Engaging Millennials with Fast Data and Real-time Feedback


In this video, Qualtrics’ Head of Brand Growth Mike Maughan discusses how to engage, recruit, and retain Millennials using data and feedback.

Watch this on-demand webinar now to learn:

  • How recruiters can adapt and transform their hiring approaches to meet the needs of Millennials in the workplace
  • What data can teach us about Millennials’ priorities around key areas such as compensation, company, and culture
  • Methods for boosting employee engagement and motivation

Webinar Transcript:

Scot: And now, to share some insights, Mike Maughan, Head of Brand Growth, Qualtrics.

Mike: Thanks for the introduction. As you said, my name is Mike, and I’m delighted to be here with you all today. So our topic is engaging Millennials with fast data and real-time feedback. At Qualtrics, we thankfully have a lot of opportunity to do that, to talk about that. And a lot of experience in this space, and I look forward to discussing this with you today.

So just to give you a quick overview on our agenda, we’re going to talk first about Millennial disruption, and then look at what we will call the old school versus new school way of doing business. And then we’ll jump into some data based on the Qualtrics Millennial survey that we run to figure out what Millennials feel, how they feel about being recruited, engaged, and retained within the workforce, etc. And I’ll share some things that I think are pretty interesting and that will help I think, as we look at how to work with Millennials, how we can use data and feedback to keep them engaged within our workplaces.

I should say, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a Millennial. So this is something near and dear to my heart and something I’ve had the opportunity to talk about quite a bit. So let’s get started here with Millennial disruption.

First of all, Millennials are generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000. And so keep in mind that that now means that Millennials are now between about 32 and 14 years of age in general. And when we look at Millennial disruption generally, it’s fascinating to see a lot of these industries that have faced big changes based on Millennials.

So you’ve got the music industry, for example. As Millennials started to grow up and get into buying music and things like that, we saw that they refused to pay for CDs or even entire albums. And so it changed the way the entire music industry worked. Now some people may say that was Apple with iTunes, but really, it was Apple responding to a market need because the music industry was dying. And young people, who are the primary purchasers of music, stopped purchasing and looked for new ways to do it. And so we now buy based on the song rather than how we did before.

We saw the same thing happen over the last several years in the food industry as there’s been this big shift away from fast food toward fast casual. We saw it in politics. It was fascinating to watch this in the presidential elections when Hillary Clinton was upset by Barack Obama.

And practically no one believed, four years later when President Obama ran against Mitt Romney, that young people would show up with the same participation levels that they did in 2008. But in fact, they actually came in at a higher participation level. And so the entry of Millennials into politics like they haven’t done before set in motion something that really disrupted the status quo, disrupted what you’d refer to as the establishment.

Again, this has happened over and over, in terms of transportation with companies like Uber, in terms of just social interaction. We used to gather based on shared proximity or shared geography. Now people gather together, especially Millennials, based on shared interests on things like Facebook.

Back in the day, people used to go on things called dates, where they would talk to someone, ask them out, and they’d go out together. Now they just swipe left or swipe right using Tinder. And nowhere has this disruption been more visible than in the workplace. And so we’re going to jump into that in just a minute.

But as we’ve kind of laid out here, the world has fundamentally changed. Millennials are the first always connected generation. So when we talk about fast data and using that to keep Millennials engaged, it’s essential that we do that because Millennials are so used to this real-time feedback. Instant gratification. They’re used to sharing everything. Their whole personal lives are spread all over the Internet.

And part of that is this desire for constant feedback. And that happens whether it’s how many Facebook likes a post got, how people have liked my Instagram, or how I’m doing at my job. But this idea of constant feedback, whether that’s personally or professionally is ubiquitous everywhere we go.

Some people might say that that is viewed as this insecurity on the part of Millennials. Our data doesn’t show that that’s true. In fact, one CEO that I spoke with recently said that he finds it wonderfully refreshing that Millennials are constantly looking to improve. And it’s not this neediness to always be reinforced, but rather a desire for constant improvement. And I think viewed that way, it’s very helpful and instructive as we look at how Millennials interact with us in the workforce.

So let me share with you just a couple of things that have come out regarding Millennials. By the year 2025, so only ten years from now, Millennials are anticipated to make up 75% of the workforce. So it’s essential that we get ahead of this now and make sure that we understand how Millennials think, what engages them, and how we use data and real-time feedback to engage with them in the workplace.

Interestingly, another statistic here – and these come to us from Gallup – 52% of Millennials in developed markets said that they anticipate working for themselves someday. Now a lot of people look at this and say, “Oh gosh, Millennials are really interested in all being entrepreneurs. The data, as we’ll show you, doesn’t indicate that that is true.

