Over the past twenty years, we’ve watched a few interesting revolutions in the workplace. We’ve coached leaders through globalization with all its cultural challenges, the dawn of the remote employee, and even the commoditization of almost every product thanks to the Internet.

Now, artificial intelligence is all the rage. Debates are happening daily about which positions in a company will be eliminated or radically altered. While the jury is still out on AI’s ultimate impact, it’s clearly here to stay. 

In any case, each revolution brings challenges in leading and motivating a workforce.

There’s another revolution that few are talking about. By 2024, Deloitte predicts 75 percent of the worldwide workforce will be millennials (people now in their twenties and early 30s). And that presents challenges for some managers who remain unaware of the unique nature of this rising generation.

Global Trends of Millennial Workers

First, we acknowledge it’s tough to generalize an entire generation of people because we are all unique. However, millennials exhibit a few trends in greater numbers than past generations. For instance, on average, millennials tend to move jobs more frequently. Today, a typical American worker stays at a job for 4.4 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, more than 90 percent of millennials report job-hopping about every two — meaning most will have 15 or more jobs in their working lives.

As managers, we must acknowledge that our future workforce will comprise temps.

So, what are the best leaders doing to get ready and maybe slow the churn a bit? Most importantly, they are learning what motivates each person in their care. Engaging people is a one-on-one game.

What FindMojo’s Motivators Assessment Says About Millennials

We analyzed the results of the first 15,532 people who took our scientifically valid online Motivators Assessment (a type of employee personality assessment). Cutting the demographic results by age, we found these were the most common top workplace motivators of millennials aged 20-29 in order of importance (out of 23 motivation possibilities):

  1. Impact (76%. In other words, this concept appeared as a top employee motivator in 76% of millennials’ assessment results)
  2. Learning (59%)
  3. Family (51%)

And the bottom three motivators at work (those concepts least engaging to this rising generation)?

  1. Prestige (22%. Appeared as a top work motivator in only 22% of millennials’ assessment results)
  2. Autonomy (22%)
  3. Money (10%)

So, what could keep a millennial in a job a little longer, and what could motivate more of your young, valuable talent?

Impact, Learning, and Family Are Top Millennial Motivators

Impact: Millennials want to know their work is important. They often feel a sense of destiny and feel they are supposed to do something that will lead to positive change in the world. And that means many can become frustrated and look for greener pastures if they don’t believe there is a positive outcome from their efforts.

Learning. A majority of millennials thrive on trying new things and growing. For some, the pursuit of knowledge is its own goal, while for others, the emphasis is on making themselves better at what they do.

Family. Family is an idea engagement articles have never really addressed, but more than half of millennials are motivated by making their loved ones proud of them—it was the third strongest human motivator in our scientific study. Those motivated by this idea try to prioritize family, which means balancing home and work time.

Prestige, Autonomy, and Money Are Less Engaging Motivators

What is not engaging for the majority of millennials? Prestige: Almost 80% don’t care one whit about fancy job titles or working for a highly esteemed company brand. Autonomy: Another almost 80% aren’t looking to be their own boss or work alone but crave direction at this point in their careers. Money: 90% aren’t motivated by the amount they earn. It’s not that compensation isn’t important to younger workers, but research shows it’s a satisfier more than a motivator.

How Leaders Should Adjust to Motivate a Millennial Workforce

Millennials will reshape the workplace, and it’s our job as leaders to evaluate and magnify individual and team motivators. Employee motivation and engagement should inspire and boost morale. Here are just a few other things we’ve seen that are working for leaders we work with:

1.   Explain clearly the mission of your organization.

Let them know how your organization improves the world, and then detail how each person’s work uniquely impacts the enterprise’s success. And then you repeat it… and again.

2.   Challenge them early.

In the first week, set goals they can accomplish in their first six months on the job and ensure you tie them to at least one core goal or value of the organization. And then you do it again … and again.

3.   Say good goodbyes.

Some millennials will leave you; that’s inevitable. When they do go, wish them well and make sure the talented ones know they are welcome back in the future. And you know what? Some will return.

We’ve interviewed enough of this new generation to confidently say most are driven to learn and grow, and almost all want to positively impact the world. Those are admirable qualities. The leaders who adjust to this new workplace revolution will win, while those who believe managers should continue to treat everyone the same will be put out to pasture.

Those are some of the high-level things we see in our data, but we’d love to hear from you. What have you seen that works in motivating the millennial workforce?

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