Motivate Millennials with Personal Development

By Bob Nelson

Millennials expect constant learning and personal development and growth, and they expect their managers to serve as coaches and mentors (75 percent of Millennials want mentors). Therefore, Millennials’ managers need to take the time to help coach their Millennial employees and, in the process, show them how they can make a positive, meaningful impact at work.

Redefine the time frame for this generation’s focus and show them how the things they are doing now can lead to things they want to do in the future. Talk with them about their interests and the ways they can apply their skills; talk about career paths and needs of the organization; and discuss strategies for learning and opportunities that they can pursue to help them prepare to meet future opportunities.

Following are examples of training or mentoring opportunities that appeal to Millennials:

  • Junior employees at Hitachi in Portland, Oregon, get an average of 300 hours of training a year.

  • Chicago-based investment firm Morningstar sends its entry-level employees through a two-year rotational process called the Morningstar Development Program. The new employees learn the business and where they fit into it. They stay in one role for one year and can then move to different roles to learn skills in other areas. The firm also gives its Millennial employees relatively high levels of responsibility.

  • Chicago-based insurance company Assurance has many initiatives to motivate millennial employees. Because many of these employees have no insurance background, 75 percent participate in continuing education. Employees get $100 when they pass a class. Fun programs include the Assurance Casino (employees get a chip when they meet goals, increasing their chances for winning cash prizes), an Employee Appreciation Day, and an Assurance 5K run. Instead of using a suggestion box, the agency created Ivan Idea, a mascot shaped like a light bulb, to collect ideas from employees. Employees get $5 for every business improvement idea they submit. The best idea wins a $250 gift card.

  • Accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, headquartered in New York, makes new recruits immediately eligible for its Future Leaders Apprentice Program, a development program that helps them grow professionally and learn applicable job skills.

Talk to Millennials in terms of development opportunities and the long term, referencing time frames that exceed the given task or assignment. If you shape the context for your relationship with Millennials as extending years into the future and focus on how you will help them grow and gain experience, they will be more likely to remain with your company rather than look to change jobs at the first sign of frustration or disappointment.