Rather it’s that they want to be in entrepreneurial and innovative environments, where they can be entrepreneurial, not necessarily entrepreneurs. So I think sometimes we see statistics like this, and without the full context they’re relatively misleading. So it’s not that we have to go let Millennials all start their own companies. Rather it’s that, within our companies, if we want to keep them engaged we need to provide opportunities where they can be entrepreneurial and satisfy this need that they feel.

Another misleading statistic, I think, that we see sometimes is this 64%. Sixty-four percent of Millennials said that they’d rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring. Now again, remember that the oldest Millennials are 32, 33 years old now, youngest being 14 or 15.

As we see this transition happening, Millennials are just getting to the stage of their lives where they’re going to support families and have to provide and all of these things. So the idealism, where they think that they want a job they love and don’t worry about some of these other metrics, are often misleading and I think don’t benefit the conversation. So I just want to point that out as we continue on through this.

So looking at a couple of other things, when Millennials were asked about innovating to address global challenges, 44% said that businesses and individual entrepreneurs were the group most likely or most able to address global challenges. There has also been a tendency to talk about Millennials in terms of the fact that they’re removing themselves from business, that they’re all do-gooders at heart, that they just want to work in non-profit institutions, etc. Again, finding that that is not entirely true. And so it’s important to contextualize that as we look at these things.

So let me jump through rather quickly this old school versus new school approach, and then we’ll jump into the data about Millennials in the workplace. So the old school way of doing business was to give people a job description with a clearly defined role. Again, that does not work with Millennials. The new school way of doing business, people want to be self-directed without a ton of guidance. They want to be given a problem to solve. They want to know that they can contribute meaningfully immediately.

Some people take that to mean, “Oh Millennials have to be in charge today” or, “They’re unwilling to wait their turn” or, “They think that they deserve to be the CEO after a year or two.” That’s not true. It’s more that they want opportunities to contribute and they want to have ownership over a set of problems that they can’t take care of.

Another issue. The old school way of doing business, people had overseers, bosses, managers. Now when we talk about it they view their manager, if you will, as a mentor, as a coach. As someone that they can collaborate with. They certainly have respect for them but want this mentor type relationship, rather than someone that just dictates from above what needs to happen.

One of the most important things, I think, to look at in terms of Millennials is in the past people wanted a job. But now employees want an experience. They want to come back and be able to talk to their friends about something neat that they did, or something rewarding exciting. They want to tell a story. And this can be viewed as a self-centered culture, or we can embrace it and find ways to channel this need to have experiences in ways that help these Millennial employees be part of a team, and show the impact that they have and give them an experience through the job that is really meaningful.

A couple of other things quickly. The old school mechanism was an annual performance review. Those are generally out of date. They’re not incredibly helpful, right? So what we look at now is, how do we give real-time feedback and continual feedback? A lot of technology helps us to do that. It helps us to get that data quickly so that we can iterate consistently throughout a year and throughout a cycle, to help everyone to get better faster. And that role of continual feedback is incredibly important.

Lastly, the old school way of doing business, people wanted to do well. Now, if given the option, Millennials want to do well while doing good. We talk a lot about that. I think sometimes we emphasize it too much, because we need to look at the trade-offs people are willing to make.

So with that said, let’s jump into the Millennials in tech survey. So again, those born between ’82 and 2000. Of the surveys that we do, all the respondents have at least some college. So we’re not out there surveying the teenagers who haven’t yet entered the workplace. Fifty-five percent were already college graduates and another 30% had a graduate degree. So you’ll see over 85% there have already finished school. Another 48% of respondents have at least four years in the workplace.

So with that as context, let’s dive in and look at what this looks like. So first let’s look at what it is to recruit Millennials. Now as I’ve sort of mentioned before, Millennials want it all. They say they’d prefer to do well while doing good. They talk about how they want to change the world. How they care more about purpose than profits and individual compensation.

And while that may be true, it’s more important than ever for us to distinguish what they actually want and what trade-offs they’re willing to make. And so as we looked at that, we asked Millennials, “What is the most important thing for you when looking for a job?” And overwhelmingly, 45% of respondents said that the most important thing for them was an opportunity for professional growth. Second to that came in compensation at nearly 25%, and then everything else was kind of just in the long tail, right?

So what this talks to us is that Millennials say they want to change the world, but what often gets lost in the noise is that they really want to do well professionally and financially as well. And so as we look at how to engage them and how to make sure that we’re getting the right approach to working with Millennials and recruiting them to our companies, it’s important to know that this professional growth piece is a very important aspect of it for them.

