My work with Millennials for the past 10 years and independent research reveal three key workplace needs of Millennials. As a leader, if you fulfill these needs, you are on your way to motivating Millennials to achieve great things for your team.
They are the need for Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery, all of which are part of the Passionate Performance model for engaging leaders. I developed this leadership engagement model in 2004, and it has been translated into nine languages since then. Becasue this model is based on human needs, it has demonstrated its effectiveness across industries, cultures and generations.
1. Connect to Purpose
A team without a purpose is a team without passion. They might achieve short-term results, but they won’t have the heart to go the distance. Take a close look at what your team is doing day in and day out. You might find that their hearts are much bigger than their jobs. Get team members inspired about a cause, and their hearts will follow. A purpose is a team’s bridge to a brighter tomorrow … and you have to build it.
A compelling purpose is not a project goal, financial target or strategic plan. Your employees won’t get emotionally charged about a “10% net profit,” a “20% return on investment” or a “30% increase in market share.” A compelling purpose is a reason to be excited about getting up and going to work every day.
A purpose can come in all varieties — perhaps it is to help others, to make the world a better place, to innovate or to win. For example, Disney’s purpose is “to make dreams come true.” Coke worked diligently to develop its purpose: to put a Coke within reach of every person on Earth. Pepsi’s purpose is to “beat Coke!”
Your organization’s real purpose may not be apparent at first glance. I worked with a company that distributes building products to homebuilders. At first glance they didn’t seem to have a very compelling purpose. After taking a deeper look with them, it revealed that they “help make the American dream a reality.” Now, that’s a cause worth working for!
Build a bridge between Millennials daily tasks and toils and a compelling purpose to motivate them.
2. Empower with Autonomy
Involve your Millennials in defining and improving their work process and work environment. Clearly defined processes are critical to any efficient operation. Even in the most routine jobs, you can still get input from employees about ways to make improvements. When you give team members the appropriate level of autonomy, you engage their minds. What is the benefit to you?
People support what they help create. And that leads to increased discretionary effort from employees.
Giving employees control over their work is not always intuitive or comfortable for leaders.It requires that they trust their teams. Autonomy is generally more important than doing it “the way the boss said to do it.” What’s the risk of not providing autonomy? Employees basically become robots; they give you their hands and feet, but not their minds and hearts.
However, engaging leaders realize there is more than one way to effectively solve a problem. An employee’s approach might be different from the leader’s, but the benefits of establishing ownership that come from employees creating the solutions far outweigh any loss of control leaders might feel.
Give your Millennials autonomy and they will give you their discretionary effort.
3. Coach for Mastery
When you invest in a mind, you engage it. Mastery is not built in chunks. It’s a gradual process of layering. So create a rich, multi-layered learning environment for your Millennials. Use a variety of learning sources–special projects, cross-functional assignments, presentations to management, reverse mentoring and training peers (the best test of learning is to be able to teach someone else). Layer on the experiences to build mastery.
Although some learning for mastery requires a financial investment (e.g., seminars, professional memberships, publications), the best return is generated from an investment of your time and energy. There are few better places to spend your leadership resources than on building your employees’ mastery. Remember–successful leaders achieve results through others. Your employees’ mastery gets you results.
An engaging leader is a teacher. The most important source of learning for your employees is YOU! Share your experiences. There are lessons to be found in everything your team does. Look for opportunities in: post-project reviews, customer meetings, conflicts with other departments, changes in priorities, miscommunications and mistakes. Yes, mistakes.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. Seize all of these experiences to coach your Millennials toward mastery.
Challenge your employees in every way, every day. They will master their jobs. You will engage their minds and elevate your team’s performance.
For practical tips on how to motivate Millennials, check out the Engaging the Hearts and Minds of all your Employees with a new foreword written by Marshall Goldsmith.