Fournet said the industry needs to adjust because millennials make up the majority generation of today’s workforce.

“Millennials are driven and will stay at a company based on authenticity, values and opportunities to learn. Almost all of those things I just said cost 0 dollars. You don’t have to spend money to keep them there. Millennials will work at night, they’ll stay late,” said Fournet. “In the past few years, I’ve seen a dramatic change in oil and gas. Primarily I believe because it was a recognition that the industry had to use millennials in the workforce. Opportunities are there, but it’s about getting to know them and figuring out how to leverage them.”

One panelist, Rachel Stiles, organizational development and training manager for engineering company CB&I, applauded WorkforceNEXT for having her – a millennial – on the panel. She described the move as “highly progressive.”

In the past, Stiles was embarrassed to advertise herself as a millennial because of the negative stigmas associated with the generation. As she’s grown older and developed into her career, she proudly claims the millennial status.

“I have seen in my career and the careers of other young professionals that when [millennials] are embraced for their capabilities (technology, strategic thinking and inquisitive questions) and strategically placed to use those capabilities, they succeed,” she said. “Yes, we need development and coaching. Yes, we do have rough edges that we need smoothed out. But those of you who embrace the millennials will see exponential and profitable results.” 


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