You've heard such things a million times: "Millennials are obsessed with making a difference"; "They want a trophy for everything"; "They think they should be the CEO, tomorrow." As a Millennial myself, I can definitely understand each of these criticisms. However, I don't believe that we're the only ones who want and expect more out of our employers and careers.

Through research conducted in the 1950s and '60s, Frederick Herzberg, American psychologist, discovered what he would later call the motivation-hygiene theory. In a nutshell, this theory revolutionized the conversation on employee happiness by revealing a strict contrast between satisfaction and dissatisfaction. According to Herzberg, the aspects that lead to a satisfied employee were "separate and distinct from those that lead to a dissatisfied one." In other words, "The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction." Hence, if you want to motivate your team, you'll have to focus on each of the aspects that lead to job satisfaction independently. It's these additional "satisfaction factors" that are often attributed to the Millennial cohort.

First, let's take a look at the reasons for employee dissatisfaction, a.k.a. "hygiene factors" -- factors necessary for maintenance.

  • Company policies -- Vacation time, employee conduct, and overtime stipulations.
  • Salary -- Competitive base, bonus, and performance incentives.
  • Job security -- Probability that one will keep his or her job.
  • Status -- Self-worth, relevance, and a sense of belonging.
  • Work conditions -- A safe and fair environment.
  • Interpersonal relationships -- Positive connections with managers and colleagues.
  • Benefits -- Health, dental, vision, and others.

If you wanted to obtain and maintain the status quo, focusing on these seven elements would do it. Don't get me wrong; they are extremely important. Yet, in today's world, they are now seen as foundational to reputable companies. If you want to inspire your work force to go above and beyond, then you'll have to accommodate these motivation factors.

1. Achievement

Achievement leads to confidence which leads to a new employee's ability to learn new skills, meet performance expectations, reach goals, and achieve his or her full potential. In contrast, if employees lack confidence, they will likely feel unmotivated, stressed, distracted, and have a negative outlook toward work -- making achievements few and far between.

2. Recognition for the achievement

It's more than just a pat on the back. Recognition not only provides encouragement but also reinforcement and validation of one's efforts. We all want to hear that we're meeting expectations and are valued team members.

3. The meaningfulness of the job itself

Employees need to know and understand the big picture (as well as their role in it). It gives meaning and purpose to daily tasks and responsibilities. Managers can go even further by connecting what employees do with why they do it -- a quick way to stretch their capabilities and rally new employees around key values, beliefs, and goals.

4. Opportunity for growth and advancement

I was a third-party recruiter for three years. I can't even tell you how many times I heard (when asking a candidate why he or she was looking) "I've hit a ceiling." A.K.A. there's no more room for growth, promotions, or learning opportunities. The ironic thing was, during such a candidate's resignation, the manager would often say, "If I had known that you were unhappy, I would have (fill in the blank)."

Avoid this situation by offering your employees room for development. If you don't, a static environment will drive your top performers into looking for relevance elsewhere.

5. Responsibility

More responsibility equates to more influence and control. According to self-determination theory, not only is control or autonomy an essential psychological need, but it also results in increased initiative, energy, performance, and persistence.

These motivation factors are not unique to Millennials. Rather, they are a sign of an evolving workplace. Are you adapting? Although Millennials may be more vocal about these needs, they are not alone. Focusing on these five elements will boost the satisfaction levels of your entire organization -- regardless of age.

Published on: Apr 26, 2017