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Motivating Millennials


Millennials are now the largest segment of workers in the United States, and in five years, they’ll make up nearly half of the workforce. Now’s the time to learn about this young, diverse demographic and find effective ways to motivate them.

Who Are the Millennials?

The group includes those born sometime between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Generally speaking, they’re an optimistic bunch, self-driven and achievement-oriented. Think Lena Dunham and LeBron James. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is a millennial, as are the co-founders of Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Blue Apron.

No generalization will accurately describe everyone, but millennials tend to prefer professional development over high pay, coaching over managing, collaboration over isolation. They want to be a part of something big, but they also want a life outside of work.Tech is their world, and they’re naturally suited to it. The older millennials were entering pre-school when the Nintendo Entertainment System first hit the shelves. Some millennials weren’t even born yet when cell phones first became widely popular!

Sure, millennials love their selfies, but they also like to witness what others are doing. They plug into social media to see as much as to share. Digital solidarity is still solidarity. And, besides, millennials grew up learning to work together with others—in school, at camps, in sports and band. They may prefer texting to talking, but they’re all about team-building.

With these common characteristics in mind, let’s look at some effective ways to motivate millennials. Just remember that your millennial employees may not conform to these traits, and that’s okay. Useful as generalizations may be, they’re no substitute for getting to know your individual employees.

In What Ways Can You Motivate Millennials?

First, have a discussion with your employees about what’s happening in the company, where it’s going, and what their place is within it. Ask them about where they see the company going and how they’d like to contribute to its success. Let this discussion be the basis for an action plan. If millennials feel involved, they’ll be committed. If they sense they don’t belong, they’ll go elsewhere.

Second, challenge them to grow, not only by addressing their limitations, but also and especially by coaching them on their strengths. Having less knowledge and experience than others in the workforce, millennials haven’t had as much chance to develop their talents and perfect their skills. They want that chance. Give it to them. You and they will benefit from the fruit of their labor, even if they eventually take their skills elsewhere.

Third, make smart use of technology. Consider having an internal social media platform where employees can communicate with one another and with you. It can be a space for conducting business, sharing ideas, and even socializing. Encourage your millennials to take the lead in using this technology to build community in the office. It’s their world, after all.
Generally speaking, they’re an optimistic bunch, self-driven and achievement-oriented.

Finally, allow millennials the space to innovate, take risks, make mistakes, and succeed in your company. For them, success isn’t only something to work towards over the course of a long career, not in a world where college roommates create the most successful social networking site or where a young blockbuster star like Jennifer Lawrence wins the film industry’s most coveted award. Millennials in your organization are most likely short on cash and buried under student loan debt—but they want to make a meaningful difference now. If you get them involved, grant them the freedom to be themselves, and recognize their achievements, you’ll find your organization thriving and ready to take on the future.