Motivating employees has always been a challenge for employers. It’s very rare to find an entire workforce of employees who will engage and give their best, day after day, purely for job satisfaction and even rarer now than it might have been 20 years ago.
The Pew Research Centre defines a millennial as a person reaching young adulthood during the early 21st century (that is, somebody who was born between the years 1980 and 2000). This group has very different characteristics to the groups that preceded it (baby boomers and Generation X), largely as a result of being born into (and maturing during) a period of rapidly increasing connectivity and on-demand services.
Baby boomers (those born in the years following the second world war, during which there was a marked increase in birth rates) are and were likely to work for one company their whole lives, demonstrating loyalty to an organisation. Conversely, millennials are loyal to a what they’re working on (as opposed to what they’re working for) and, as a result, will frequently move from company to ensure that they’re exposed to the best opportunities and therefore maximizing their potential to realize their goals (both professional and personal).
This means that employers now have to work to build loyalty within their workforce and cannot work on the assumption that their employees will stick around for the good of the company. This means making staying the most attractive option, more attractive than going to the start-up down the road that offers flexible working hours and free lunches. So, how can a company motivate its workforce, foster loyalty and ensure retention?
Offer Perks and Benefits
While altruism isn’t an absent trait in millennials, it’s rarely a behaviour demonstrated in relation to their employer. It’s therefore important to give employees something so that they give something in return.
These offerings needn’t be financially significant or disruptive to everyday business. They can be very simple and apparently minor gestures, such as:
- Providing refreshments, such as an office coffee delivery service
- Offering quality soaps and skin care products in employee restrooms
- Organizing fresh fruit deliveries
- Arranging discounts and deals with surrounding businesses, such as bars, restaurants and retailers
These gestures may seem like an unnecessary expense initially. However, when their cost is balanced against the returns of a happy workforce or the expense of advertising, interviewing for and filling a vacancy, they pale in comparison.
Offer Prompt and Frequent Feedback
To an ageing baby boomer, frequent catch-ups to tell someone how they’re doing might seem like mollycoddling, but constructive criticism and affirmation can go a long way in bringing the best out of a millennial workforce.
Born into a generation that’s much more comfortable discussing their mental state, mood and wellbeing (and rightly so), younger workers will generally respond to feedback positively – regardless of whether it’s constructive advice on how they might perform better or praise for the work they’re doing.
It’s important that any feedback sessions are regular and, where feedback is offered following a specific event, as soon after the event as possible.
We live in an age of unprecedented connectivity and that brings with it the opportunity for flexibility.
If a company’s business allows its workforce some flexibility, be that on hours, location or days, then allowing the workforce to capitalize on that flexibility can seriously affect mood and therefore motivation.
Put measures in place that allow your employees to spend more time doing what they love and they’ll be more likely to bring a good attitude to work.