11 Tips for Motivating Millennials

A recent article by Business Leader stated that 2020 would be “dominated” by Millennials’. The global workforce is now 35% Millennials, with baby boomers only making up 6%. But what does this mean for us as managers? How should we adapt the way we communicate and incentivize? What is the best way to motivate Gen Y to perform?

Some might say it doesn’t matter — of course, no matter what our age, we all want to be treated fairly and respectfully. We want to be recognized and fairly compensated. But we can’t escape the fact that different factors motivate different generations. 

Below, we’ve canvassed the opinions of 12 CEOs, Managing Directors and business leaders to uncover what really motivates Millennials.

1. Prioritize Transparency — Be Honest and Open with Millennial Employees

Millennials want transparency at their workplace. It’s simple — they don’t like to be lied to or protected. They aren’t the snowflakes you think they are. They would rather be involved with the inner workings of their company — warts and all — than be kept in the dark. After all, if an organization always keeps them at arm’s length, how are Millenials meant to invest and care about their employer?

Simple transparency and open dialogue is a great way of motivating and engaging Millennials at work, as pointed out by Michael Fontana, Director at Optionbox Limited.

“Offer insight to your employees on what’s going on at the business. At Optionbox, we have an open environment where all employees understand the goals of the business and how we’re all going to work together to achieve our ambitions. This encourages employees to become more invested in the future of the business. If you’re never open with your employees, they won’t feel like an important part of the place they work, which can be particularly demotivating.”

Paul Sharpe, Partner at Avalon Accounting, agrees, adding that employers should go one step further than just informing employees of successes, failures and issues within the company. Employees should be involved in the company’s success and future. This means actively asking for their input:

“We want everyone to be included in the growth and success of the business.  We don’t just dictate from on high; we share the decision-making process and take the team’s input into consideration when making decisions.”

Granted, transparency isn’t always easy. As employers, we might have to answer difficult questions or admit weaknesses. But Millennials would rather have the full, less-than-perfect picture of what is going on their company than anything else.

RELATED: Benefits of Workplace Transparency

2. Flexibility Is a Perk Sure to Motivate Millennials

There are many forms of flexibility to explore, including remote working, job sharing and four-day weeks. 70% of Millennials want workplace flexibility and, given the technology at our disposal today, there’s no reason not to consider it. Even small steps towards a more flexible workplace can make a huge difference in the motivation levels of Millennials.  

Matt Weston, Managing Director at Robert Half UK, points out the importance of flexible work in terms of recruitment:

“Nearly 48% of office workers would be open to declining a job offer if flexible working hours and the ability to work from home at least once a week weren’t offered.”

Mark Pacitti, is CFA, Founder and Managing Director of Woozle Research. Mark manages a team of over 85% Millennials — and as a Millennial himself, he has an insider’s view.

“At Woozle, we typically work nine to five,  but staff have the flexibility to work from home whenever they wish. Providing work is completed for clients, we are agnostic as to where that happens — wherever they are most productive is the aim!”

Simon Haighton-Williams, CEO of Adaptavist, also operates a flexible workplace:

“Here at Adaptavist, we have a flexible modern working environment to support flexible working patterns. We strive to empower our employees – of whatever age – to be creative in the way that they approach their roles and their work. Fundamentally, it’s about treating people of whatever generation as grown-ups whose contribution is valued. ”

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3. Don’t Let Millennials Hit Dead Ends — Set out Clear Paths for Progression

Forget about stereotypes — Millennials aren’t lazy. In fact, most of them are incredibly driven. They want to learn, they want to advance and they want to progress. These factors are huge parts of the “Millennial Motivation” puzzle piece. Don’t let them languish in one role for years on end, without hope of advancement. If you have hired well, they will be too ambitious to remain with your company for too long in this type of situation, meaning you’ll lose them to your competition.

Michael Fontana says:

“Giving employees room to grow and progress at your business is a huge motivator. If individuals can see paths for progression, they have an inherent determination to work hard and move up in a business. Giving employees plenty of opportunities to progress shifts thinking, encouraging teams to realize they could have a career at your business rather than just another job.”

4. Hold Regular Performance Discussions

Annual performance reviews have fallen out of favor over the past decade. Many companies are moving over to a more agile form of performance management. Regular feedback motivates Millennials in many ways. It allows them to receive and deliver feedback regularly, it gives them a voice and it enables them to connect with their managers. 

Kaine Shutler, Managing Director at Plume, says:

“At Plume, we make use of WIMs (Weekly Individual Meetings). In our meetings, we set out all the tasks for the week. WIMs give my employees an opportunity to let me know what they’ll need from me. It’s great because I can anticipate any additional support they need and what that might look like. It breaks down any barriers that there might be around asking for help. It’s really opened our lines of communication because my employees and I are free to ask for assistance without any reservations — and that works both ways. I’m happy because I can monitor the work delivered (we also catch up on a Friday) and get a sense of any opportunities for us to improve our skills.”

Paul Sharpe also makes use of regular performance discussions:

“[These frequent performance discussions have] allowed us to provide regular feedback to team members and to help remove roadblocks quickly.  It also creates an environment where workers regularly consider their career goals and have discussions about how to achieve them.”

RELATED: 4 Unconscious Factors Impacting Your Performance Reviews 

5. Motivate with Time Off

No matter how much a Millennial loves their place of work, they’re not a machine. They will need some time on their own, some time with their family, some time to mentally recharge. Paid time off can be a huge motivator in this sense.

