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on July 06, 2017 Culture Engagement Onboarding

How to Motivate Millennials: The Key to Effective Management

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By 2025, Millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 2000) will make up about 75% of the world’s working population. As a manager, you must therefore understand the things that make this generation tick in order to get the best out of them… and ignore them at your peril!

Truth be told, Millennials aren’t all that different from previous generations in terms of ethics, habits, and teamwork. IBM’s study, Myths, exaggerations and uncomfortable truths, found that 18% of Millennials feel “managing my work/life balance” was one of their top two career goals, which is closely aligned with Generation X-ers (22%) and Baby Boomers (21%).

That said, there are some fundamental differences to keep in mind when managing Millennials. We consulted with the experts and gathered five leading tips and tricks to effectively managing the Millennials on your team.

  1. Embrace teamwork

In the same study, IBM found that more than half of the Millennials surveyed said that they make better business decisions when there was a group of people providing a variety of input. An even higher proportion of Generation X-ers agreed with this. That said, while Millennials value the input of a diverse group, they are still able to make decisions without the constant input of others. What’s more, Millennials perform best when they feel their individual voice is heard. With this in mind, consider leveraging the power of the group instead of dictating decisions that affect your team. Involve the team in your decision, or at the very least, explain why you made your decision.

At the same time, remember to listen. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can often be ignored, and employees notice. Managers neglecting to listen to the individuals on their team is one of the prime contributors to the consistently low state of employee engagement, which has hovered around 30% in the US over the past few years. So listen more than you speak, and give each individual your attention. This will allow your team to benefit from the diversity of thought that comes with groupwork.

  1. Leverage Technology

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with technology like the Internet and connected devices. They therefore stand out for their skill with technology. Millennials are not only adept at using technology, but they also often prefer it over traditional means of accomplishing tasks and are therefore constantly seeking to try new tools or workflows that might be more efficient and effective. They aren’t afraid to try something other than “the way it’s always been done.”

Leverage this openness and skill with technology to enhance your team’s efficiency and effectiveness. That said, be thoughtful about when, where, and how you leverage technology. As an example, 60% of Millennials prefer in-person collaboration versus remote technological solutions, so communicating only through technological means may not be the most effective application. Similarly, it is important to be mindful that newer is not always better. Some new technology might cause problems for other members on your team, presenting a cost (as measured in time, frustration, and team divides) that outweighs that technology’s benefits. With this in mind, keep a watchful eye out to evaluate which tools improve efficiency and which ones create unnecessary obstacles for your team as a whole. Alternately, consider offering a mix of more traditional and high-tech means of completing training, accomplishing tasks, and communicating with one another.

  1. Provide Regular Feedback

Growing up with the Internet and social media, Millennials are more used to instant feedback than previous generations. Millennials also tend to thrive off of praise and encouragement (or constructive criticism and coaching) more than their predecessors. A Gallup study found that employees who feel they are “not adequately recognized at work” are “three times more likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.” Incorporating opportunities for more regular feedback - even if it’s just a quick stop by their desk to chat about how things are going - will fuel your Millennials to excel more than they might otherwise.

Given that all of your employees might not feel the same way, consider approaching feedback on an individual basis. Stick to your formally scheduled sit downs for those who prefer it, and add in informal feedback sessions for others. As you deliver feedback in these sessions, channel your inner coach. Studies have found that a coaching management style is far more effective across generations than the traditional command-and-control approach. So bring positivity and a mentorship mindset when sitting down with your employees.

  1. Understand & Fuel Millennials’ Motivations

Millennials are particularly unique when it comes to their motivators. They are generally motivated by a sense of progress, the opportunity to be creative and to grow, and the ability to do something meaningful. Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup observes, “Baby Boomers like me didn’t necessarily need meaning in our jobs. We just wanted a paycheck…For Millennials, compensation is important and must be fair, but it’s no longer the driver.” While the paycheck is one of the factors that Millennials care about and take into account when considering a position, providing purpose is much more motivational to this generation.

To provide a sense of meaning on the micro scale, consider explaining the vision of your practice or the business as a whole and how your team members’ work fits into the puzzle. Understanding why their work matters in the scheme of the business and how your business impacts the world will show Millennials on your team that they are part of something larger and motivate them to deliver higher quality work product.

  1. Provide Flexibility

Studies have found that Millennials will sacrifice pay if it means that they have a better work-life balance. They expect to have the option to adjust their work schedule to fit their life rather than the other way around. While not every job/position can accommodate this kind of flexibility, it is important to consider work structures that provide balance so that your Millennials don’t feel their personal lives come second to the betterment of your company.

There are numerous ways that you can provide this kind of flexibility. One example is encouraging your employees to pursue outside projects and interests. Alternately, you could allow your employees to design their work hours by setting up a block of time when you want everyone there. Then, let each worker decide how early he or she will come in before and stay after that block. Lastly, you might consider creating seasonal hours for your team. In the summer, for example, you could give some Mondays or Fridays off or allow four-day work weeks with longer days to make up for that extra fifth day.

Both startups and established companies like KPMG are finding success by providing this kind of scheduling flexibility. Katie Fang, CEO of SchooLinks - a startup that has implemented 4-day weeks, notes, “Our employees come back to work refreshed and ready to concentrate;” and Basecamp CEO Jason Fried observes, “In general, the same amount… gets done in four days than five, mostly because when you have less time, you tend to compress stuff out that doesn’t matter. We don’t feel like we’re losing a lot of output.”

Lynne Lancaster, co-author of When Generations Collide, put it well: “[Millennials] want access to bosses, to be mentored and coached, and for bosses to show an interest. When they get ignored, they start to ask ‘Why am I here?’” Incorporate the recommendations here, and you will be able to keep your Millennials’ heads in the game. The outcome of this will be a win-win: happier, more engaged employees and stronger business results for your organization.

Interested in engaging your millennial workforce during onboarding? Download Sapling’s Essential Guide to Employee Onboarding Success or schedule a product demo below:
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Bart Macdonald

Bart is a Co-Founder and CEO of Sapling. He’s passionate about building software and training programs that prepare today’s HR leaders for the Future of Work. Prior to Sapling, Bart was an early employee at General Assembly in the education-technology space, and before that was an HR Consultant designing Onboarding and L&D programs for companies from 10 to 10,000 employees. He holds a degree in Human Resource Management from Macquarie University in Sydney, and is now a proud Californian resident.