How to Motivate Millennials to Work

Millennials are anyone born between 1982 and 2004, according to The Atlantic. Millennials often get a lot of flack for their general optimism and affinity for social media. Some say Millennials have lost the value of work compared to previous generations, but they only need some support to make them truly motivated. Here’s how to do that.

Who Are Millennials?

It’s difficult to summarize a whole generation of people, but we’ll do the best we can. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are a remarkably family-oriented generation with empathetic and workaholic tendencies.

Millennials prioritize the following areas for adults currently aged 18-29 in their life, listed in order of importance.

  • Being a good parent.
  • Having a successful marriage.
  • Helping others in need.
  • Owning a home.
  • Living a religious life.
  • Having a high-paying career.
  • Having lots of free time.
  • Becoming famous.

Millennials also like multiple forms of self-expression. It is estimated that 75% have a profile on a social media site. 20% have posted a video of themselves online, and about 40% have a tattoo. However, tattoos are usually in areas that can be covered with clothing.

Millennials are also going to become America’s most educated generation in history. This could be in part due to an increasingly knowledge-based economy or millions of people in their 20s failing to find a job, so they elect to get more schooling. Still, in 2008, 39.6% of 18-24 years olds were in graduate school, universities, or community colleges.

So sure, Millennials are often seen posting selfies of themselves online. They’re the most narcissistic generation to have existed, perhaps due to the prevalence of social media. But when it comes to helping others and leading a good life, Millennials hope to help one another as opposed to selfishly climb to success.

Understand What the Millennial Mindset Looks Like

Millennials have been stereotyped as lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and will be the downfall of society due to a poor work ethic and denial of materialism. However, Millennials have experienced a shift in their value system compared to the generations before them. When it comes to the workplace, Millennials would like to see their employers do the following.

Promote Teamwork

Millennials grew up in the internet culture, so they know what it’s like to be constantly connected to other people. Millennials find collaboration and social support highly-valuable in the workplace, so be sure to assign meetings and make people see each other in-person rather than over electronic communication.

Focus on a Healthy Company Culture

Generations before Millennials often hated their jobs. Low employee engagement was often seen as a problem for most companies, but the issue was never addressed until Millennials took job engagement seriously.

Millennials value productivity and happiness. Therefore, they will not be able to suffer through a job they hate for the salary or the benefits. Millennials must work at jobs they enjoy to remain in it for your business to be successful.

According to the Gallup Poll, businesses with highly engaged teams had increased profitability by 21%, heightened output quality by 40%. Your company benefits when employees like their work, but since Millennials are particularly sensitive to engagement, you have to promote your company’s cohesion to retain Millennials and keep them motivated.

Concentrate on Results

Millennials outperform other generations in terms of productivity, time management, and work-life balance, according to Kaplan Executive Search. Because of their fixation on getting lots of things done quickly, Millennials can’t stand feeling like they’re wasting their time.

If your company tends to need extensions for projects and generally run inefficiently, you’ll instantly lose Millennials. They won’t want to dedicate time to a company that won’t offer a strong return of investments for their time.

Therefore, you have to not only promise Millennials that they will get the results they desire but actually deliver on them. Millennials are quick to leave a job they see no passion in, so make sure you’re a results-oriented workplace in addition to one cognizant of its culture.

Embrace Diversity

According to Deloitte, Millennials vastly enjoy diversity and inclusion in their workplace. They don’t like seeing the same type of employee, especially ones that have been overrepresented in media, politics, and history.

Millennials want to see more variation in race, gender, socioeconomic status, background, and religion in their job. They like disrupting the status quo in search of a new way to do things, getting new voices, and sparking growth all the while. If your workforce seems homogenous, put more effort into diversifying your team to spur Millennials into staying.

Remote Work and Telecommuting

Millennials are pioneering the “digital nomad” lifestyle. Essentially, digital nomads are those who acquire most of their money by working online, either through freelancing or starting up a web-based business. By working untethered to a physical space, people can travel the world while still obtaining a steady income.

Even if Millennials prefer to stay in one place, the idea of working on their own terms highly intrigues them. The Millennial might want to continue working for your company but in a different city or country. By allowing such workplace flexibility, Millennials will still want to work for your company while satisfying the travel needs many Millennials have.

