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There’s a lot of hyperbole surrounding the generation that we call the millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997). Companies want to employee them, social networking channels want to audit them and the media wants to undermine them (or so it seems, touché millennial writer here at your service).
Wherever you sit on the generational spectrum, it’s likely you’ll either be working as a millennial, working with a millennial or perhaps even working for a millennial (the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report suggests that millennials have launched twice as many businesses as the previous generation), over the next decade.
In this guide we’re going to look at what motivates millennials in the workplace, the factors they find most rewarding, seven methods that could help you to get them listening and lastly, why screens may help.
Well, that kinda depends on who you ask. But a few things we know for certain:
Those may be the facts, but there are plenty of other characteristics attributed to Gen Y by the media, memes and studies.
Articles suggest that Millennials are one of the most stressed out generations ever, coining the phrase “quarter-life crisis”. Having to find a job in the aftereffects of the 2008 recession, the pressure of growing up with Instagram and Snapchat and in a world spoiling by way of consumption and climate change, have all had a bit of an effect on what are often dubbed the “snowflakes” of the working world.
At the same time, there are plenty of positive attributes which have also been allocated to this generation. Some of the benefits of having millennials in the workplace include:
Similarly, millennials are programmed to prioritize their work and even to feel as though work is one of, if not the, biggest factors in their lives. As Anne Helen Petersen suggests in How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation:
“Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it — explicitly and implicitly — since I was young. Life has always been hard, but many millennials are unequipped to deal with the particular ways in which it’s become hard for us.”
As we mentioned here, one of the big internal communications trends for 2019 is that it’s the first year where you could legitimately see Baby Boomers (youngest age 55), Gen Xers (46), Millennials (23) and Gen Z (22) all sharing the same workspace.
Which means questioning what motivates employees in the workplace becomes, what motivates all of the different generations in the workplace? Trying to find one, or multiple strategies, that sit alongside each other could be difficult.
Let’s take a look at what factors we know motivate each generational group:
Baby Boomers are motivated by what many of us think as traditional work concepts: a large salary, bonuses, commitment to the cause (or presentism as we might now say), status amongst contemporaries and a passion for knowledge sharing (in a peacocking kind of way). This is the “meeting” generation, hardly affected by the internet and mobile phones and therefore more competent at face-to-face interaction and old school relationship-building tactics (think playing golf and alcohol-induced lunches).
Gen X were the first generation to have the internet and mobile phones. They embody the entrepreneurial spirit and are perhaps the first to look at the “work/life balance” conundrum. If Baby Boomers were organization-driven, Gen X is perhaps the first to be opportunity-driven, using the workplace as a jumping board to build their own skills and a future career. They’re also the first generation likely to be supporting both an ageing parent and a struggling child, so no wonder they’re the “work hard, play hard” generation.
While it’s important not to alienate any generation within the workspace, by 2025 millennials will make up as much as 75 percent of the U.S. workforce. This makes them a key part of the future, and one that it is essential for most corporations to engage with.
Some of the factors that motivate millennials in the workplace include:
What motivates Gen Z in the workplace? Some may argue that we don’t yet know. As a generation only just in its early 20s, and one that predominantly works from home, we don’t know much about the workplace motivations that will keep them engaged. What we do know is that not only are they digital natives, but they were also the first generation to have iPads, iPhones and iPods (the modern holy trinity?) before they could walk or talk. According to a study by Powwownow, which interviewed 1,000 18-23 year olds, fast promotion, recognition and regular change is what helps to keep this emerging generation motivated.
Now that we know the differences between generations, let’s focus on the core millennial group. Here are seven ideas on how to reach millennials in the workplace and keep them engaged with what your company has to say.
Millennials grew up using the latest digital tools, which means their workspace needs to reflect as much, if not more, of the technology used at home. Many startups are adopting a “choose your own tech” onboarding procedure which allows new starters to choose the laptop/PC/headphones/design suite etc. that they wish to use.
This helps to keep them engaged, by providing a level of technology that they have become accustomed to.
Some of the ways you can help to digitize your workplace include:
More now than ever, HR pros are looking towards a candidate-driven recruitment process.
How can we give the potential employee the best experience possible? What does their journey look like?
Sound familiar? We design these types of journeys for customers all the time, it’s only natural we’ll start doing this for both potential and existing employees.
Defining an employee-driven experience might include:
According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, belonging is one of the highest attributes a person needs to feel secure and this doesn’t just sit within social or family constructs. Ensuring your employees feel like they belong to the team is also essential in keeping them engaged.
For millennials in particular, the need to belong is strong and perhaps stronger than previous generations, where the fourth attribute of esteem (importance, recognition, respect) was often prized more highly.
Some of the ways you could help employees to feel belonging might include:
COO David is his Christmas shirt is a company photostream favourite!
Millennials are committed to a company with a cause. The trouble is, in most companies this cause is siloed to the founders, or only shared in marketing materials and not communicated regularly to the team.
One way to help share the company North Star is to have it live on digital screens throughout your office. There are many ways to share this information, from a written noticeboard, to a countdown calendar or even a progress bar showing where the company is in relation to its mission.
When everyone can see the company purpose regularly, it provides a sense of purpose and a feeling that we’re all in this together, with everybody rowing in the same direction.
In The Big Four author Scott Galloway looks at the DNA of why Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have become such huge influences on our lives. One of which, is the autonomy these companies give to employees to instigate change and test new ideas. Amazon has a “build fast, break things” mentality with one key difference: at Amazon if a project isn’t working they shut it down and pivot quickly.
It’s no coincidence that three of the “big four” companies are in the top 10 companies millennials most want to work for, as told by this Survey Monkey study. The passion to be a pioneer and to innovate is a key employee incentive and helps them to achieve a sense of purpose, and ownership, over a project.
Ways you can create a culture of learning and autonomy within your company might include:
Ensuring millennials are provided training in the workplace is another incentive high on the list. It’s said that while this generation are key problem solvers, technically savvy and have the passion and motivation to work autonomously, it’s “soft skill” training that they may benefit most from.
Most millennials change jobs quickly, which means gaining knowledge from a close mentor or leader can be lacking. Similarly, knowing how to communicate well within a meeting and how to build relationships with other team members and superiors, is a soft skill that could be brought to attention within companies looking to engage this audience.
Millennials have grown up with access to real-time and continuous communication. Think how quickly you can gain access to the weather, the news or what your friends are up to via your smartphone.
As a result, keeping millennials engaged with their work, and the work of the organization, is key. One method we use in the ScreenCloud team is to ensure data is live and automated as much as possible. Seeing company KPIs which are 3 months out of date is seriously demotivating.
On our screens around the office we connect to real time data in order to seek continuous engagement with the reporting, feedback or metric information we have to show.
This helps to keep everyone engaged and not “tuning out” of the information our teams have to share.
Communicating well and often with millennials in the workplace is a huge reinforcer of many of the key values we’ve discussed above. Digital signage, which involves placing TV screens in strategic positions and linking them with dynamic content, is a method of communication which just won’t date.
Screens can be used to communicate the company North Star, metrics, social purpose, social media statistics, industry news...the options are endless.
If you’d like to begin engaging millennials in the workplace, try out our free trial of ScreenCloud. It could be the communication tool your employees have been waiting for.
Connect your first screen today with our 14-day free trial