It’s Not You, It’s Me: Surprising Ways to Tap into Millennial Motivation

Millennials are eager to contribute in a big way, and if you ask them what would make them feel more inspired each day coming to work, they will give you the answer.

Whether you call them the “Me Generation” or “The Boomerang Kids,” more and more Millennials are making the move from entry-level position to leadership roles. For companies that bank on young minds and enthusiastic spirit, the real challenge might be harnessing that potential talent.

We’ve all heard the usual advice when it comes to managing Millennials—make it about them; use technology; offer plenty of incentive—but in an increasingly competitive workplace landscape, the usual advice might not be enough, and it also may not be correct. Working with more than 100 Fortune 1000 companies, we’ve tapped into the neurology of the Millennial mind to uncover a few surprising, and seemingly backwards, ways to get younger employees to take on the mantle of leadership in 2016:

Be Less Tech-Driven

Millennials love their tech—we all know that. But at times, their reliance on social media, smartphones, and infinite connections actually can backfire. Without strong personal relationships (and with the flippancy that sometimes can accompany vast networks), Millennials might be missing out on the peer-to-peer interactions that make them better leaders.

In fact, we contend that because of a world of “swipe left” and “tap to like,” Millennials actually crave the shoulder-to-shoulder type of mentoring that can only be offered through personal check-ins, mentor lunches, and plenty of personal attention. Mentorship also aids the onboarding process, helping Millennials integrate into your company culture and feel productive from day one. This is, after all, the “Me Generation”; what better way to capitalize on that than one-on-one time?

Combine Experience and Exploration

Millennials don’t learn like other generations. While generations past might have done well with reading a few chapters or going through a short, in-person training meeting, Millennials want to try it out for themselves. They want to make their own mistakes and celebrate their own successes, so any training that pushes them to read rather than explore or experience likely will be ineffectual.

From simulations to quizzes or clever modules that invite Millennials to discover different areas and functions, experience-based learning lets younger leaders practice their new skills before putting them to work. This builds confidence and gives them a sense of autonomy and accomplishment.

Tell a Story

Working for a good company and a decent salary doesn’t cut it for most Millennials: They want to be part of the bigger picture. Telling a story about your company and its mission lets Millennials in on the biggest story of their careers. They want to work for companies that give back, and they want to contribute to the greater good.

It’s up to businesses to decide on the story they tell to Millennials—and then back that story up with real action. If you want Millennial leaders to learn something new, they first must understand why they need to learn it, and how their new knowledge will affect the big picture. Millennials constantly are asking “Why?” about everything they do, so you need to provide them a reason for tasks or why the company made a specific decision about something. Taking this one step further, get them involved in the decision-making process, and you might be surprised what new ideas evolve from it. Meaningful stories that answer “why” help Millennials see what and how they’re contributing, creating a deeper connection to their daily work.

Set High Expectations

This may sound counterproductive with a generation stereotyped as “lazy,” but the truth is, most Millennials simply look for smarter, more efficient ways to an end result. This generation grew up with the world at their fingertips, and craves challenges that allow them to explore new, creative solutions utilizing tech that is second nature to them.

So if you want them to use this resourcefulness to benefit your business, present them with challenges outside of their daily routine, and set the bar high for them. Millennials want to learn and develop new skills, so challenging them with projects they aren’t necessarily familiar with and inviting them to explore their own solutions will keep them interested and inspired.

Motivating Millennials can be a slippery subject, especially when there are so many different opinions on the best course of action. But, of course, the surefire way to figure out the most effective course of action is to simply go straight to the source. Millennials are eager to contribute in a big way, and if you ask them what would make them feel more inspired each day coming to work, they will give you the answer. They soon will make up a large part of the 2016 workforce, so it’s time we adapt to the changing needs of a new type of workforce.

Andrew Fayad and Simon Casuto are the co-founders of eLearning Mind, an interactive creative agency focused on designing education and corporate learning.


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