Motivating Millennials: what you need to know

Andy Philpott
Sales and Marketing Director
Edenred UK
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“Millennials”, broadly represented by a workforce aged between 18 and 34, are and will continue to be a powerful generation of workers. Their career aspirations, attitudes to work and knowledge of new technologies will define the culture of the 21st Century workplace. Attracting and retaining the best of them is therefore critical to the future of any business.

Millennials with the right skills are in high demand. They may be able to command not only creative reward packages but also influence the way they work and how they operate in the workplace. In terms of retention and management, they may also represent one of the biggest challenges many organisations will face.

Their particular characteristics – their ambition, their desire to keep learning and make quick progress as well as their reluctance to put up with a situation they’re not happy in – requires a focused approach from employers. Rigid corporate structures are out – individual, considered, needs-based management is in.

Mind the generation gap

Millennials are, on the whole, well educated, self-confident, excellent multi-taskers and full of good energy. They have high expectations of themselves, prefer to work in teams and use more technology. They seek and embrace challenges and are committed to their personal learning and development. They also want flexible working hours to help them achieve the all-important work/life balance that has eluded the generations before them. Cash incentives and bonuses matter to them less than any of the above, although high salaries are important.

Never before has the role of the manager been more important in engaging and motivating a young workforce. Our recent employee survery revealed that a significantly higher proportion of millennials than any other age group appreciates the efforts their manager makes to engage with them at work and the one-on-one time they spend with them to talk through priorities and targets.

So with such high expectations of their employment experience, what is it that managers need to do to keep millennials motivated enough to do their best and stick around?

Good leadership is crucial

Younger workers are defined by their optimism and energy. As their manager, it’s vital that you’re approachable and positive. This is about more than just an open-door policy; engage directly with each member of your team as often as possible.

Create and maintain an atmosphere of trust, transparency and autonomy. While our survey shows clearly that millennials need their manager’s attention to help them feel motivated and engaged, they don’t want or need to be micromanaged. They’re looking for coaching and mentorship and they expect that you will draw out and respect their ideas. Give them the flexibility to perform in a way that optimises their skills and allows them the space to get the job done on their own terms.

Most millennials are intensely ambitious and are looking for rapid career progression. Constructive support with target setting and clear career development programmes will increase motivation and retention. Provide access to different opportunities within the organisation so they don’t feel hemmed in or restricted.

Give frequent freedback, both good and bad, but always constructive. The younger workforce may crave freedom but they also want to know how they are performing – as often as possible. They want “in” on the whole company picture and reassurance that they are trusted and valued, which in turn to leads to empowerment and success.

It’s all in the recognition

A key factor in driving motivation among your young workforce is for them to be recognised and rewarded for their hard work and achievements.  Our survey highlighted that millennials, more than any other age group, would welcome a reward and recognition scheme at work to give them a clear sense of purpose and direction.

So it’s important to make it clear to millennials what the “deal” is, what you are offering them but also what you expect in return. Think creatively about reward strategies and shift the focus from cash bonuses to other things.

Where possible, personalise and customise benefits to ensure they are as effective as they can be in motivating and engaging staff. A one-size-fits-all approach will no longer work. And never give reward without recognition – there is no substitute for a being told you’ve done a great job.

The culture club

Millennials are used to cramming multiple activities into their lives and are expert multi-taskers. They play sport, have many different cultural interests and spend a lot of time with friends and family. They also have a social conscience, with many of them supporting causes they are passionate about in their spare time.

As a result, they want work and their place of work to be something they enjoy. It has to complement their life outside of work. So flexibility around fitness classes, cycling to work schemes, healthy meal choices, CSR policies as well as financial support and education are all welcome incentives for the younger workforce, encouraging engagement and loyalty.

This type of employee-focused environment may seem like an indulgence to some but what matters most is that it’s good for business. Motivated millennials are more productive, happier and more likely to remain an asset to your organisation as it grows. One thing is clear - no effort on your part will go to waste.

Andy Philpott is Marketing and Sales Director at Edenred.

Visit https://www.massive-motivation.co.uk/ for more helpful tips on inspiring and rewarding your employees

About Andy Philpott

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