Leadership Spotlight

Engaging Millennials in the Workplace

Stock photo of a young, male police officer.

Law enforcement agencies, which consist mostly of baby boomers and Generation Xers, continue to change as more millennials enter the workforce. For many personnel accustomed to tradition and structure—two foundations of policing—this transition has proven difficult.

However, departments must embrace this new generation, which will play a vital role in the continuing growth and success of law enforcement. Agencies must not only recruit millennials but also integrate and manage them. To do so effectively, leaders must understand the mind-set of this rising age group.

Historically, “salute and execute” has summed up the thinking of police personnel. According to this reasoning, subordinates simply should do what their supervisors ask of them, no questions asked. Millennials understand the importance of such a philosophy in police operations, but perhaps not a training or office setting. They want to understand the “why.”

Although it may contradict the traditional chain of command, millennials prefer to speak directly with managers. They believe that open communication will allow them to accomplish a task more effectively and efficiently and satisfy everyone involved. Instead of it being “my goal,” it becomes “our goal.”

Further, explaining to millennials the reasoning behind tasks encourages mission buy-in, which proves essential to their work effort. From recruitment onward, this helps them find purpose. Interaction with their supervisor feeds into this process. One survey found that “employees who have had informal conversations with their managers in the last 6 months about their goals and successes are almost three times more likely than other employees to be engaged at the workplace.”1

Police departments must harness the potential of this new generation. Explaining the purpose and reasoning of the job—including individual tasks—will help agencies develop buy-in among their millennial employees. This will enable departments to develop, grow, and remain successful in the future.

Mackenzie Logan, a former intern with the Executive Programs Instruction Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.

1 Brianna Steinhilber, “7 Ways Millennials Are Changing the Workforce for the Better,” NBC News, May 18, 2017, accessed October 29, 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/better/business/7-ways-millennials-are-changing-workplace-better-ncna761021.