Three ways to motivate Millennials you haven’t thought of yet

Hiam Sakakini

We see endless rhetoric about how Millennials are different – from the way they work, the way they have fun and they way they use technology to do both at a faster rate than Baby Boomers.

We understand Millennials have different drivers. So why do so many companies universally apply rewards, incentives and learning programs the same way to all employees?

Read more: Why this successful entrepreneur makes a habit of hiring Millennials

Having spent a large part of my career coaching hundreds of managers across the Asia Pacific, I have witnessed quite a few sit in confusion and bewilderment when it comes to managing this generation.

Most managers are caught in the middle of balancing employee rewards that correspond to their contribution and budget allowances – never mind they are too time poor to consider unique ways of rewarding at the individual level.

With Millennials tipping the balance in the workforce, and with two thirds considering near-term exits from their current employers according to Deloitte’s 2016 Millennials Survey, it’s high time managers got creative with ways to motivate them more meaningfully.

Here are my three simple tips to motivate Millennials.

1. Link their day-to-day work to the big picture

These individuals have a strong sense of personal values and will make choices about everything from what they buy, where they eat, and who they work for based on whether that organisation reflects their values.

Beyond choosing a company based on values reflecting their own, they will also choose a boss based on a few specific criteria. They’ll want you to be a mentor, a leader and a friend – a tall order by any standards but it can be achieved with certain boundaries. The qualities they’ll be looking for from you are support, motivation, expertise and fairness.

Once they start working for you it is crucial to continually link daily activity to a higher purpose, not just making more money. If you miss this crucial step you can expect a swift exit of Millennials within one or two years.

2. Create career adventure 

This generation love to explore and some may become restless in their career after two years. They’ll want opportunities to travel and try new roles within the same organisation. So make it happen.

They’ll want to be involved in high profile projects that have big impact from the get-go. Let them. You’ll find they’re adept at teamwork and relish a challenge.

A whopping 70% see themselves working independently one day rather than in an organisational structure. Find a way to capture and harness that “intrepreneurial” spirit by getting them to pitch to executives, validate their ideas, launch new products or services, and pass on learnings from failures (“flearning”), thereby building resiliency. Your organisation will save money by incubating ideas and fostering innovation, paying dividends in the future, and Millennials will be grateful for the opportunity to pick up these new skills.

As you work more closely with them, you’ll find that balance and flexibility in how they work is really important to them.

Sometimes they will want to work in a sprint or marathon format and then take a day off. This should be an embedded way of working, not ‘making an exception’. Measure performance based on outcomes not on visible hours in the office.

3. Hand over the keys to learning 

Millennials want choice. You will need world class learning opportunities in-house. Without that you will not attract them to your organisation in the first place.

Once they’re in, empower individuals to decide their own learning destiny by making it easy for them to also pursue learning opportunities outside your organisation. Anyone who is continuously learning feels more loyal to their organisation .

Deloitte’s 2016 Millennials Survey showed that 71% of those who were likely to leave their workplace within the next one or two years were unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed. Fifty percent said their organisations “could do more to develop future leaders”.

This is a great place to focus. What do you offer internally and what do you recommend externally? How are you building and fostering leadership skills early through learning experiences, networking, or coaching, to name a few options?

In short, give Millennials the cognitive space to follow what they are interested in and good at. They will develop mastery where they see purpose. They will see purpose if you link the how to the why.

And while it will be challenging to re-think work structures and flow to accommodate this generation, it will only benefit your organisation in the end.


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