Motivate Millennials with Work Direction

By Bob Nelson

Millennials want and expect to be constantly excited about how they are spending their time at work, and they want to do so on their terms. Sixty-nine percent want more freedom at work, 89 percent want to choose where and when they work; and three out of five expect to be able to work remotely.

They are consummate multitaskers, able to do a variety of tasks in fast succession, often utilizing the power of technology. Easily bored, they want and need to be challenged, which can be a blessing for managers who want to take advantage of their energy, skills, and resourcefulness, or a curse for managers who feel they don’t have the time or energy to constantly assess whether these workers are excited about the work they are doing.

According to the Gallup Organization, only 28 percent of Millennials are currently “engaged”‘ in the workforce — the lowest employee engagement of any generation at work. If their current job does not excite them, they are quick to look for another job opportunity: 47 percent of Millennials report they plan to look for another job with a different organization.

Provide clear work expectations but allow Millennials to bring their own imprint to their jobs. Show them the big picture — how their jobs relate to the mission, strategic objectives, and core values of the organization. Ask for and use their ideas as much as possible or encourage them to pursue their own ideas when those have merit. This generation is very socially conscious, so clearly and directly linking the work they do to your organization’s mission and its clientele has a strong impact. Likewise, supporting their efforts at volunteering is recommended because 72 percent of Millennials want to make a direct social impact on the world.

Consider these examples:

  • At Zubi Advertising Services, Inc., headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, manager Michelle Zubizarretta gives younger staffers a seat at the table. She asks them how they would talk to young consumers for a business pitch. Another initiative is the creation of innovation groups, setting up teams to develop ad-related iPhone apps and other original ideas.

  • Marketing software company HubSpot in Cambridge, Massachusetts, believes in transparency and revealing everything to its employees — from cash burn rates to comments on the company’s Wiki page. CEO Brian Halligan says that this transparency is just one aspect of HubSpot’s push toward a corporate culture of teamwork and collaboration. Halligan believes that the Millennial generation has radically changed the way HubSpots’ employees work and live and that companies need to change the way they manage. HubSpot works to create an extremely flat and transparent organization to meet the expectations of its employees. Halligan himself doesn’t have an office, and his salary is not that different from other employees. HubSpot has its own Wiki, and people have no problem calling out Halligan in the Wiki. Halligan believes that employees today, who have grown up with social media, expect transparency and authenticity from their leaders.