Dmytro Okunyev, Founder at Chanty, says:

“No matter how young or old, all employees are motivated by time off work. While you can’t motivate everyone with money, giving time off for successfully completing tasks always does the trick […] Here at Chanty, every time we offered someone a salary increase as a reward, their willingness to work harder was insignificantly higher. When I tell the same worker that they will get two extra days off if they meet their goal two weeks earlier, they break their necks to meet their goals.”

6. Encourage a Sense of Teamwork

Your employees spend eight hours a day at work. They don’t want to turn up, do their job and leave — they want social connections. They want to enjoy the company of their coworkers and they want to support one another to get work done. To motivate the Millennials in your company, try to encourage teamwork and goodwill between your employees. Help them to feel connected.

Gareth Allen, Director at META, champions the power of teamwork. His team has regular team lunches and team-building exercises, including ten-pin bowling. Teamwork even extends to what kind of music plays in the office — every day, a new employee takes a turn to be “DJ for the day”.

Mark Pacitti, CFA, Founder and Managing Director of Woozle Research, also recommends solidifying team bonds and teamwork through non-work activities:

“We have lots of leisure activities in the office, including table tennis, darts and pool, and we run lots of social events for new employees every month. This helps massively and we have great feedback on this from new employees.”

RELATED: What Aspects of Company Culture Matter Most in Today’s Job Economy

7. Remember the Importance and Value of Psychological Safety

Motivating Millennials is, in part, about encouraging them to speak up. It’s also about showing them that when they do speak, their opinion will be appreciated. They should know, too, that if they make a mistake, they can own up to it without fear of reprimand. This is known as psychological safety

Show your employees that their input is not only welcome but needed. This will motivate them to take part and engage with your organization while helping them feel comfortable at your company.  

Michael Fontana says: 

“Employees have plenty of brilliant ideas but can be dissuaded from sharing them, perhaps due to fear of rejection. Encourage your employees to share ideas and let them know you’re listening and will seriously consider their suggestions. That way, they’ll feel valued and important, both of which will act as motivation!”

Simon Haighton-Williams agrees, adding:

“More than anything, it’s about culture. A culture of trust and openness. It’s about creating a cognitive, social and physical space, where people really feel valued and comfortable to be themselves and  to be part of building a business they believe in.”

8. Give Your Millennial Employees Purpose and Responsibility

We have already touched on the fact that, for Millennials, careers are about more than just paying the bills. They don’t want a nine to five — they want a purpose. To do this, companies need to have a clearly defined purpose of their own. They need to know where they are going and they need to show employees how their role fits into the bigger picture. Then, managers need to step back, give responsibility and trust employees to do their job well.

Alec Sammon, Chief Technology Officer at Mangahigh, says:

“To motivate Millennials, we need to give them purpose. They want to feel both valued in what they do, and also that they are creating value. The ethics of their work they are doing, and how it contributes to the world, are hugely important.”

Ger Whitehead, Technical Director at Spector Information Security, agrees:

“Millennials want to feel like they are part of something and understand where their role fits into the bigger picture of the organisation. At Spector we provide a clear vision of where the company is heading and stress the importance of the team in achieving this. We do quarterly company updates on progress of achieving the vision.”

Renae Shaw, Head of HR at Search Laboratory, adds:

“Millennials want to be inspired and to feel like they belong. This means working for a company with a purpose and values they can connect with.”

RELATED: Not Just Any Job Seeker: How to Attract the Career-Minded Candidate

9. Encourage Innovation and Experimentation

Millennials are hugely motivated when they can bring something extra to the table. Allow them to showcase their creativity and innovation and you will be rewarded by engaged employees, but also by a marked increase in performance:

Danny Scott, CEO and Co-Founder of CoinCorner, says:

“I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I love to encourage others to bring out their entrepreneurial side. In the grand scheme of things, CoinCorner is still very much a startup that operates with an entrepreneurial spirit and startup flair, helping the company to consistently be an exciting, fast-paced place to work. For me, having this energy and spirit in the culture is one of the best ways to motivate young Millenials. It allows us to continually innovate in a cutting-edge tech industry and makes everything we do interesting, fun and often unusual, especially when compared to the often repetitive working environments in traditional industries.” 

10. Motivate with Recognition and Appreciation

By now, we’re all aware of the power of recognition and reward. Employees want to know when they’re doing well. This knowledge will help them replicate the same behavior in the future and it also shows them how much they are appreciated and valued.

Paul Sharpe says:

“We promote a culture where team members know the work they do is appreciated.  We’ve implemented a ‘kudos’ slack channel where anyone can share praise for other team members.  The positivity that has come out of it has been amazing; we see 30 to 40 posts on it each week from our team of 10. ”

11. Pay Competitively — Despite What You’ve Read, Salary Still Matters

Of course, despite all the methods and practices mentioned above, we need to mention the elephant in the room — compensation and bonuses. While Millennials care about purpose and recognition, they still need to pay their bills. 94% of employees have money worries and 30% of employees admit financial worries are their chief concerns. Knowing this, money will always matter and it has to be factored in when discussing motivation.

Matt Weston says:

“Employers must review salaries and make sure they’re in-line with, or slightly above, what competitors provide. Our 2020 Salary Guide found that many Millennials are intent on planning for the future and are often tempted by employers that offer above-average pension contributions as part of their remuneration package.”

About the Author: Stuart Hearn is Founder and CEO of Clear Review, a performance management software solution that aims to improve communication and connections in companies.

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