Millennial Conundrum: Motivating the Mobile Generation

Today, Millennials are known as ‘participation trophy’ earners—people who demand gratification and praise for a job well done. Regardless of the level of truth behind this generalization, it’s our job to uplift millennial employees and foster their growth. Millennials make up the largest living generation in the world today, which means they are critical to a functioning workforce. Losing the toxic attitude that this group is lazy and entitled is the first step to building a business that will withstand and flourish.

Millennials need to work. However, according to a RetailWire study, 60% have changed jobs between one and four times in the last five years. There are several reasons for this quick turnover, but many cite the main motivation for change being that they don’t feel their personal contribution contributes significantly to the overall success of the company. They feel as though they aren’t getting the opportunity to unlock and demonstrate their true potential.

In order to feel fulfilled, Millennials desire connection, appreciation and a sense that they are making an impact.

When those needs are met, employees feel a greater level of investment and are more inclined to stay. As someone who runs a successful company with a Millennial-dominated staff, I’ve found that meeting the following needs creates a successful and enduring work culture.

Need For Connection

Millennials want to feel connected to a cause. Those same people five years ago who were holding rallies at their high schools and colleges about the environment and equal rights for disenfranchised groups are now proud holders of college debt and car payments. Because of this, it can be beneficial to host activities such as volunteering or intramural sports games. It may sound simple, but Millennials rally around a good cause and love to connect with their peers.

This need for connection also applies to supervisors. The new generation of the workforce is not looking for bosses or managers but rather mentors. As a boss, focus on being a mentor by teaching and showing employees how to lead by example. Not all your employees will love you, and that’s okay. But, if they can learn from you, they will respect you and be more likely to stick around longer.

Need For Appreciation

This generation needs to feel appreciated more than they need vacations, dental plans, or job security. They would rather have a job that pays less but allows them to feel connected to their employers and company mission than a job that pays more but provides no constructive feedback or interpersonal relationships.

Unhappy job-hoppers, which negatively impact the workforce as a whole, cost business owners thousands of dollars per year, largely due to a need to re-train new employees—AKA, turnover. To reduce a high millennial turnover rate, focus on retention behaviors. Tell Millennials what they do well and correct what they don’t.

Skip the annual reviews and focus on consistent and short weekly talks. Stop by your employees’ work spaces and explain what you thought they did well that week and inform them of what they could do better in the future.

Compliment them in the heat of the moment and offer positive recognition for a job well done. But avoid praising something mediocre or unworthy as employees will notice and devalue real recognition in the future. A little credit is all Millennials are asking for, and if they don’t deserve the praise, fire them and hire someone else.

What is truly detrimental is a dead-weight employee who leaves after a few months because they don’t feel productive.

Need For Change

Millennials crave change. This is why they often enjoy traveling abroad for extended periods of time doing freelance work and direct-selling on social media. As a whole, young people show a  preference to adjust daily, which can be favorable or detrimental to your company, depending on your business model. Know that Millennials desire work that offers a means to connect with others, including their coworkers and clients, more than generations before them.

This need for multitasking and job-optimizing also means that post-Baby Boomers can juggle multiple assignments and appreciate cross-training. Give them different jobs and train them to do a wide variety of duties. Employees often feel indebted to their work, and as much as it provides stress, Millennials like thinking that things would fall apart without them. That’s not to say that you should allow your business to become reliant on a single employee, but training an employee to do three separate jobs makes them feel as though they are important, valuable and essential to the success of the organization.

Overall, Millennials want a job that values them for what they do. Add in a positive workplace that celebrates what your employees do right and you will accomplish what some consider to be the impossible: creating a successful business run by young people who are often regarded as entitled and uncommitted.

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