Millennials Like Growth

Millennials don’t like staying stagnant. Whether it’s traveling to foreign destinations, meeting new people, mastering a new skill, Millennials like feeling they’re progressing in their self-growth. This is how they differ from generations of the past. Millennials constantly seek to improve their communication skills, relationships, and passions.

They’ll take self-exploration versus living a rut any day. When Millennials think about a job, they want to work somewhere that will spark their growth as well. This is why you need to entice Millennials with experiences rather than flashy perks and salary bonuses (though they will certainly help).

Millennials want to experience growth not only in themselves but around them. They want to know they’re a part of a team that made a positive difference in the world. As seen with the rise of minimalism, Millennials value experiences over stuff. Use this preference to your advantage.

Stay Up to Date With Millennial Culture

Millennials tend to fall into certain subgroups. For example, Millennials who were born before or after 1986 will experience dramatically different outlooks on life because of the 2008 Great Recession. Therefore, you cannot assume all Millennials to fit into one neat category.

You’ll have to find out which type of Millennial fits best with your team — those who are fiscally responsible and focused on progressing in a well-secured or the Millennials who didn’t feel the Recession that much and feels more comfortable taking risks.

Not only that, but many Millennials find non-conformity as a sort of identity. There are plenty of political groups that think of themselves as the sole rational people in a sea of idiots. Combined with the echo chamber of social media, Millennials have become more polarized on either side of the political spectrum than Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers were of the same age.

You’ll have to keep up with Millennial discourse to know what are the right things to say and not. Some Millennials value political correctness while other groups hate the thought of it. Again, everyone is unique, but you can still understand common trends in Millennial culture to navigate motivating Millennials easier.

How to Motivate Millennials to Work

Make Sure You Explain the Company’s Purpose

Remember how Millennials like feeling like they’re a part of a bigger team? Explaining your company’s purpose will help Millennials understand how they fit into that broader company vision.

Millennials don’t want to punch in and out day after day at a dead-end job. They look for meaning and motivation in their time and effort. When you paint a story and how your Millennial workforce fits into it, they’re more likely to be invested in the company’s success and work toward its common goal.

Provide Constant Feedback

Millennials are also constantly concerned with their self-growth. They want to know they’re making progress in their skills, such as communication, time management, efficiency, and so forth.

When you provide constant feedback, you not only let your Millennial workers know you’re invested in their growth too but provide a way to measure the Millennials growth through an email trail or other measures of progress. For example, a Millennial can gauge yearly how they’ve compared to the worker they were the previous year.

Something that would be especially attractive to a Millennial would be keeping a system of small and broader goals that the Millennial can follow. Let’s say you’re Millennial is a graphic designer.

Their weekly goal could be to ensure high-quality products for your company and its purpose, but you could also say that in a year, you want to see your Millennial work better in a medium that they’ve had some familiarity with but hadn’t fully mastered. They feel they’ve broadened their skills working at your company. A Millennial would be ecstatic to experience that.

Keep feedback consistent as a way to show your Millennial employees their work does not go unnoticed. The Millennial will feel emboldened to follow your feedback and exceed it, leading to a chain of progress for both the Millennial and your company.

Don’t Give Too Much Feedback, Though

You have to strike a fine balance between giving enough feedback so your Millennial feels like they’re an important part of the team while not breathing down their necks. You don’t want to micro-manage a Millennial, as that’s the best way to make them feel claustrophobic under your instruction.

It would be best to communicate with your Millennial workers to see how much feedback they’re comfortable with. Some people may want constant feedback that could border on micro-management, others might want a more hands-off approach with only occasional critiques.

Be sure you know what your Millennial employee wants to avoid going overboard on feedback. You don’t want to scare away your Millennial workers into a different job that makes them feel more in control of their work and abilities.

Personalize Your Leadership for Each Millennial Employee

Millennials enjoy cultivating a personal relationship between themselves and their employer. Don’t assume that you have figured out the one trick to make your employees listen to you. To keep your workers interested in work, you’ll have to personalize how you communicate with your employees in ways that will benefit them.

