By 2025 Millennials, or those workers now aged 18 to 34, will make up 75% of the global workforce. Recently they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. Just like with past generations, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to this group’s work ethic. Entitled, lazy and disloyal are terms bandied about when talking about Millennials. While it's true that Millennials are more willing than are their older brethren to job hop, they are actually loyal, hard workers if they are motivated correctly.

In contrast to previous age groups, Millennials want more out of their employers then just a pay check and job security. Rewind a few decades and that’s all that people cared about. Millennial workers, on the other hand, want to get paid well, but they also want to make a difference and work for a company that gives them the means to achieve that. Yes there are tons of Millennials who will jump ship for a fat pay check, but a lot more Millennials are choosy in terms of which companies they will work for.

Since Millennials will make up the lion’s share of the workforce by 2025, motivating them is going to be key. Compensation matters, but things like work/life balance, job growth and recognition also rank high on their list of motivators.

Recognize and Reward Jobs Well Done 

Millennials​ want to get recognized for a job well done. Known as the trophy generation by some, giving a Millennial employee recognition can go a long way in keeping him or her happy. But that recognition can’t be promises of future promotions or fancy titles. Millennials want to be rewarded with those things that give them instant gratification like time off, professional development and more responsibility. 

Put Millennials in Charge of Projects

A huge motivator for Millennials is being able to make a difference in their workplaces and among the community at large. If a company wants to get the most out of their Millennial workforce, then it is going to have to provide them with opportunities to lead. That doesn’t mean they hand over the reins to an entry-level employee, but managers should be on the lookout for opportunities to give them the lead on projects or initiatives.

It’s also a bad idea to keep Millennial employees out of the loop when it comes to the direction of the company. They don’t have to have a voice in the board meeting, but there should be an open door policy where Millennials can feel comfortable asking questions and weighing in. Embracing a culture where the company gives back to the community and letting Millennials take a lead role in the outreach can also go a long way in motivation.

Work/Life Balance Trumps Salary

A lot of Millennials grew up amid the Great Recession and record foreclosures and saw their parents work long hours and still lose their jobs. As a result Millennials care a lot about work/life balance, which means companies better offer things like flexible work schedules, the ability to telecommute and time off. Thanks to technology, employees are no longer tethered to their desks and Millennials know that. If a company forces Millennials to work 9 to 5 in the office, chances are retention among that group is going to suffer.

Technology Isn't an Afterthought

Unlike their parents and even the generation before them, Millennials grew up with technology and in some cases are more comfortable using it to communicate than they are face-to-face. Millennials also want to be able to use their technology at work and expect employers to embrace a BYOD (bring your own device) mentality or at least provide the latest technology. For companies that place a lot of emphasis on technology, it will not only keep Millennials engaged but it provides an opportunity for them to tap the millennial’s knowledge about technology trends.

Career Development Is Key to Keeping Millennials Happy

For the Millennial generation, it’s not enough to get a job and stay in that same role for the next few years. Because of their desire to make a difference, they are going to want to continue to develop their skills. If a company doesn’t provide professional development and mentorships, they will seek it elsewhere. Providing these employees with career development and a track for their future at the company can go a long way in building goodwill.

Community Atmosphere Will Get the Job Done

One of the biggest differences between Millennials and baby boomers is their desire to work in groups and collaborate. Whether that means a video chat or an in-face brainstorming session, companies that encourage group projects and an open workspaces will be paid back in terms of creativity and productivity. Lock a Millennial up in a cubicle with high walls and no ability to confer with his or her co-workers, and chances are you’ll end up with a dissatisfied employee.

The Bottom Line

Criticisms and misconceptions about one generation to the next have been discussed for decades. With the Millennials, because of their sheer size, not understanding how to motivate them can put a company at a big competitive disadvantage. With turnover costing companies dearly and Millennials more than willing to job hop, companies have to make sure they are keeping their millennial workforce motivated and happy.

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