The rest of this piece basically centers around three things: compensation, company, and culture as we look at what Millennials are looking for and want in an organization. So we asked them, when they’re considering a job offer, what’s most important? I mean, are you looking for a high title? Do you want a lot of money? Do you want to have a mission-driven organization?

Here, when forced to choose between these three metrics, over 60% said the most important thing for them was compensation. Another 30% roughly said it was an organization’s mission or purpose, and only 10% cared about title.

I think the title piece speaks very effectively to the non-hierarchical structure in many offices, especially many offices that bring in or attract Millennials. They again are looking for these flat, collaborative organizations with mentors, not managers. It’s interesting, as we look at this as well, to talk about trade-offs. I have a friend who recently graduated from her MBA program and she talked about all of the things that she wanted to do, and was intent on having a job where she could change the world, could have a very important impact. And said that, “The most important thing for me is to do all that and do it while I’m getting paid really good MBA salary.”

So for her again there is not this great recognition yet of the trade-offs that sometimes are being required to make. And so while Millennials may talk a good game, it’s important for us to recognize what the data says.

So to that extent, let’s look at their salary expectations for their first full-time job. Now again, we asked this in such a way that if Millennials had already graduated from grad school, we were still focused on their first job. Interestingly, 52% said that they expect to make between $35,000 and $65,000. There are roughly a quarter that expect to make less than $35,000, and another quarter expected to make more than $65,000. There are obviously differences in geography, in field, etc., but this was the overall breakdown. Not surprisingly, it was largely engineers that had the highest expectations. Or those graduating in engineering had the highest expectation for salary.

When it comes now to culture, I think that this is a pretty fascinating piece. We hear all the time about things that are “sexy” as they relate to culture in general. We’ve got all of these articles. “Lunch at Google Headquarters is as Insanely Awesome as You Thought.” I’ve eaten there a number of times and it is great, but at the end of the day, is that what’s taking people to Facebook? Is that why people work at Google? Is that why, as Business Insider writes about Marissa Mayer and Yahoo!, her very first thing there is to make free food for all.

So while this gets a lot of the hype, again let’s look at the data and get real-time feedback. Not only about and for our employees, but about how we interact and work with them. So when we looked at company culture we asked what do they most care about, and overwhelmingly a collaborative work environment was what Millennials want. They want to not be individually focused, but they want to be able to work in teams. It’s very important for them to have thought partners, to have people that they can talk to about various things. Fifty-one percent ranked it as first, 74% ranked it first or second.

Next, they cared about transparency and meritocracy. Those tied for second. They want to know what’s going on in the organization and they don’t want to have to try to rifle through it. They don’t want to have gossip. They expect a level of transparency. Again, that in many ways comes from the fact that Millennials share their entire lives all over the Internet and they expect that companies are willing to trust them and be transparent with information about what’s happening, about why decisions are being made, etc. And that meritocracy, where people are rewarded for what they do rather than for tenure, is incredibly important when it comes to keeping Millennials engaged.

Interestingly enough, the data is very clear that dress code and free food, the things that get most of the hype, were consistently ranked very low by Millennials. That is not why they make job decisions. That is not why they stay at jobs. What they want is very different than maybe what we hear talked about all of the time.

So next, and an interesting question and maybe it’s just because we have a thing on free food. But we asked would they prefer a free cell phone plan or free meals. And nearly 60%-40% they went for the free cell phone plan. Now if you think about what that means, and the reason this metric is so important to us, companies may talk about free food, but it is so much cheaper for them on average to provide a free cell phone plan for an employee than to provide free meals for said employee for the equivalent month.

So as companies are making these decisions as it relates to culture, as it relates to making sure that employees are engaged and happy, this is one of those great indications why real-time feedback and data is so important. Because they could do more and better meet the needs of their employees for much less cost by looking at things like that, that help provide the data as to what employees really say that they want to have.

Now we looked and talked to them about their ideal work schedule as well. Unsurprisingly, most people would love to manage their own schedule. They want to come in whenever they want, do whatever they want. That is, for most, not a reality that is something that they can do. But interesting to sort of see the gaps here, as to what people are required to do versus what they’d like to do.

The key learning here is to give people some level of ownership over their schedule. Now certainly, at least here at Qualtrics for example, we do come into the office. We believe in this collaborative work environment. We believe in making sure that people are able to talk to and interact very regularly with one another. And so we do have people come into the office during set hours. And we don’t have many remote workers. So as we look at how we structure that, important to recognize how Millennials feel about it. And so we can understand where to go from there.

