Retain and Motivate the Next Generation:
Seven Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Millennial Workers
By Tip Fallon
Finding and keeping good, young talent can be challenging for any business.
And in today's economy, the next generation can hold the key to boosting
your bottom line. Most new graduates are eager to showcase their talents in
the workplace, have not picked up bad working habits from years of
experience at another firm, and are excited to take on new, challenging
responsibilities. While there are many benefits to hiring Millennial
employees (also called Gen-Y), keeping them motivated and happy requires
different techniques compared to past generations.
First, even though they may face enormous student loan debt, Millennials
care about much more than money. Cash does play a role, but it is not always
the most important part of retaining young employees. They are aiming for a
much more holistic fulfillment through work, including fun at the office,
the ability to feel good about their job, and balance in their social lives.
So, before your competitor hires your Millennials out from under your nose,
implement these seven strategies to keep them productive and happy. Best of
all, you can do them at little or no cost!
1. Give them ownership.
Millennials have been raised to believe they are special. They get to make
their own decisions and take ownership over their results. This is where
they experience a lot of shock in the workplace. All of a sudden, after
years of being a soccer star, leader on campus, and diva on Facebook, they
are no longer in the spotlight at work. Give your Millennial employees
something they can call their own and be proud of. Let them redefine an
operating procedure in their position, facilitate a meeting or even plan an
event. They thrive on knowing something has their name on it. This allows
them to be more driven and can make them feel more valued than even a pay
What do your millennial employees have ownership of? What can you give them
ownership of in the coming months?
2. Give regular feedback.
Many managers and business leaders avoid giving feedback or don't do it
regularly enough. Even annual reviews for new employees get pushed back for
months. Millennials yearn for feedback to see how they are doing and if they
can improve. They are used to getting grades for their work, multiple times
a week. It's a big shift to receive feedback only once or twice a year. Take
time to let them know how they are doing. It does not always have to be a
pat on the back. They want to know how they can improve as well. By showing
you care about their growth and progress, they feel more valued and loyal to
When is the next time you can have a conversation about how your millennial
employee is doing? What kind of feedback can you provide on a regular basis?
3. Show them the Big Picture.
Millennials know what's going on in the world - from the dire economy and
corrupt politics to wars and our sick planet. Yet they are probably
experiencing their first taste of independence in a cubicle, in front of a
computer monitor for eight hours a day. When they absorb everything going on
in the world, their current jobs can easily seem mundane in comparison,
which can lead to low morale and creativity. To resolve this, explain in an
informal conversation - possibly through a mentor - the role they play in
the "big picture." Let them consider how their job drives company
productivity, which increases our GDP, helps provide jobs for people, which
supports many families, and serves a need to consumers.
What is the interconnectedness of your Millennials' jobs and the "big
picture"? How can you explain that to them?
4. Let them do good.
Along those same lines, Millennials care about improving the world. If they
had their way, many of them would be "professional volunteers." A paycheck
is not always going put a smile on their face at the end of the day. You can
buy their time, but you cannot buy their hearts. You can help them become
emotionally invested in your firm, however, and that's when you will see
more enthusiasm towards their work. This doesn't mean your organization must
integrate philanthropy as a part of your business strategy. It can be done
by simply hosting a charity dodgeball tournament, setting up an e-mail
pen-pal program with an elementary school, or having a local nonprofit come
in to discuss volunteer or donation opportunities.
What opportunities can you give your employees to do good and feel good?
5. Build enjoyment into the workplace.
Many Millennials live by the creed: "Life is short." They've witnessed
natural disasters, terrorist attacks and school shootings as a part of their
formative years. They know not to take life for granted. If they are bored
out of their minds at work, they may not stay there long, as their hours are
precious. They want to enjoy their time. This comes through creativity,
spontaneity and relationships with those around them. This may mean having
more social activities, or less conference calls and more in-person
meetings, or occasional team lunches and outings. Putting out an "Employee
Superlatives" list around the end of the year, high school yearbook style,
or making short videos about people's jobs and posting them on an intranet
are fun ways to see what's behind the shirt and tie. Look outside of your
office for socializing and networking opportunities with other branches and
What can you do to let your employees enjoy their workday more with their
6. Tap into their talents.
It may sound like common sense, but it's striking to see how many workers
are not contributing their unique talents and passions to the workplace.
Some unknown talents may include music, planning events, online social
networking, photography, fitness training, or public speaking. Letting an
employee use her unique talents at work may not be a part of her job
description or bring in extra dollars - but it can boost her comfort level,
appreciation and creativity. And that can be invaluable in terms of
How can you find out the hidden talents of your employees? When you find
them, make sure they get a chance to demonstrate them at work if they
7. Give them bragging rights.
Millennials are a hyper-competitive bunch. When they gather for brunch or go
out with friends, especially when they have a new job, they want something
to brag about. This gives them a sense of significance in their social
circles and reaffirms that you, as an employer, are doing them well. Find
out what it is they want to brag about. They will most likely be turned on
by one of the six items described above. Through your conversations, find
out what they value most and give it to them in spades. When they brag about
their jobs on weekends, they'll be much happier showing up on Monday.
What do you think your employees tell their friends about working for you?
What can you do to give them something to brag about?
Though Millennials may require a slightly different management style, in the
end, they simply want to be happy. Simply keep in mind they may have
different expectations when it comes to the satisfaction they get from work,
and how their job plays into their overall life balance. Using these tips is
the starting point to harnessing greater levels of ambition, creativity and
productivity from your Millennials.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tip Fallon is founder of Speaking for Change, a consultancy that advances
the success of college students through speaking engagements, consulting,
coaching, and blogs. As the director of a nonprofit that serves
disadvantaged teens, Tip uses his leadership skills to help young adults
excel in college and the real world. He is currently working on "Beyond the
Books," a guide to help college students succeed. To reach him for speaking,
consulting or coaching, e-mail: TipFallon@Speakingforchange.com.