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MOTIVATING

Motivate Millennials: Take a Cue From Video Games

In my view, millennials are no more difficult to manage than past generations. Just look at the job from their perspective.

Photo courtesy Flickr user CaitlinMonahan

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I recently talked with a group of CEOs about how to best motivate and retain millennial employees. We covered everything from management style and compensation to technology and work environment. While this was all useful, I find the best hints to keep millenials motivated and engaged at the office come from a perhaps unlikely place: the video games they played when they were growing up.

They want to understand the larger goal.

Millennials don't readily accept doing tasks just because "I said so." They want to understand why they should do something--the overall objective, goal, or purpose. And they want to wrap their heads around how the work that we do as a company impacts our customers.

To keep millenials engaged, take time to explain the purpose, and cause and effect of how their role is important. Just like popular video games, they need a princess or a kingdom to save.

They thrive on new experiences.

A colleague of mine was recently frustrated about how hard it is to keep the millennial workforce engaged. The job he hires for pays very well--$150,000 a year--but because the job is monotonous, millennials will not stay in it more than three years. And they often leave for a lower-paying job because it's the experience--not the money--they're looking for. The problem for him: It takes six years to receive a payoff from having someone in the position.

When they played video games, millenials always had a new level to advance to. They still like to seek new experiences as well as the challenge and learning curve that comes with them. They crave the opportunity to master a new skill, but once mastered, they are ready to move on to something harder or different.

They look to peers for support.

Millennials look for advice from those who are most skilled and can give honest first-person input. When they face a problem, they'll reach out for answers to someone in the trenches who's had a similar experience before. In a professional setting, they'll learn quickly who the team players are, as opposed to those who are overly competitive and don't want to give away an edge. For this reason, traditional training methods are often not as effective for millennials; they want to hear from someone who has been or is in the trenches doing the work, not from a so-called expert, and they don't like a top-down mentality.

They like immediate rewards.

I vividly recall taking a millennial to lunch to conduct her six-month review. She broke down in tears when I told her her short tenure did not yet warrant a promotion to the next level. While this was an extreme reaction, it was indicative of the millennial mindset. They think like a video game player: 'If I collect more points or coins can I earn better tools?' 'What steps do I have to take to be recognized for my hard work?'

To keep them motivated until an acknowledgment or promotion is warranted, use quarterly review processes and small incremental benefits. And don't assume it's the same for all employees.

I have found millennials are no more difficult to work with or manage than past generations. It just requires that you look at the job from their perspective.

Last updated: Oct 16, 2012

ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 three years in a row. Holtzclaw advises clients on the whys of business--why customers buy, why teams work, and the all-important "entrepreneurial" why. He is the author of Laddering, and his weekly radio show, The "Better You" Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. To learn more about Holtzclaw, visit ladderingworks.com or e-mail eholtzclaw@ladderingworks.com.
@eholtzclaw




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