Motivate the Next Generation:
to Get the Most Out of Your Millennial Workers
By Tip Fallon
Finding and keeping good, young talent can be challenging for
any business. And in today’s economy, the next generation can hold
the key to boosting your bottom line. Most new graduates are eager
to showcase their talents in the workplace, have not picked up bad
working habits from years of experience at another firm, and are
excited to take on new, challenging responsibilities. While there
are many benefits to hiring Millennial employees (also called
Gen-Y), keeping them motivated and happy requires different
techniques compared to past generations.
First, even though they may face enormous student loan debt,
Millennials care about much more than money. Cash does play a role,
but it is not always the most important part of retaining young
employees. They are aiming for a much more holistic fulfillment
through work, including fun at the office, the ability to feel good
about their job, and balance in their social lives.
So, before your competitor hires your Millennials out from
under your nose, implement these seven strategies to keep them
productive and happy. Best of all, you can do them at little or no
1. Give them
Millennials have been raised to believe they are special. They get
to make their own decisions and take ownership over their results.
This is where they experience a lot of shock in the workplace. All
of a sudden, after years of being a soccer star, leader on campus,
and diva on Facebook, they are no longer in the spotlight at work.
Give your Millennial employees something they can call their own and
be proud of. Let them redefine an operating procedure in their
position, facilitate a meeting or even plan an event. They thrive on
knowing something has their name on it. This allows them to be more
driven and can make them feel more valued than even a pay raise
What do your
millennial employees have ownership of? What can you give them
ownership of in the coming months?
2. Give regular
Many managers and business leaders avoid giving feedback or don’t do
it regularly enough. Even annual reviews for new employees get
pushed back for months. Millennials yearn for feedback to see how
they are doing and if they can improve. They are used to getting
grades for their work, multiple times a week. It’s a big shift to
receive feedback only once or twice a year. Take time to let them
know how they are doing. It does not always have to be a pat on the
back. They want to know how they can improve as well. By showing you
care about their growth and progress, they feel more valued and
loyal to your company.
When is the next
time you can have a conversation about how your millennial employee
is doing? What kind of feedback can you provide on a regular basis?
3. Show them the
Millennials know what’s going on in the world – from the dire
economy and corrupt politics to wars and our sick planet. Yet they
are probably experiencing their first taste of independence in a
cubicle, in front of a computer monitor for eight hours a day. When
they absorb everything going on in the world, their current jobs can
easily seem mundane in comparison, which can lead to low morale and
creativity. To resolve this, explain in an informal conversation –
possibly through a mentor – the role they play in the “big picture.”
Let them consider how their job drives company productivity, which
increases our GDP, helps provide jobs for people, which supports
many families, and serves a need to consumers.
What is the
interconnectedness of your Millennials’ jobs and the “big picture”?
How can you explain that to them?
4. Let them do good:
Along those same lines, Millennials care about improving the world.
If they had their way, many of them would be “professional
volunteers.” A paycheck is not always going put a smile on their
face at the end of the day. You can buy their time, but you cannot
buy their hearts. You can help them become emotionally invested in
your firm, however, and that’s when you will see more enthusiasm
towards their work. This doesn’t mean your organization must
integrate philanthropy as a part of your business strategy. It can
be done by simply hosting a charity dodgeball tournament, setting up
an e-mail pen-pal program with an elementary school, or having a
local nonprofit come in to discuss volunteer or donation
can you give your employees to do good and feel good?
5. Build enjoyment
into the workplace:
Many Millennials live by the creed: “Life is short.” They’ve
witnessed natural disasters, terrorist attacks and school shootings
as a part of their formative years. They know not to take life for
granted. If they are bored out of their minds at work, they may not
stay there long, as their hours are precious. They want to enjoy
their time. This comes through creativity, spontaneity and
relationships with those around them. This may mean having more
social activities, or less conference calls and more in-person
meetings, or occasional team lunches and outings. Putting out an
“Employee Superlatives” list around the end of the year, high school
yearbook style, or making short videos about people’s jobs and
posting them on an intranet are fun ways to see what’s behind the
shirt and tie. Look outside of your office for socializing and
networking opportunities with other branches and their Millennials.
What can you do to
let your employees enjoy their workday more with their coworkers?
6. Tap into their
It may sound like common sense, but it’s striking to see how many
workers are not contributing their unique talents and passions to
the workplace. Some unknown talents may include music, planning
events, online social networking, photography, fitness training, or
public speaking. Letting an employee use her unique talents at work
may not be a part of her job description or bring in extra dollars –
but it can boost her comfort level, appreciation and creativity. And
that can be invaluable in terms of increased performance.
How can you find
out the hidden talents of your employees? When you find them, make
sure they get a chance to demonstrate them at work if they desire.
7. Give them
Millennials are a hyper-competitive bunch. When they gather for
brunch or go out with friends, especially when they have a new job,
they want something to brag about. This gives them a sense of
significance in their social circles and reaffirms that you, as an
employer, are doing them well. Find out what it is they want to brag
about. They will most likely be turned on by one of the six items
described above. Through your conversations, find out what they
value most and give it to them in spades. When they brag about their
jobs on weekends, they’ll be much happier showing up on Monday.
What do you think
your employees tell their friends about working for you? What can
you do to give them something to brag about?
Millennials may require a slightly different management style, in
the end, they simply want to be happy. Simply keep in mind they may
have different expectations when it comes to the satisfaction they
get from work, and how their job plays into their overall life
balance. Using these tips is the starting point to harnessing
greater levels of ambition, creativity and productivity from your
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