What’s Motivating Millennials?

Posted On August 25, 2015

Do you know what’s motivating your millennial employees? Research presented earlier this year by venture capitalist Mary Meeker, and shared by the Huffington Post, indicates that many managers don’t.

In studies cited by Meeker, nearly half the managers believe the most important indicator of success for millennials is high pay. All other factors paled in comparison, with none registering higher than 12 percent.

But when millennials were asked how they define success, only 27 percent said money was most important. Most of those surveyed, 30 percent, said meaningful work was their top factor, while 24 percent said it was a sense of accomplishment.

Both of these factors polled at only 11 percent among managers. Slightly higher on the managers’ list was a high level of responsibility (12 percent), but just 3 percent of the millennials surveyed found that most important.

Millennials backed up these opinions by ranking training and development (22 percent) and flexible working hours (19 percent) as the top two benefits they value most from employers. Cash bonuses were third (14 percent).

Why the disconnect?

It’s human nature to relate to others with the same yardstick with which we have measured ourselves. Baby Boomers certainly would have viewed salary as the top indicator of their success in their rise up the company ladder. Most Generation Xers, while focused less on money than their predecessors, still would have viewed money as a primary measuring stick.

Now that those generations are in management, they logically expect their employees to hold similar values.

But much as Gen-Xers differ from their Baby Boomer parents, millennials have different priorities. Quality of life is important to them, and that phrase doesn’t just apply to the size of their bank account.

The desire for flexible work hours shows a commitment to life away from work. The desire for “meaningful work” and a “sense of accomplishment” speak to their social awareness and their desire to be socially responsible citizens – not only in the private lives, but in their professional pursuits as well.

Employers who want to hire the cream of the millennial crop — and keep them on the payroll once they’re hired – should take note. A final batch of statistics cited by Meeker drives home the point. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35 percent of the nation’s civilian workforce in 2015 is millennials – the highest of any generational group (Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers are both at 31 percent). Baby Boomers had been the largest group up through 2010.

Money still talks, but as the millennial workforce grows, it’s no longer the loudest voice in the room. Employers and managers: Adjust accordingly.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials, Workplace