Motivating Millennials is a proverbial nut that almost every organization and leader is trying to crack. As the largest generation in today’s labor force, Millennials make up a significant percentage of employees at businesses both big and small. Unfortunately, the challenges and issues around leading Millennials seem to be just as big as the generation itself.
How do you motivate a generation that is described as “entitled, unfocused, and lazy” to work hard, go the extra mile, and do anything it takes to achieve the goal?
Here are a few thoughts on how to motivate Millennials from a Millennial.
Millennials (like Most Generations) Don’t Have a Motivation Problem
If we’re being honest, motivation isn’t just a Millennial problem. According to a recent survey, only 13% of employees around the world are actively engaged in their work. That means 87% of us struggle to find the motivation we need at work.
A few years ago, I was listening to an interview with Tom Ziglar on the Entreleadership Podcast. During the conversation, the topic of motivating employees came up when Tom made the comment:
“People don’t have a motivation problem; they have a dream problem.” – Tom Ziglar
Tom went onto explain that people are motivated by their personal ambitions and dreams. They have things they want to do or accomplish. And they don’t have a hard time getting excited about those things. Unfortunately, connecting the dots between our jobs and our dreams isn’t easy.
Because many Millennials want their work to have meaning (and can be impatient at times), the issues around motivation surface more quickly. Even though older generations seem to embrace the idea that “work is work” it’s evident that they still struggle to connect the dots; which still prevents many from fully finding a role that truly fulfills their dreams.
Where most organizations get it wrong is when they try to motivate employees to achieve the company’s goals without recognizing the personal dreams and goals of the individual.
A Proven Formula for Motivating Millennials
So how do lead and motivate Millennials (or any generation for that matter) by connecting their daily work to their dreams? Here are a few keys:
Get to know what they’re passionate about.
You won’t be able to help Millennials connect their daily work to their ultimate goals and dreams if you don’t know what they are. This will take work. But spending time learning about the dreams your team might have is the foundation for motivating them better. And I’m certain most Millennials on your team would welcome that conversation.
Help them connect the dots.
Once you know your team’s dreams, you can start to help them understand how the work they’re doing every day is preparing them. Whether it’s a skillset, they’re developing or executing on projects that will be beneficial for their resume, helping Millennials see the “bigger picture” of how their daily routine is helping them work towards their ultimate goal is important. Sometimes this also might mean helping someone on your team find a role or career that is a better fit for achieving their dreams.
Don’t forget to remind them along the way.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-time conversation. Millennials (like most generations) need constant motivation. We need to be reminded that a meaningful career is a marathon and not a sprint. Consistently find ways to communicate how we are working towards our ultimate goals. Set up systems to remind us that what we do on a daily basis is helping us reach our dreams.
When you take the time to get to know the personal dreams and goals of the Millennials on your team, you might be surprised at what you’ll discover. And if you take that a step to connect the work we do each day to our ultimate dreams, you just might crack the nut for what it takes to motivate us.
What are some other important keys to motivating Millennials?
Join the Conversation
Motivating Millennials on Your Team
You’re absolutely right, Anthony. This almost has to happen in a mentor/mentee type of relationship, even if it’s not formally deemed that.
I think the biggest de-motivators for Millennials are being in environments where they can’t see how their daily activities are helping them get closer to their ultimate dreams (i.e. – their values don’t align with the companies values, they don’t feel like they’re being heard, they feel like they’ve hit a dead end in their career trajectory, etc.).
Jeremy, thanks for the great article, man. It was a refreshing breath of air on the topic of motivating millennials, a nice change from the usual canned “they’re entitled but just deal with them” and “give them a larger goal or something.”
As a millennial, one of my greatest motivators is developing and building myself. This might be through listening to productivity podcasts, reading personal development books, etc. One of the most powerful (and rare) opportunities I can do this is through a mentor. I would have loved a mentor at work, not just for how my job is going, but my actual development. That would be really motivating for me – if I knew there was an individual who cared for my well-being. That would motivate me to do great work, on the job and off.
What are some of the biggest de-motivators for millennials? I’d love to hear about that!