How to Actually Motivate Millennials (By a Millennial)
I was 23 when I started managing my first team. The CEO thought it'd be a great way of redefining the company's approach to leadership. And it worked.
We quickly became the most productive and engaged team in the business, through a collaborative, people-first approach.
You see, those millennials, who are so often labelled "lazy" and "narcissistic" and "difficult to work with"?
They're your company's greatest asset. If you know how to channel them.
As both a millennial and a leader, here are my tried-and-tested ways to motivate this generation and the next. Be prepared to throw away the rulebook.
BE A MENTOR, NOT A MANAGER
Anyone who only cares about what an employee can bring to the company is kidding themselves.
You need to invest in your team as people, not employees.
Take the time to learn what they want from their careers, both in their current roles and beyond. Reference their long-term career paths, long after their role with you, and actually help them get there with coaching and courses.
They won’t be at the company forever and that’s a good thing. Make their tenure a constructive one while it lasts.
CELEBRATE THEIR SIDE HUSTLES
Side hustles show hunger and curiosity—two qualities most millennials have in abundance, if channelled correctly.
You may not have the authority to initiate Google-inspired personal project time, but you can still reference your employee’s side projects in an encouraging light. Celebrate their achievements. Ask what they've learned outside of the office, and actually listen.
Chances are, they have transferrable skills that could be better utilised in their day job.
ASK THEIR OPINION. REGULARLY.
A manager that doesn’t listen to everyone’s ideas will only get left behind.
- “Hey Josh, what brands do you think are doing a great job right now?”
- “Sarah, what do you honestly think of our social media channels? What would you like to see more of?”
- “Alice, is there anything you’d like to hear about the direction of the company? Can I clear anything up?”
Questions shouldn’t be reserved for interviews alone. An amazing workplace is all about engaging employees outside of the day-to-day grind.
CREATE A SUBCULTURE
There’s a lot of talk about ‘top down’ culture. But, oftentimes, managers use that as an excuse to really drive change.
If your leadership team doesn’t celebrate people’s birthdays, start.
- If nobody holds ‘what if?’ meetings (where you spend 30 minutes discussing the big, hypothetical picture), be the first.
- If your colleagues don’t regularly share inspiring articles and ideas, do so.
IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH
Most millennials care about more than making top paper. For us, learning is key.
Every now and then, I ask my team members to work on a more creative project (and subsequent presentation) that's beyond their job title.
Try it. $100 says you'll be surprised by the outcome.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE IS A PERSONAL DECISION
If you want to scale your team, brace yourself for a growing range of views on this tricky balancing act.
When it comes to work-life balance, your team will never share a unified view. And that's ok. Embrace quality, not quantity.
Millennials crave human connection, and that’s where typical corporates go wrong.
In your next 1:1, tell your direct report(s) how you are. Honestly. Having a difficult day? Talk about it. Had a presentation that didn’t go to plan? ‘Fess up.
You don’t need to divulge the details of your personal life, but showing some humanity and humility will make them feel like they're working for a decent person, not a drone.
Your team's motivation starts with you.