It may seem difficult or like a waste of time, especially if your work employees numerous people. However, Millennials don’t like feeling like just another nameless person in a room full of workers. If they at least know that their boss will treat them like the unique individual they are, the Millennial will feel much more driven to do well in their job.

Perhaps take a few minutes to talk to your employees and see what their personality is like. You can usually tell how people will respond to criticism or praise after a few chats with them, so use your observations of your employee workers to see what they would like. If anything, you can always ask your employees to see what their leadership preferences are.

You don’t have to be a mentor for your Millennial workers and give them special treatment, as that may be too exhausting for you as an employer. However, recognize your Millennial workers’ individuality to foster the best employee morale and keep Millennials engaged.

Get Involved with the Local Community

The Pew Research Center finds that 21% of Millennials prioritize helping people, and that number is steadily rising. Millennials are losing patience with “slacktivism,” or advocating for a cause while essentially doing nothing to help it. An example would be showing your support for a cause on Twitter but doing nothing further to help that cause.

This is why if you find a philanthropic angle with your work, you can dramatically improve Millennial interest in your work. Millennials like knowing they’re leaving a positive impact on the world. When you can have a company-sponsored philanthropic event, your Millennial employees will be the one to help out and do the most good.

Not all companies and businesses will be able to hold philanthropic events, but if you show your employees you leave a beneficial impact on your community, you’re much more likely to retain Millennial employees.

Create Denser Paths of Career Progression

When a Millennial lands a job they enjoy, they want to rise quickly in the ranks. However, they’re likely to get burnt out and feel wary of jobs in which they have to wait three to five years for a promotion. A Millennial will fear that investing so much time in a job only to find out it wasn’t for them.

To assuage the Millennial’s concerns and make them feel on-track in their career, create in-between titles in career progression. Rather than having two or three milestones in a job, create four or five positions that take less time to get too between titles.

Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers were more patient with their career growth and willing to invest time into their work. The Millennial’s resistance to doing the same does not mean the Millennial is afraid of commitment. Rather, the typical Millennial wants to ensure the best return for reward in their investment.

Provide More Flexibility

Flexibility can mean many things. This could be in-office or remote work, the hours one chooses to put in, the types of projects one can opt to do. Whatever you as an employer decide on, make sure your Millennial employees have tons of freedom and options to set up their work that most aligns with their personality.

Millennials are naturally explorative, curious, and driven people. They’re often taking on personal projects or balancing non-traditional work life, such as trying to be a digital nomad or living from a tiny house. Their schedule might change depending on their current interests, so Millennials will gravitate toward jobs that allow them to choose their own schedules.

You don’t have to make your company a free-for-all in terms of hours worked, project types, and so forth. But Millennials will greatly appreciate loosened restrictions.

Tap into Millennial Passion

Millennials burn with creativity and drive, especially to improve their local community or world. You can tap into the passion most Millennials harbor to make not only their experience working at your company enjoyable but give you higher-quality results too.

Less than 12.3% of employees have a passion for their career. Millennials seek to bridge the “passion gap” people in previous generations have widened. Millennials understand that loving work and not having to grit through a joyless job is essential to mental health and happiness, so their natural desire to work at your company will be crucial for retention.

Find people who are naturally passionate in your industry and would be excellent members of your team. Next, foster their passion with the next tip.

Give Your Employees Personal Projects

A great way to tap into Millennial passion is to give your employees personal projects for them to do in addition to projects the employee might not enjoy doing.

Personal projects ensure that no matter how impersonal some work may seem, Millennials still do something meaningful to them. Millennials will often push through boring work if there is a project they can look forward to completing, making them more likely to be excited at work and stay at your company.

Everything is personal, so when you can foster your employee’s connection with their work, you’ll find they’ll have a much happier attitude in their position.

Make a Work-Life Balance the Priority

Millennials are quickly becoming the most burnt out generation. Maybe it’s due to a steadily increasing pressure to obtain success at an earlier age. Maybe it’s the ubiquity of happy, wealthy people on social media that spurs others to start up their side hustle and grind toward their dream.

