How To Motivate Millennials by Bianca Bass

20th November 2017 | 4 min read

In addition to writing her own blog, which is read by thousands, Bianca’s career highlights include advising the government on millennial careers, and being featured in publications like Girlboss, Buzzfeed and The Muse. Oh, and she’s also the Head of Marketing at LABS. Tune in to her weekly column.

I was 23 when I started managing my first team. The CEO threw away the rulebook in the hope of redefining the company’s approach to leadership. And it worked. We quickly became the most productive and engaged team in the business, through a collaborative, people-first approach.

You see, those millennials in your team, often labelled as “inexperienced” and “difficult to work with”? They’re your company’s greatest asset. If you know how to utilise them effectively. As both a millennial and a leader, here are my tried-and-tested ways to motivate this generation and the next.

Be A Mentor, Not A Manager

Anyone who only cares about what an employee can bring to the company is kidding themselves.

“It’s all about what *you*, the company, can bring to them. And so it should be.”

You need to invest in your team as people, not employees. Take the time to understand them, why they wanted this role in this company, what they want from their careers. To go further, go out of your way to help them reach their goals; this could be through introductions or 1:1 coaching. 

Celebrate Their Side Hustles

“Too many companies are concerned about their employees having side hustles. Personally, I’m worried if my employees don’t.”

Side hustles show hunger and curiosity—two qualities most millennials have in abundance, if channelled effectively. You may not have the authority to initiate Google-inspired personal project time, but you can still take an interest in what they’re doing, and even encourage it. Celebrate their achievements. Ask what they’ve learned outside of the office, and actually listen.

Chances are, they have transferrable skills that could enhance their performance at work. 

Ask Their Opinion, Regularly. 

“To encourage more creativity from your team, start asking smarter questions.”

  • “Hey Josh, what brands do you think are doing a great job right now?”
  • “Sarah, what do you honestly think of our social media channels? What would you like to see more of?”
  • “Alice, is there anything you’d like to hear about the direction of the company? Can I clear anything up?”

Your employees were hired for a reason, questions shouldn’t be reserved for interviews alone. An amazing workplace is all about engaging employees outside of the day-to-day grind. 

Create A Subculture

There’s a lot of talk about ‘top-down’ culture. But, sometimes, managers use that as an excuse to really drive change.

  • If your leadership team doesn’t celebrate people’s birthdays, start.
  • If nobody holds ‘what if?’ meetings (where you spend 30 minutes discussing the big, hypothetical picture), be the first.
  • If your colleagues don’t regularly share inspiring articles and ideas, do so.

“Create the subculture you wish existed and your twenty-something team will respect you for it.”

Identify Opportunities For Growth

Most millennials care about more than just making top dollar. For us, learning is key. I often ask my team to work on a more creative project (and subsequent presentation) that’s beyond their job title. This can be in their own time or during their workday – I trust they will prioritise correctly. 

Try it. £100 says you’ll be surprised by the outcome. Not just with what they produce, but also how much their productivity and general positivity increases. 

“People step up if you create a space for them to do so.”

Work-Life Balance Is A Personal Decision

“Longer hours don’t always add up to better work, and millennials know that.”

If you want to scale your team, brace yourself for a growing range of views on this tricky balancing act. Staying late into the night and sacrificing weekends to finish a deadline isn’t deemed as a successful or productive way to work anymore. Millennials need a work/life balance to work at their best. More importantly, they need to manage it themselves. 

E.g. A Friday deadline won’t stop them from enjoying a couple of cocktails with their friends on a Wednesday. More often than not, they’ll come in early every day that week in order to get more time working on said deadline.

When it comes to work-life balance, your team will never share a unified view. And that’s ok. Embrace quality, not quantity. 

Champion Transparency

Millennials crave human connection, and that’s where typical corporates go wrong.

“We’re not impressed by turnover alone. We care about who we’re actually making money for.”

In your next 1:1, tell your direct report(s) how you are. Honestly. Having a difficult day? Talk about it. Had a presentation that didn’t go to plan? ‘Fess up.

You don’t need to divulge the details of your personal life, but showing some humanity and humility will make them feel like they’re working for a decent person, not a drone.

Ultimately, your team’s motivation starts with you.