We’ve talked about what makes millennials happy before, but there’s a difference between happiness and motivation, and the difference has business implications. Motivation leads to trust and engagement. It goes deeper than happiness and satisfaction. It affects the company culture.
So, what motivates the rising cohort? Sales performance and compensation management software provider Xactly Corporation recently published a study detailing just that, and I interviewed Tom Castley, managing director of EMEA at Xactly to find out the answer. Below are edited excerpts of our interview.
Castley: Millennials are generally optimistic, highly confident, results-driven employees who value people over companies. They want it all — money, flexibility, work-life balance, recognition, praise and promotion. Similar to generations before them, they seek meaningful work but unlike other age groups, they want their work to matter from day one. They are motivated by several things:
- Recognition: This is probably the most important motivator for millennials. It can take many forms, ranging from a new job title to an award, or simply a pat on the back in front of their colleagues.
- Growth potential:They want to see a clear career path, know what steps they need to take to get there and understand how they will be rewarded at each stage.
- Flexibility: Millennials value companies that can offer something outside of the rigid 9 to 5 working pattern. Whether it’s the ability to change the time of day they start work or allowing them to work from home a couple of days, they appreciate employers giving them some control over how and where they work their hours.
- Ability to make an impact: Millennials want the work they do to have a meaningful impact, either on society or on their own career progression. They want a clear line of sight between their work and the impact it has.
- Competition: A recentXactly survey with YouGov with more than 600 businesses in Britain identified that 46 percent of respondents aged 25-34 prefer to be in direct competition with their peers, compared to just 21 percent of those over 55 years.
How is this changing what millennials want from work?
Castley: With tools likes LinkedIn making it easier to find and apply for jobs, and sites like Glassdoor offering reviews of workplaces, millennials are better informed and can be more selective about their employment options. Businesses looking to employ and retain millennials need to focus on providing the following:
- Ongoing and specific feedback: Frequent, specific feedback motivates employees to perform at a higher level. This isn’t about completely scrapping the current performance review process, but rather finding ways to augment it for a multi-generational workforce to include regular feedback and updates Add some fun elements to monthly team meetings to recognise and reward individual, as well as group, efforts.
- Embracing digital: We live in the digital age, so why are some performance review processes still done on paper? Most of today’s workforce grew up with at least one game console in the house. Companies should explore business applications with gamification tools to engage and feedback to their employees in real time, to help achieve that coveted ‘high score.’ Try to find an app that is mobile and browser ready to encourage adoption amongst millennials and other generations alike.
- Use a combination of long and short-term incentives: Not every professional goal is achievable in the same timeframe. Set a variety of goals for employees over a month, a quarter, and a year, and make sure the rewards reflect the achievements. That way employees will strive for the little wins as well as the big ones, and won’t feel disengaged when they have to wait six months each time to reap the benefits of their hard work.
- Clearly define job roles: Compensation flows from job design, so it’s critical to be as granular as possible when defining roles and responsibilities — from top priorities to time frames and requirements for advancement. Remember, millennials perform best with frequent feedback and potential for growth, so businesses need to be explicit in communicating expectations, and make sure they paint the larger picture. Establish a series of incremental opportunities for rapid advancement that recognizes and rewards professional development.
Do you think this differs for Gen Y around the world?
Castley: Naturally access to information varies according to location, and some economies are not as developed as others. This will have a direct impact on the demands millennials place on their employers, and the rewards companies are expected to offer. However mobile access is becoming near universal, meaning anyone with a smartphone can easily see how much they could be making in another country or company.
This information changes how you reward millennials, but how does it impact learning leaders? Does it alter how millennials should be trained and developed?
Castley: It impacts learning/training in a few ways and those in development roles will find millennials will want:
- To know they have learned the material — and what to check next.
- To know why they need to learn, and how it will be applied.
- The information available in multiple formats easily accessible when they need it.