Whatever the reason, Millennials are willing to put in more than 12 combined hours on work and passion projects in a day. Their passion often makes them neglect daily essentials, such as eating, bathing, and maintaining social connections. With more of their peers burning out and reaching unbearable stress, more Millennials draw hard work-life balance boundaries.

More Millennials will be unwilling to take on a last-minute budget report or other work that could impede on their downtime. People in older generations might see this as selfishness, but Millennials enforce their boundaries to preserve their mental health and overall happiness. No longer can employers ask anything and everything from their employees.

Therefore, you should ensure you’re know how your employees seek to maintain their work-life balance and respect any boundaries your Millennial employee’s place. Nothing leads to more burning resentment in a Millennial than an employer crossing the line that has been communicated before, especially with something as sacred as free time.

Be sure to give your employees the space they need to relax and unwind, to stop thinking about work. Once they’re rested, your Millennial employees will resume work with more energy and drive to succeed.

What are the Main Take-Aways of Millennial Motivation?

Millennials might sound like the lazy, entitled, and work-phobic stereotypes people from older generations have claimed. However, if you look closer, Millennials are prioritizing the following values.


The first is personal happiness. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers are more likely to swallow their feelings and avoid discussing their emotions at the expense of their mental health. Millennials see this taciturn approach to living life as toxic and unsustainable, which is why Millennials are way more likely to speak up about their issues than their grandparents.

It may seem that Millennials work less hard and feel more entitled to their jobs that previous generations because Millennials are talking about what they want more than any other generation. Perhaps Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers would have loved to ask for more vacation time and work-based grievances if their culture was more accepting of doing so, but it wasn’t.

With Millennials putting their happiness first, Millennials will set up and enforce hard boundaries that employment culture in America is still getting used to. Employers must take employee concerns about work-life balance and time off seriously to retain Millennial workers.


Perhaps stemming from the need to uphold happiness is the second need to follow one’s passion. If an employer doesn’t spark the Millennial’s hunger to do more, a Millennial won’t want to devote much time to that company.


Millennials still certainly seek benefits such as health and dental, a 401(K), and other perks to being a traditional employee, but Millennials are willing to risk living without insurance or a retirement plan to live an atypical life, such as being a digital nomad or living in a van and driving across the country.

Millennials want to grow and learn in life, and your company is just one facet of that growth. While Millennial employees will certainly feel motivated to work hard at their job, they’ll be looking at the grand picture of how the experience of this job fits into their broader life narrative.

Millennials Like Gardening Over Carpentry

To essentially sum up a whole generation of people, let’s use child psychologist Alison Gopnik’s metaphor to describe the two types of parenting. We understand the use of parenting may be condescending when discussing adults, but at the end of the day, parenting is an authority style that can be comparable to managing a team.

Carpenter leaders like order and rules. They think there is one way to create a company and so people who don’t follow these rules must either learn to follow them or get out. Gardener leaders understand that their team has a particular set of talents and ideas. Micromanaging and constantly observing employees may make them perform worse.

Millennials like less control seen in the gardening style. This is why you should build a copious amount of free-time, vacations, trust, creative freedom, and autonomy in your business. When you allow your Millennial employees to sprout their talents naturally rather than forcing them to conform to your rigid foundations, you’ll make your Millennial employees much happier.

Millennials Are an “All or Nothing” Group

For the most part, Millennials realize that their work life is a lot like dating. If their heart isn’t into their work, no matter how much time and dedication they put in, they’ll end up feeling more drained than nourished in the relationship.

This is why the best way to make sure a Millennial is motivated to work in your team is to ensure they have a passion for your company and your company’s mission. If a Millennial isn’t motivated to work for you, you’ll find it difficult to force them to put in more effort than the Millennial wants to.

You have to make sure you and the Millennial are the right match to foster work. However, you can still sculpt your company to be more attractive to Millennials. Foster a community of engagement and positivity. Make sure you give your workers lots of creative freedom and autonomy in their work.

When Millennials fall in love with your company, their natural drive and passion will automatically drive them forward. Put in the effort to make your company the most desirable for Millennials and you’ll rarely have to motivate them to work.

Leave a Comment