3 easy ways to motivate millennials

It's easier than you think to motivate millennials at work.

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Yes, we’re still talking about this

If it seems like we’ve been talking about how to work with millennials for years, you’re right. In fact, it’s been seven years since the scathing Time cover story, “The Me Me Me Generation.” But this still comes up as a frequent topic in my coaching conversations with Gen X and boomer leaders.

Millennials even now get a pretty bad rap. But do you remember what work was like in your 20s and 30s? Maybe you’ve forgotten how difficult it is to start out in the working world. Likely you worried about credibility, and you wanted development. You worked hard. And you sought promotions as quickly as possible.

Millennials aren’t so different than you

Motivating millennials isn’t as challenging as some people think. Most importantly, millennials need support, not alienation, for their differences. Take time to know them instead of lumping them into an unfair stereotype, and you’ll find the keys to effectively working with them.

3 easy ways to motivate millennials

Honor their value of friendship

Relationships and community are essential to millennials. Respect their need for friendship, and they’ll be deeply loyal to you. Yes, this means being ok with the time they spend on the social media du jour. And if you help them build friendships at work, they’ll be even happier to be there.

This may seem counterintuitive to productivity. Millennials’ devotion to friendship may be one of the reasons they’re unfairly labeled as lazy in the workplace. Yet if you look closer, millennials integrate their work and personal lives into one. They might spend time during the workday socializing virtually or in-person. But they also work into the night and on weekends. They even work on vacations. Millennials don’t separate their work from the rest of their life like Gen Xers and boomers.

Co-create their development plans

Millennials aren’t looking for you to do the work for them. But they do actively seek development. The issue is they don’t know what to do or how to start. They need help figuring out how to set goals, build skills, and create action plans. A minimum of quarterly (or even better, monthly) development conversations will satisfy this need.

Millennials are more open to feedback and more willing to make positive changes than their older colleagues. The benefit to you is their continuous improvement and growth. They’ll be more productive and add greater value to your team and organization.

Recognize and appreciate their unique qualities and skills

Stereotyping millennials is as productive as stereotyping anyone. Which is to say, not helpful at all. Take time to get to know them as unique individuals. Be curious and discover their special skills. Like everyone, millennials desire to be recognized for the value they bring.

Invest in understanding millennials, and you can learn extensively from them. They’ll teach you the importance of purpose and how to clearly articulate vision, goals, and expectations, all of which keep them engaged. This helps both of you, plus benefits your organization. And they’ll even share acronyms like TBH and how to use TikTok.

Moving forward with millennials

Millennials are now the largest group at work. Furthermore, one of them will likely be your boss at some point (if they aren’t already). It’s time to move forward and embrace their contributions. And get ready – Gen Z are hot on their heels.

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