Every generation has a unique set of experiences and skill sets that bring something valuable to the workplace and culture. Companies that embrace these generational differences grow faster, innovate more, and create a competitive advantage.
Who are Millennials?
The latest generation to enter the ranks have acquired a bad rap in some circles. A lot has been said about Millennials, or Generation Y (who are almost 80 million people strong in the U.S), and their tendencies to act entitled, aimless, or fickle. But contrary to stereotypes, Millennials can be valuable, loyal, high-performing team members and leaders. Like any generation, the differences that they bring to the table can be a challenge or an opportunity, depending entirely how the organization’s leadership responds.
It is crucial for managers to understand what makes Millennials tick in order to inspire them and help them grow into leadership roles. As Millennials move from entry level to managerial roles, company leaders need to recognize them as the future of their business and be able to identify and coach good talent to fill roles that will be left vacant as older generations step down.
3 Ways to Motivate & Empower Millennials
To unlock the potential of Millennials, company leaders need to know what they value in order to motivate and empower them:
- Purpose – More than any generation, Millennials want to understand and believe in the mission of their company and feel they are contributing to a greater purpose. It is incredibly important to them that the mission of an organization is brought to life in the workplace and in interactions with customers.
Unlike other generations who were willing to invest time and patience before making a decision, Millennials need to be able to buy into the belief system of an organization fairly close to beginning their employment, or they will move on. Company leaders need to clearly express their vision and plan for the company, why it’s important, and how that affects the team in order to win them over to their cause and motivate them to invest their time and energy.
- Autonomy – Millennials are empowered by autonomy to find their own solutions to the goals set for them. According to Peter Gasca at Entrepreneur.com, they think that rules and guidelines stifle creativity, and would prefer to learn the hard way, through trial and error. They would like the trust of their supervisors to be given creative freedom and flexibility to use their skills and get the job done on their own terms.
Older generations might scoff and think “trust needs to be earned.” But company leaders don’t have to put it all on the line in order to motivate Millennials. They don’t have to risk a lot initially in order to give someone a chance. Leaders can give team members the autonomy and responsibility to work on small projects where the risk level is low. Team members can earn trust by performing well on that project, and team leaders can allow them to incrementally tackle more next time.
- Mastery – Company leaders can tap into Millennials’ desire to grow and develop in their career by coaching them and providing regular feedback. While Millennials may crave freedom and autonomy, they also want to know whether they are on target to reach their goals. They recognize that being evaluated and held accountable for their ideas and execution is vital for growth and development. Learning to give both good and bad feedback will help company leaders define their expectations and allow millennials to perform to the expectations set for them.
Leaders can become better coaches for their team members by clearly defining their vision and the end goal. They can then open the discussion to team members on strategies and tactics that can be implemented to meet that goal, giving Millennials freedom and autonomy while providing guidance and direction. By mentoring, respecting, and giving them the tools to succeed, Millennials will strive to meet the expectations set for them and develop confidence in the leadership of the organization – creating loyal and high-achieving employees.
The more that different generations can learn about one another, the better equipped everyone will be to help each other. By creating a working environment that seeks to motivate and empower every individual, with attention to particular needs, company leaders and their team members can help each other to develop personally, and then develop and achieve the goals of the business.
Written by: Judson Sutherland, Founder & CEO