Millennials are the least engaged generation in the workplace today – and if you’re like most people, your experience tells you that this is not new news.  After all, ninety-one percent of Millennials don’t expect to be in their same job in three years, and 67% of them are looking for work right now.  You might even find this to be anxiety-producing when you consider that 75% of your workforce will soon be made up of Millennials, and that every employee turnover costs you 90-200% of his/her salary. Ouch!

Ironically, Millennial disengagement holds true virtually everywhere except for the military.  There, you’ll find that the Millennial engagement rate is a whopping 90%!  This feels significant given that Millennials constitute 75% of the military today – and that our national security is in the hands of the generation most prone to quit their jobs. 

It is good news that military Millennials are not leaving.  They’re not just staying and getting by either.  They love what they do, and they feel ignited and driven by their work.  Maybe it’s possible the military’s secrets go beyond warfare.

According to Doug Wortham this is true.  He was a Command Sergeant Major and the Minnesota National Guard command senior enlisted leader.  He would know.  He suggests there are three military secrets to Millennial engagement:

  1. Clear Purpose Alignment.  First and foremost, a crucial part of initiation into the military is to help soldiers identify and align with a clear, compelling why – something bigger than self, something that matters enough to die for.  Military Millennials know their why!  They believe in it.
  2. Valuing the Individual.  Every single soldier understands his or her unique contribution and the difference that he/she individually brings to the whole.  They know they matter – and exactly how they matter.
  3. Solid relationships.  Up and down the ranks and peer-to-peer, there has been an increased emphasis on building solid relationships of trust.  The emphasis on relationship is equally important to mastering and executing the tasks associated with their role.

Interestingly, Doug identified one final secret that is the key to all the others.  He described it as Interdependent Leadership – which he suggested is the complete opposite of the command-and-control style that was once popular in the military.  In case you’re wondering what Interdependent Leadership is, and how it might help you, you may want to check out this brief video explanation where you can learn more.  Don’t be surprised when you discover that this innovation in leadership, Interdependent Leadership, is described as the ability to effectively balance the task/relationship dynamic.  Easier said than done, by the way.

The military has it right.  Interdependent Leadership is the only way you can truly win the hearts and minds of your people.  There are no shortcuts and no way around that fact.  What if your Millennials were as enthusiastically ignited as military Millennials?  What might be different in your organization?

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information from their soon-to-be released book on Interdependent Leadership.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  Learn more about Interdependent Leadership and download the new Interdependent Leadership eBook – at