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The Best 4 Ways to Motivate Millennials in the Workforce

Posted by Mark Hemmer on 1/13/15 12:00 AM
Mark Hemmer


Working Millennials reynermedia, Flickr CC

According to my birth certificate: I’m a millennial.

But I don’t identify that way.

Actually, outside of reading a stuffy article now and then lambasting my generation for being lazy, unambitious, or entitled, I’ve never thought about it. Conversely, there are an almost equal number of articles championing millennials and assigning qualities that can’t possibly be true across an age group: passion, creativity, etc.

Here’s what is true: millennials – without exception - grew up using technology. While that can’t ensure personality traits positive or negative, it can hugely affect how an employee responds in the workforce. This is terrifying to a lot of employers. Seriously. Do even a cursory Google search and you’ll find piece after piece sounding the alarm about the ‘Me’ generation and how their tech-obsessed habits threaten the way the working world, well, works.

Let’s pump the brakes on generalizing character traits of everybody in the generation and instead focus on how technology has shaped expectations, behaviors, and career paths of millennials. Millennials do operate differently. But that’s not a bad thing. Here’s the 4 best ways to motivate millennials in the workforce:

1. Give a clear path to advancement

What did tech do?

The Internet taught us immediacy, instant gratification, and yes, impatience. This is often criticized as ‘entitlement,’ but millennials want to know what they need to do to advance from the outset. The days of wasting away in a cubicle hoping that a promotion may or may not arrive 5 years from now are dwindling. We grew up with an increased sense of transparency. We have information at our fingertips at all times. Millennials want direction.

What can you do?

When hiring a millennial, be prepared to explain their role clearly and set expectations. Make it clear how and when they can advance their position and what it will take to get there. Be transparent and clear about how they can contribute. Provide professional growth and continued learning opportunities.

2. Offer flexibility

What did tech do?

Technology has opened the world up to millennials and made the idea of being confined to a single locale archaic. My bank doesn’t have a branch in my town? I can do all my banking from an app. Need to train employees nationwide simultaneously? I can share my screen. Is office space limited? I can do the same work from home. So, the idea of being required to sit in one chair, in one building, in one town in order to work doesn’t make sense to the millennial generation. Millennials value flexibility.

What can you do?

Become flexible. Believe it or not, offering minor concessions like working from home a few times a week or bending on work hours can motivate millennial employees and build morale in the workplace. Manage by objectives, not by time spent in an office. If your millennial employee is hitting deadlines and finishing their work, does it truly matter how or where they’re doing it? In fact, by letting go of the outdated idea of confinement to a chair, you’ll likely end up with an energized, productive employee who works harder.

3. Leverage their ability to connect

What did tech do?

From an early age, most millennials have been in contact with people all over the world. From video games to message boards to social media, they’ve found ways to connect with people through technology unlike generations before them. Millennials are comfortable interacting with different cultures and different types of people. Having an ever-expanding network of friends and other connections is second nature to most millennials.

What can you do?

Use it to your advantage. If your business is client based, let your millennial employees do what comes naturally - make connections. Let them utilize social media to draw interest and attention to your business. Encourage them to continue to grow their network and then reap the benefits of an employee who is well connected beyond the company and even the geographic location where your company is based.

4. Empower them

What did tech do?

Growing up with on the Internet got the empowerment ball rolling. Before the Internet, if you wanted a voice, you needed a platform (TV, radio, politics, etc). Now? If you want a voice, it’s as simple as hitting ‘send’. And information? It’s yours for the taking. Whether you need to learn how to fix a lawnmower, a refresher on Russian history, or you just need to tie a tie, you can – in seconds. This is what earned millennials the ‘arrogant’ critique. Knowing that even what you don’t know, you can learn – and fast – has made millennials feel like there’s little they can’t do.

What can you do?

Harness it. Empower your millennial employees by giving them a seat at the table. Give them a voice in meetings. Listen to their input. Leverage the reality that they are proficient at learning multiple skills at once and have access to everything. Give them tasks that challenge their multitasking and research abilities and make it clear that you value the skills they bring to the table.

Adding millennials to your team can be a challenge. But sometimes, the missing ingredient to your success is new blood.

Are you a millennial on the move or someone who travels for business? Make sure you download our '6 Apps to Pack':

Topics: Workforce, Millennials, Strategy, Industry Trends

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