Wages and benefits matter to employees, but they're not the only driving factor for millennial talent. According to the 2016 ADP Employee Engagement Study, more than 50 percent of millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers value work-life balance and flexibility. And when it comes to tools to drive career success, 47 percent of millennials believe that training helps them perform to the best of their ability. So how can employers retain and engage younger employees by nurturing their ambition, recognizing their achievements and helping them thrive?

3 Ways to Engage Younger Employees

Employee engagement measures an employee's emotional commitment to an organization. Positive emotion often leads to better performance. While engagement can be a challenge, it is measurable. HR leaders can use data to understand a workforce's engagement. Your employees might have to show up, but they don't have to exceed expectations. However, providing the right employee experience can transform your organization into one that millennials love.

1. Nurture Ambition

According to Deloitte, 66 percent of millennials plan to leave their jobs in the next six months. But this may not be a matter of entitlement. It could be the result of a lack of stimulation. Forbes notes that today's young people are more ambitious than previous generations. Helping millennials reach their goals doesn't have to involve a clear path to the C-suite. Millennials are looking for opportunities to learn and grow, reports Harvard Business Review. With a culture of information sharing, HR leaders can prevent millennials from becoming bored.

2. Recognize Achievements

The need for continual recognition could be attributed to young people coming of age in a world where information is available on demand. Relying on an annual review might not be best for young talent. According to The Balance, leadership should create recognition systems that are consistent — and inconsistent. "If employees are invited to lunch with the boss every time they work overtime, the lunch is an expectation. It is no longer a reward," notes The Balance. According to ADP, only 36 percent of millennials believe an annual review is all the recognition they expect.

Using performance metrics can eliminate perceptions of favoritism and create consistency around expectations. Taking an ad hoc approach to recognition and reward is also likely to work far better for millennials than a simple employee-of-the-month approach.

3. Facilitate Learning Experiences

HR leaders need a fresh approach to educating the generation that grew up with Google. Tech certainly plays a role, but so should social learning. Consider learning experiences that involve collaboration. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends allowing millennials to share their knowledge through reverse mentoring. "This strategy may provide this tech savvy and idealist group of employees an opportunity to display their abilities, especially during a phase of transitioning business conditions," SHRM notes.

Understand the Why

Understanding the "why" behind millennial engagement is one of the best ways to build a strategy for the future. Gallup reports that 87 percent of millennials say development is important in a job, and opportunity for growth is one of the top three factors of retention. Millennials' strong desire to learn skills could be because they want to perform better in their current role and prepare for the future. HR leaders can offer tools that foster learning and development and ultimately empower employees.

Engage With Smart Data

Simply put, it's dangerous for HR leaders to assume their millennial workers fit the national mold. According to the ADP Employee Engagement Study, 16 percent of millennials at large professional scientific organizations are driven by growth potential, compared to just 12.8 percent of their peers at small health organizations. Understanding your employees on an individual and organizational level can allow you to benchmark your organization against industry trends.

By looking beyond the surface level to build a happy workforce, HR leaders can find out what truly matters and adjust the employee experience accordingly.

Where are your employees on the Engagement Meter? Try this interactive tool today to help you drive work happiness within your organization.

Tags: retention Millennials Employee Engagement