The Secret to Millennial Motivation: Ask
There are thousands of articles across countless websites, blogs and magazines dedicated to the most apparently confusing and befuddling topic facing businesses today: How do you motivate Millennials?
Depending upon the source, Millennials are either either lazy and entitled or innovative and brilliant – motivated by perks like ping pong and happy hours or utterly devoid of loyalty regardless of company, salary or kegerators. The remarkable thing that most of these articles fail to do is ask Millennials what motivates them. Because here’s the thing – businesses should not create cultural and HR strategies based on the generalization of an entire generation. They should create strategies based on individual conversations with employees.
Sasha Strauss, founder + director of Innovation Protocol, recently commented on this, discussing how important it is to plan around how an individual behaves, not what generation or demographic they happen to fall into based on the year they were born. That line of thinking makes sense. It’s logical, practical, and – as with any good business strategy – it makes it easier to hit the mark, whether that mark is a customer’s desires or an employee’s needs.
Because here’s the thing. I know Millennials who are motivated by just about every different aspect of professional life. I’ve met those who will forego big salaries in favor of working hard for a small business they’re passionate about. I’ve met those who want to work 8-5 and value the freedom of clocking out and checking out. There are those who are motivated by consistent salary changes and title bumps. There are those who want the flexibility of freelance, even if it means an unsteady paycheck. In short, Millennials are motivated on individual levels for personal reasons depending upon their values and goals. Just like every human on earth.
It’s dangerous to shove an entire generation, be it Millennials, Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, into one single category and then get frustrated when an individual doesn’t behave the way generational expectations demand. Especially when the alternative to mass assumption is so much easier.