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How to Motivate the New Millennials


Article provided by Claire Kilroy, content writer for graduate jobs in London specialists, Inspiring Interns.

How do you define a generation? It’s a task that’s becoming ever trickier, given the speed with which technology is transforming the world, and the children born into it.

In the next few years, the youngest millennials – typically defined as those born between 1980-1994 and otherwise known as Generation Y – will enter the workplace, with their successors, Generation Z, hot on their heels. This group of the youngest Ys and oldest Zs resemble older millennials in some ways, but they have also grown up in a unique set of circumstances that will impact their characteristics as employees.

As the most diverse demographic to date, sweeping generalisations about the new millennials can be reductive. But there are some key trends that can indicate how employers will be able to motivate and inspire their youngest workers. Here are five key tips for those looking to get the best out of their top young talent.

  1. Care about causes

From the outset, surveys of millennials have indicated that they care deeply about ethical causes. And given that 30% of those born between 1990-1999 would take a pay cut to work for a company with a mission they care about, the youngest millennials and Gen Z look likely to continue this trend.

Having values and company aims that extend beyond making a profit can engage a young workforce and draw them into the company mission. And it’s also worth looking beyond the business altogether and running schemes that give back to the community or to charity.

Some companies are able to run huge projects, like Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 woman scheme – which aims at helping female entrepreneurs worldwide – or Deloitte’s pledge to match charitable sponsorship raised by its employees. However, other companies ignite their employees’ passions on a smaller scale by providing them with additional days off each year to spend volunteering.

Whether you support individual employee’s charitable aims, or get the whole team in on a project, you’re bound to boost morale, and your company’s reputation amongst its young workforce.

  1. Look to your company culture

Millennials are stereotyped as the generation that wants to have fun in the workplace, a view that has fed into a tendency for some to not take them seriously. It’s not an unfounded accusation. Rather than wanting ‘work-life balance’ to mean the two spheres are strictly defined, Gen Y and Z want the time they spend working to include things that they value in their spare time – like entertainment.

This doesn’t mean that every company can or should be a cool start-up with a ping-pong table in the office and Friday afternoon quizzes. However, environments that need to maintain a more formal, corporate culture can still foster the kind of fun and social atmosphere that appeals to millennials too.

Try holding regular social events for the whole team or arranging other fun out-of-office activities. Events like away-days and team-building exercises appeal more strongly to millennials than older generations. A 2015 survey by The Go Game revealed that 79% of those aged 21 to 30 believe that these activities help retain talent, while the percentage of baby boomers who agreed was considerably lower.

  1. Help them progress

The younger generations are ambitious; they want to reach senior positions, and quickly. Yes, of course, they can’t just snap their fingers and get promoted. The important thing is to let them know their ambitions can and will be fulfilled, and that you can provide a path forwards for them.

What shape this path takes is up to you, and depends on what works best for your business. At a small business or start-up, it might involve opportunities for employees to take on new responsibilities and widen their skillset. At a larger company, it might take the form of mentorship programmes and leadership training.

According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennial employees would like to spend 4.5 hours a week developing leadership skills, as opposed to the 2.7 hours currently averaged. They’d also like to spend 1.2 hours more per week being mentored.

Whatever the case, providing clear goals and regular feedback, both positive and negative, is important. As well as tangible opportunities for promotion in the longer-term, young millennials are likely to feel more motivated if they feel their talent is being nurtured and their progression isn’t being road-blocked.

  1. Allow them space to innovate

Not all attempts at innovation will be well-judged – like that of the interns who banded together and signed a petition to change a company’s company dress-code and were fired for their pains. But the fresh thinking that young people can bring to a business is one of their greatest assets, and it’s worth giving them a platform to voice their ideas.

Deloitte’s survey also suggested that millennial workers would like to devote significantly more time each week to discussing new ideas and ways of working. These might range from a suggestion that could speed up the way a piece of work is done to an idea for a new business direction.

In terms of practical working, it’s also worth listening to your millennial employees regarding requests for flexible working or being able to work remotely on occasion. If their work allows them to so efficiently, promoting a more fluid working culture can motivate them to work harder and increase employee satisfaction.

Even if their ideas are ultimately not acted upon, feeling that they have been heard will make millennials feel more valued. And it may well be that they do come up with something worth implementing.

  1. Play to their strengths

According to a survey by Sparks and Honey, the average American attention span in 2014 was eight seconds, four seconds less than it was in 2000. The younger your employee, the more likely it is that they’ve grown up surrounded by technology and thus constantly inundated with information. Research suggests this might have had an adverse impact on their attention span.

While this sounds like a problem, it gives them strengths that you can take advantage of. Used to dealing with several information sources at once, they are often keen multi-taskers, and likely to thrive on coordinating on several projects at once. And they’ll be adept at processing large amounts of information on screen quickly, particularly if that information is visual.

And in terms of dealing with the more negative effects of a short attention span, be receptive to their ideas about how they can best get down to work; it might be that your employee will be able to focus better if they are able to listen to music while working, or take short but regular breaks.