In terms of the company itself and what they’re looking for, I show this split apple here because Millennials were evenly split as to whether company culture or their strategy and trajectory were more important. So why do we share this? It’s especially important for organizations that are in more stagnant or non-dynamic industries to recognize that if they have a really strong company culture that Millennials are attracted to, then they can still compete with the Googles and Facebooks of the world if someone is making the decisions to go there simply based on the company trajectory. Now, you’ve got the Googles and Facebooks that tend to have this trajectory and the culture, but there are ways for an organization to compete for talent otherwise.

Now when considering where to work, more said that they prefer the company’s trajectory however, to even who they’ll be working for. So also important to recognize when we talk about opportunity . . . This is fairly close obviously, just an eight point difference, but it’s important for Millennials to be able to know what they’ll be working on and how the company is moving forward.

So jumping now into how to keep them engaged in this regard. Gallup sets out this “State of the American Workplace” in 2013. It shows that only 30% of employees are engaged in their work. So if you compare this to a ten person crew team, that basically means that these three people to your right represent your 30% of employees who are rowing with all of their hearts. You’ve got another five people in the boat here who are called the disengaged. They’re just along for the ride. They’re looking at the scenery. They’re those who are not passionate about what they do. They clock in, they clock out, and do it without any great energy or commitment.

The most damning, however, are the 20%, or these last two people in the boat who while you’ve got three paddling with all their hears, five just hanging out, these last two are the actively disengaged, who are actively trying to sink the boat while the others are trying to move it forward. And so when we think of that, those actively disengaged, those final 20%, are estimated to cost the U.S. economy roughly $500 billion a year. Those are the employees that take an inordinate amount of management time, they drive your customers away, they negatively influence people. Those are the people that we need to either get off the boat or move them up so that we can get them engaged and figure out how to do that.

So when we asked generally, “What is the most exciting part about coming to work?” we see this same pattern emerging that we’ve seen in all of the data so far. People, first and foremost, need challenging projects. They need opportunity for development. However, we look at that the same type of thing comes through that the data shows that they want to work on big problems. They want to work on hard problems. They want to do things that have an impact. And second place in all of these has been compensation.

And so while Millennials may talk about wanting to do well while doing good, that does not mean that they’ve given up on wanting to do well. And so those two things seem to pop up all the time. What that means for us in general is that Millennials are not content sitting on the sidelines. They aren’t willing to wait their turn. I don’t know that that is fair to say that they are entitled. I don’t dispute that that may be true for some, but I suspect it’s a little different than we think. It’s not that they have to be in charge per se, it’s that they aren’t willing to be a cog in a machine. It goes back to this slide that I showed you earlier, where we’re looking at how Millennials are not content to just sit in a clearly defined role. But they want to be able to do things that have an immediate impact today.

So in short, when we think of how to look at this, I think that it’s best defined this way, that companies need to create the right playing field and then let Millennials play. Let them go and do things that are important, that have an impact on the company. Let them own a project. Again, it doesn’t have to be something that changes the trajectory of the company. But they want to have ownership over something so they know that what they’re doing has an impact within their realm of the business.

When we asked them about the biggest challenge to motivation, this was fairly interesting. This was the first time we see it flip. The biggest challenge for them, 32% claim that they have no issue staying motivated. But then next you’ve got nearly 20%, 18% who say that their biggest challenge is that they feel unfairly compensated. Now that’s important that we note “unfairly compensated,” right? It’s not that I’m not being compensated enough, or that I’m mad about how much money I make per se. It’s that I view this as not being fair in context with what I could be making elsewhere or what some of my peers are making. And so when it comes to distinguishing fairness in pay, that’s different than just the nominal dollar amount, but important to recognize what is fair.

Again here next we see unchallenging projects comes in in second place, very close to having challenging co-workers, etc. Now as we look at – this is just a bit of an interesting piece – non-work related social media, it’s interesting to see where this comes into play. There was no correlation within departments. So it’s not like the engineers were more likely to be X and the marketing department Y and sales Z. What we found was, interestingly, 5% of employees were willing to admit in this survey that they spend over two hours a day at work on non-work related social media. It’s fairly shocking to see how much time some people are spending.

Let’s jump now to the next piece, which is to retain employees. And obviously, keeping them engaged is a huge piece of this. This is another place where I think that feedback and data has a huge impact. We talk about Millennials as if they want to bounce around all day, all the time. And what we find is that that’s not true. When we asked them how long they anticipated staying at a single company . . . Or how long they would like to stay. Excuse me. Forty-five percent of them said that they would like to be at a company for over eight years. Now that flies in the face of what we often hear talked about with Millennials, who are this “Me me me” generation, always bouncing around looking for whatever they can have.

