How to Keep Your Millennial Employees Happy

March 15, 2018

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you are probably familiar with the term, Millennial, and all the hype out there about how to reach these mythical “kids,” including how to motivate them at work. As a result, there have been a number of myths perpetuated about this generation who were born between about 1984 and 1996 that may or may not have any actual merit at all. It seems like everyone from Inc to Simon Sinek has gotten in on the lucrative game of claiming they have the answer to the so-called “Millennial motivation problem.” But does a problem even exist and if so, how can you effectively keep your millennial employees happy?

This month we’re focused on motivation at work, and last time we gave you some of our tips for rewarding and recognizing your employees or all generations. But for this post, let’s delve into Millennials, a generation who now makes up at least a third of the workforce, and whether or not as an employer, you need to motivate them differently from how you should any other human being who works for you.

First: The Myth of the Millennial Worker and Participation Trophies

As a generation, Millennials have been called lazy, entitled job-hoppers who are addicted to the internet and who are the victims of bad parenting. Sometimes these statements claim to be backed by “studies,” with no actual link to the study or mention of who performed the research making it difficult to ascertain what’s true and what isn’t about an entire generation of people. Most of the times the evidence provided is anecdotal and not based on real research, or if there is real research it’s been adapted to support a point in an article designed to sell a person or business a product or service that will help them reach Millennials or solve their “Millennial problem.”

Back in January, we wrote this article about the heated topic of participation trophies. In a sense, this post is an offshoot of that one. While we admitted we weren’t a big proponent of participation trophies, we also don’t believe that the fact that many Millennials received those awards as young children means their generation is ruined. We also don’t think that receiving a participation trophy in preschool or kindergarten or even in 2nd grade has made them entitled or lazy. In fact, we also don’t believe that millenials are any more lazy or entitled than previous generations were when they were first entering the workforce.

Second: The Myth of the Millennial as Teenager

At the same time as all these articles about Millennials in the workforce and Millennials as customers are hitting, you’ve probably seen people refer to millennials as “kids,” or “teenagers.” Recently an internet challenge came to light that involved eating tide pods. As a result headline after headline appeared blaming Millennials and millennial teenagers for the phenomena.

However, there’s a huge problem: Millennials aren’t kids. Since the millennial generation is widely accepted to encompass those born between 1984 and 1996, not 2000 as some clickbait bloggers like to claim, for several years now there haven’t been any Millennial teenagers. In fact, the oldest Millennials are in their mid to late 30’s, hardly a child at all and in fact the age of most parents of young children.

Even the youngest Millennials are in their early 20’s now. The truth is, the kids who are biting into tide pods are part of another generation, Generation Z. They are still children and teens for the most part, but the oldest are in college now and most of them don’t eat laundry detergent for fun either.

Third: The Myth of the Millennial Job-Hopper

One of the number one complaints about Millennials as a generation is that they tend to be “job-hoppers,” and often quit because they aren’t advancing quickly or are dissatisfied with their job. But do people born between 1984 and 1996 really change jobs more often than Generation X did when they were in their 20’s and 30’s? And are people in general who were born to the previous generation really that loyal to 1 company for their entire career, or even to 1 career for their entire working life?

It might surprise you to find out that Millennials actually don’t go from job to job at a faster rate than Generation X-ers did when they were the same age. What’s more shocking though is that according to a study by Pew Research, Millennials aren’t “job-hopping” as much as their Generation X counterparts did in their 20’s and 30’s. Furthermore, as far as changing jobs and changing careers go, the average worker will change jobs on average 10 to 15 times during their working life, regardless of which generation they were born into. The days are gone when an employee would remain at the same company from college graduation through to retirement.

So, how does an employer keep their Millennial employees happy?

Truthfully, what makes most people happy at work will make Millennials happy too. But there have been some market research surveys of Millenials asking them what makes them feel happy at work. Frankly, the studies are flawed because if you asked all workers what they want to stay motivated at work, the results would probably be similar. However, because of that, the results are helpful for keeping all your employees happy.

Like most of us, Millennial workers want higher pay, flexible hours and the ability to work from home, transparency and trust from their bosses, clear paths to promotion, and to feel their work is meaningful.

In our opinion, the best way to keep all your employees happy, including Millennials, is to treat each employee as an individual and not lump them together by age or the generation they were born into. Some of your employees will need more feedback and more reassurance while others will be more independent and appreciate a more hands-off approach.

Therefore, the best change you can make right now involves getting to know your employees through training opportunities, off-campus team-building activities, and regularly scheduled 1-1’s between supervisors and subordinates. Remember too that building relationships with your workers means getting to know them as people beyond their work for you. When you remember that Millenials aren’t a problem for you to solve, but are people like you who just happen to be younger, you’re on your way to creating a better and happier workplace for all your employees, no participation trophies required.

What do you think? Are Millennial employees that different from the rest of your workforce? Let us know in the comment section below.

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