Employee Motivation: A Millennial Perspective

Employee Motivation: A Millennial Perspective

Millennials, the largest age demographic in the world, are on a path to soon become the largest age demographic in the workforce. They currently account for approximately 36% of the workforce in the United States, and it is projected that by the end of the year 2020 the millennial generation, ages 18 to 35, will make up to half of all workers. With such a large fraction of the workforce at stake, employee motivation is more important than ever to reduce turnover rates and the costs that come with it.

Notorious for knowing what they want and not settling for less, millennials shun traditional bureaucracy and distrust traditional workplace hierarchies. Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to understand what motivates this new generation of employees. Part of this stems from the fact that the values of millennial employees differ from those of previous generations. It’s more than a paycheck; job flexibility, being technologically up to date, and social consciousness, among other things, are more important than ever in order to create a company people want to work for.

So, how do you create employee motivation, stimulate engagement, and create company loyalty in the fastest-growing generation in the workforce?

In this post, we discuss some of the main keys to employee motivation for the new generation.

Flexibility and personal time

A steady work-life balance is a very important factor in employee motivation for millennials. However, work-life balance in this instance does not only refer to simply leaving work at work, but rather creating a lifestyle where work and personal life are integrated through flexibility. Because of advances in technology and the increased popularity of working remotely, the newer generations of employees are no longer restrained to fixed hours behind a desk. Unlike the generations before them who craved structure and security, millennials find motivation in autonomy and independence.

According to a study by Deloitte, when choosing a new job, the main criteria millennials look for is whether or not it will provide a sufficient work-life balance.

Thanks to mobile devices, employees are now able to work from outside the office, at times that are better suited to each individual. This allows for a much larger candidate pool for potential employees, including stay-at-home parents, and people with disabilities, among others. This makes previously unattractive corporate jobs more appealing to younger people entering the workforce by allowing them to integrate their position with their personal life in a more seamless way.

Despite this, being constantly connected also has its drawbacks as it has the potential to distract from highly valued personal time. The highly digitized modern work environment means employees can carry their work wherever they go. However, employers must understand that this does not mean that employees consent to being contacted at all hours of the day. By not valuing your employees’ personal time, you run the risk of making them feel overwhelmed in their position, and this always-on attitude could create less engagement during the hours it matters most.

Therefore, working remotely may not be the ideal situation for every single employee; some might prefer coming in to work later and staying later, or vice versa. The key to creating employee motivation for a generation that can work anywhere, anytime, is understanding the needs and preferences of each individual and allowing them to complete given tasks at hours that best fit them each respectively.

Be up-to-date with technology

It’s no surprise that millennials and the generations that will soon follow them in the workforce are more technologically advanced than any before them, and they expect the companies they work for to be on the same level.

Communication tools might be the most obvious first step to develop on when considering technological updates. Even though classic tools like direct emails are technically still alive and well, they don’t always allow for the instant response gratification that younger employees are used to achieving from instant messenger platforms and companies are straying further and further from them for the purpose of everyday internal communications.

Furthermore, the strict, formal tone expected from emails often distracts from the actual message trying to be put across, and moreover, the time taken to write formal emails multiple times a day takes away from more productive ways that time could be used. Communication platforms like Slack developed for workplace communication maintain the informal set-up of social media platforms like Facebook Messenger that younger workers are more familiar with, making them feel less alienated from their coworkers by being forced to continuously use an unnaturally formal tone.

However, this is only one example in a sea of hundreds in developments for workplace communications. There truly is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and it’s encouraged that businesses explore their options, and often use a combination of methods in order to develop better communication within the workplace.

Room for technological advancements isn’t restricted to communications. It was reported in a study by Nimble Storage in collaboration with Oxford Economics that 77% of millennials felt that “suboptimal application performance” affected their productivity and “personal best,” while only half of the baby-boomers said the same.

Half of the millennial respondents also reported that they ceased using an application because it ran too slowly, while 78 percent said when using business software they “occasionally or constantly experienced delays.” If employees feel unable to complete their jobs to the best of their abilities because of easily rectifiable issues, they may feel like their company doesn’t care, and feel demotivated as a result.

Create new titles to celebrate growth

Unlike the generation of Boomers before them, millennials are less likely to stay motivated at a job where it could take upwards of three years to see any career progression. With the cost of getting a degree constantly on the rise, younger members of the workforce want to be able to see the fruits of their investments of money and effort in a more immediate way than their predecessors.

This does not mean giving rewards for basic achievements, as this could come off as patronizing and underestimating the abilities of your employees. But rather, foster employee motivation by creating new titles for workers to aim towards. This will result in a feeling of progression in their careers, and make a generation keen on growth more likely to stay at their current company rather than seek out new opportunities.


Transparency has become one of the most sought after traits millennials look for in a leader. This applies everywhere from politics to the workplace, and the benefits of transparency in leadership are universal. Newer generations of employees distrust the classic top-down management systems a lot of companies have in place.

Receiving orders and being unable to give feedback is a quick way to kill employee motivation in millennials and their successors. Instead, young employees thrive in open, candid, trust-based environments, and care more about why they’re doing what they do.

By understanding the motivations of managers, employees can better understand their goals and be more engaged in working towards achieving them. In addition to this, when managers are transparent it creates trust between them and their employees. Millennials take this as reassurance that their voices and contributions are valuable to the success of the company. This not only strengthens the relationship between the manager and employee but that of the team as a whole.

When there is transparency between team members, it creates an open line of communication and a healthy feedback cycle with which they’re able to work together more effectively to come up with ideas and solutions to problems. This is largely due to the fact that they are focused on the common goal instead of being concerned with possible underlying motives.

Social responsibility

Employee motivation when it comes to millennials has many factors that aren’t directly related to the job positions themselves. Rather, millennials are focused on the bigger picture; they want to work for companies that they feel have a valuable and positive impact, whether on the world as a whole or just the city they live in. This is where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plays a bigger role now than ever.

CSR contrasts with the single-minded focus on profits that corporations and previous generations of employees have had. Instead, it places value on a greater social mission, alongside that of generating revenue. A 2016 Cone Communications study found that 75% of Millennials indicated that they would take a pay cut in order to work for a socially responsible company.

The positive impacts of CSR go beyond a corporation’s employees and have a positive effect on the branding of the company overall. Here are some of the types of CSR programs Millennials are looking for online:

  • Charitable giving and partnerships
  • Community activity and volunteering (often demonstrated at the franchisee level)
  • Fair-trade programs
  • Environmental policies like focusing on reducing carbon footprints
  • Positive labor policies, including anti-discrimination and anti-harassment practices

Millennials are quick to spot inauthenticity. Blanket statements wanting the world to be a better place and vague comments about making a difference will be lost. CSR marketing will resonate better with specifics on what programs you’re managing, how they are run, and who they benefit, and will be even more effective if there is a clear fit between the company and the cause.

In conclusion, managers at every level all the way up to CEOs might see millennials as a hard to please generation, far removed from their Boomer counterparts. However, their needs are simple. At the most basic level, they want to see real, tangible results and nearly instant gratification. When these goals are put in the perspective of the corporate world, it’s clear that they align with those of corporations wanting to maintain their status in a marketplace where more and more companies are falling behind their more modern counterparts. By hiring millennials and keeping them motivated, your company can stay ahead of the game and reap all the benefits that the younger workforce has to offer.

Author: Raghu Misra

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Source: Wired2Perfom, August 2023