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4 Real Ways to Motivate Millennials


Thu Jan 22 2015

4 Real Ways to Motivate Millennials
  • There is a misconception going around the “management water cooler” about how to motivate Millennials in the workplace. Many organizations think Millennials can be won over and motivated with flexible work packages, higher salaries, and great benefits. These aren’t bad ideas, and I’m sure many Millennials will thank you and ask for more (and more). But, this is not what actually motivates the Millennial worker—and it probably won’t get them to stay with your organization. 

    The Millennial generation is sometimes positioned as a unique type of employee that can send management into a self-fulfilling frenzy believing that they need to find a “new” way to motivate them. However, the vehicles to motivate Millennials are not much different from any other generation of employees. 

    Millennials are actually much more intrinsically motivated than one might think. They rarely crave more money (and I would never encourage you to motivate any employee that way) or fancier benefit packages when the ultimate decision on whether to stay or go from an organization is on the table. 

    Remember, this is an overly optimistic, meaning-based generation and because of these attributes they gravitate towards more intrinsic motivators and reasons to stay with organizations. 

    The CAMP Method of Motivation, originally developed in our book Survival of the Hive: 7 Leadership Lessons from a Beehive, is an acronym that stands for various components of a new motivation model. A manager would be wise to follow this model when looking to increase motivation and engagement with their Millennial workers. 


    The first motivator for a Millennial is rooted in competency. A highly competent employee is a highly committed employee. When looking at the competency of your Millennial workforce, find areas that you can help them build where they stand. Some examples: 

    recognizing and adding new skills that would help in their professional development

  • providing regular feedback on performance

  • adding them to specific cross-functional teams for development, embracing a continuous learning platform (both informal and formal) for them

  • encouraging them to seek leadership positions outside of work with nonprofits, associations, and charities that closely align with the organization’s mission. 


The second motivator is about independence, choice, and autonomy. With autonomy comes respect, as well as responsibility. Involve the Millennials in making decisions to improve their work experience. I recommend starting small, such as “What time would you like to break for lunch?” 


Eventually, as the Millennial grows provide them with more autonomy around choosing the work as they want to do it. Some examples might include improving processes, utilizing more technology, identifying flex-time and eventually more self-direction and empowerment on projects. 


The third motivator is about meaningfulness and purpose. Statistics show that employees who are proud of their organizations are more likely to engage. Meaningfulness is two-fold. The Millennials must know what the larger mission and purpose of the organization is and if that aligns with the Millennials’ values. Likewise, Millennials must also be aware of their own meaningfulness to the whole organization, such as: “You matter, this wouldn’t have worked without your help.” 

Find areas to sponsor Millennials as attendees into strategic meetings, have conversations with them about why the organization does what it does (not just the what and the how), create dialogue around what they’re passionate about and work that into their job. Reinforce the Millennials motivation by continually showing them how their role and contribution in the organization matters. 



The final motivator is focused on progress and meeting professional milestones. This is a great area to introduce them to a _Leadership Lattice—_a roadmap that identifies key goals and checkpoints for them to hit in order to grow within the organization. Millennials get energized by accomplishing things; they must see that they are moving along a long-term career path. Sometimes it may be little baby steps of progress (allowed to facilitate a meeting, being named to a committee) and other times it may be a promotion, bonuses or time off. 

Putting It All Together 

As managers I would encourage you to put each of your employees through the CAMP job assessment method and decide what each might need from you in order to grow and stay motivated. A new employee like a Millennial needs a lot of competency building and feelings of meaningfulness. Some of your older Millennials might need more attention around progress and autonomy. 

Bottom line: You know your employees best, where do you see an opportunity to connect with them and motivate them more?

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