What this does tell us is that given the right environment, there’s a very high percentage of Millennials who want to be engaged. They want to help build something. They want to be part of a company or organization that’s growing and doing interesting things. They want to be part of that, and they’re willing to stay and hang around if that opportunity is given to them.

Obviously, there are roughly a quarter that would say, “I would stay somewhere between four to eight years ideally” and another roughly a quarter who would look at staying somewhere just between two and four years.

The next piece here that’s pretty interesting is, we’ve talked a lot in the past about work-life balance. Most people will tell you that there’s no such things anymore. But it’s all about work life integration. And when we look at work life integration, it’s important for us to recognize what we’re talking about here. That people . . . The barriers to what we’ve separated before, a bifurcated life, doesn’t really exist in the same way anymore, right? Our friends are all with us on social media. We’ll see here that on non-work related social media accounts, 75% of employees are connected to at least two co-workers. Thirty-five percent are connected to their boss. Fifty-seven percent are likely or very likely to accept a request sent by a boss. I know that my boss recently requested me on Instagram. And so you think, “Is this a part that I want to share?” And ultimately I don’t have a choice, right? You’ve got to say yes.

Interestingly, over a quarter are likely or very likely to send a request to their boss to be friends on a non-work related social media site. So when we talk about work life integration and how everything comes together. It’s important to see how these things work.

A few other things to just run through quickly. What’s most important to you? Millennials overwhelmingly still say that family is the most important, with professional success ranked next. When we talk about what do they value most in a boss, it’s this willingness to be a mentor. Again, going back to this collaborative work environment where they want to work with someone who cares about and values them.

When we look at what they most want to avoid in a boss, this one was pretty interesting because all of these came back basically statistically even and within the margin of error. So basically, they don’t want any of these things in a boss, but no one things stuck out more remarkably than any of the rest.

In terms of perceptions of a boss, and the reason this is so important is again getting back to the perception of Millennials as entitled or unwilling to learn from others. We see that 44% say that they’re continually learning from their boss. Another quarter said that their boss has a lot to teach them, but that they rarely interact. And that’s indicative again. They want a mentor, they want someone to be there.

As to be expected, there’s a certain percentage that look at this situation and say, “Look, I’ve learned a lot but I’m as far as I’m gonna go.” And you have some who just flat out claim to know much more than their boss. But overall, interesting to see how they fall out.

Now these last two pieces are pretty interesting. We asked them about oversight and feedback, and their actual versus the ideal. And when you’re working on a project, what actually happens we show here in red. Do they want a daily check in? Do they want a weekly check in? A monthly check in? The ideal for most Millennials came in that they want to check in at least weekly. They’d like to have that interaction with their boss. Now there’s a healthy subset that they want to check in on something when they need a question. But the actual seems much more varied.

So as we look at this, part of it is to learn, okay do they need? What do the Millennials within my organization want? But the more interesting thing is to recognize that there is a general consensus around probably a weekly or so check in. And to figure out on an as-needed basis where Millennials fall.

Lastly, we’ll look at frequency on the actual versus the ideal. And seeing how they want to do . . . Again, here we’re seeing that the ideal for them is that they’d like feedback on at least a weekly basis for the majority. That does not have to be a highly formal process. Again, there are lots of different technologies that help that to happen very smoothly and easily and communicate that feedback. It also means that in face to face environments again, Millennials are used to having instant gratification, getting instant feedback on which posts get the most likes on social. And they want that same type of interaction within the workplace, where people will just be honest and up front in real time.

Now in conclusion, the question then, how do you manage Indiana Jones if Indiana Jones represents Millennials. And the answer, quite frankly, is that you can’t. And so what happens? How do you do it? You channel his energy. You channel his talents. I would lay these down in a few ways. First you give him hard problems to solve and remove obstacles from his path. Second, the data shows you need to pay him fairly. Third is to make his work interesting. Make it an experience worth sharing, not just a job to get done. The fourth piece is to mentor, not micromanage.

And lastly, and this goes to this final slide, provide the right playing field and let him play because the biggest factor in whether any of our companies will succeed or fail is not what’s going on outside your organization, it’s what’s going on inside your organization. And so you have to find the right people. You have to create the playing field where they have the opportunity to succeed. And then you need to get out of their way. And that’s what it is for Millennials and how they’re going to get to where they need to go.

So thank you much for having me. A pleasure to be with you all. My contact information is here if you have any additional questions. And again, I really appreciate the opportunity to join you in this webinar.