Millennials represent the future of the workforce, but how exactly do you manage this unique generation of talent? It’s a question that comes up over and over again. At a recent conference, I may have found the answer--and it may be easier than you think.
As conference participants hashed through the changes they expect in business, tech and product innovation, I saw one central theme emerge that I think could have a profound effect on business leaders: understanding the orientation different generations have toward work.
What binds the 20-something millennials? They’re looking for meaning in work. And that doesn’t always sit well with older folks. In a breakout, one baby boomer said simply: “Work can’t be fun.”
And then the room exploded.
Most people under age 40 grimaced and a heated debate was on. But as the conversation continued, we began to reach some consensus: If younger people are beginning to lead our society, and if they consider meaning in their search for careers, then it stands to reason that the idea of meaningful work is becoming more mainstream.
According to 1950s psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization--defined as living up to your true potential--sits at the top of the chart. It comes after esteem, which is characterized by achievement. This makes sense when you think of what drove baby boomers -- earning money, position, perks, and prestige. Baby boomers defined themselves by their professional accomplishments. But is self-actualization itself undergoing a shift? If we’re now seeing a trend toward finding meaning in our work, and having fulfillment beyond accomplishment, then how do you manage younger employees whose meaning is paramount to their motivation?
With that in mind, here are five traditional management tactics that may prove helpful--altered to motivate those that are driven by meaning:
1. Focus on results.
Give your younger employees autonomy--the freedom and opportunity to tell you how they want to achieve the desired results. Then hold them accountable to that result.
Ask your younger employee to define why a project or job is fulfilling. In other words, help them find their purpose. At your one-on-one catch-ups, bring up the topic. Make them responsible for defining and creating their own fulfillment within your company or project.
3. Build teams.
Put your employees in charge of developing and running some fun team-building events. The act of bringing people together is a core aspect of creating meaning in one’s life. Get them to come up with a community-building strategy and run with it.
4. Develop a mission. Together.
Have your young employee take the reins in running a “mission-refining” initiative. You may already have a clear mission. But sometimes it could use some updating. Have staffers run this and then ask them to not only define the mission of the company, but have each employee create a personal mission for their job that fits into the broader company’s mission.
5. Help them reach peak performance.
Millennials want peak experiences and this includes in their careers. Provide them with tools for identifying their talents and ways for them to leverage this in their jobs. Ask them if they are experiencing peak performance. (Or use this questionnaire as a tool to identify specific needs around performance.)
With these tactics, you’re bound to see more engagement among your younger employees. This demographic gets a bad rap for not being as motivated as the older generations--but it’s often really untapped potential. The problem in many cases is that they are motivated by something different than their parents are. Without recognizing it and seizing upon it, you risk losing the brilliance of generation that is going to be leading us in the next 15 years.