Imagine a workforce in which every employee is motivated and working toward a common goal. That has been a challenge for decades, but something leaders tried to achieve. When the millennial generation reached working age, however, many leaders stopped trying altogether. They bought into the false premise that millennials are a difficult generation to work with. Misconceptions about them include that they are lazy, entitled or poor workers. We must replace the misconceptions with practical, actionable and profitable strategies for leading this generation, to make our businesses bigger, better and easier to lead than ever before. All you need to do is match how you motivate people to what we know actually motivates millennial workers.
1. Give real-time feedback, good and bad
Real-time feedback builds trust and reduces uncertainty. Have you ever spent minutes, hours, days, or even longer wondering if you are performing well? Have you ever worried about job security or wondered if you would be part of a round of layoffs? Millennials are no different. Like other generations, they need real-time feedback to do their best work. But they grew up in a world where instant gratification was a way of life, so the timeline for that feedback to be effective is shortened. Millennials didn't have to wait in line to buy the new hit album. They just pushed a button, and it was on their phone instantaneously. They post a photo on Instagram and check back in one minute to find 50 new likes. If you wait too long, they will have moved on to the next thing and the anxiety of not knowing if they were performing well will have built up. We have about a 12-hour window to reward and recognize our teams for tasks well done before the praise feels stale.
2. Meet face-to-face with them on a regular basis
Meeting directly with millennial workers builds rapport and creates a rhythm to their work that prevents projects from dragging on. From a rapport perspective, meetings allow you to get to know each other and talk about projects or life outside of work. From a rhythm perspective, nobody will want the same topic to come up over and over again without progress having been made. Casual but regular meetings are a simple, low-cost way to show millennials how valuable they are to the organization, build rapport, and keep on top of work issues. It is a highly valuable use of your time to make sure all leaders meet regularly with their direct reports, especially millennials. Give each team member genuine, uninterrupted attention and the freedom to talk about whatever is most important to them in this meeting.
3. Recognize achievements publicly
Publicly recognizing achievements of your millennial team members in front of their colleagues has an impact on everyone on your team. The team member being recognized will know their contributions are valued. Their colleagues will feel connected with them and motivated to earn recognition as well. And you get to build good will with everyone by showing them you are a leader who recognizes team members for a job well done. You don't need to give recognition for every little thing employees do. That would not be effective and could backfire. But point out key achievements or actions that really benefited the company or others in the workplace.
Do you struggle to motivate millennial workers?
Imagine being able to make millennial workers more productive without having to spend a nickel. No beer kegs. No avocado toast. None of those stereotypes about millennials that have unfairly permeated the business world. Any one of these three things will help you motivate millennials more than a cereal bar ever could. And none of them costs you money. They only cost you a little bit of well-directed time and attention. So, if you have struggled to motivate your millennial workers, give a millennial team member feedback on something they handed in yesterday or today. Or schedule face-to-face meetings with your team members. Or, just step out of your office and acknowledge a team member for a job well done. Making these practices the regular routine in your business can reshape your organization. What are your best strategies for motivating your team? Share your favorite ones in the comments so your fellow leaders can learn alongside you as we reshape the working world, while making life easier for ourselves and our team members.