Lazy. Selfish. Sluggish. Unmotivated. These are words that are often used to describe millenials. Their Gen X and Baby Boomer colleagues make generalizations about them, often causing millenials to lose faith and focus on their future.

With the clash of these generations, many are left wondering how exactly millenial employees can be motivated. The thing is, the era that millenials grew up in is drastically different from the era of their parents and grandparents. Trends, habits and attitudes changed. As an employer, you must observe how millenials have adapted to the changes of their time. This can help you figure out how to keep them on top of their work.

The characteristics millenials display can often be the key to fostering their success in the workplace. What are some of these characteristics that you, as an employer, can adopt? Take a look at the following tips for motivating millennials:

They’re Glued to the Screen, So Make the Most of It

Like it or not, millenials grew up with computers. Most of them probably learned how to use one before they could even ride a bike. And now that everything is connected online, millenials will expect to use meaningful online content in their work.

As learning becomes more and more connected, it often loses meaning, which can frustrate this younger generation. Jump on this chance to create the meaningful online content that other companies struggle to achieve. A successful online learning platform can address specific problems and encourage millenials to lead important discussions.

Online lectures are becoming a thing of the past — remember, millenials love giving and receiving feedback. They will use these platforms to their intellectual benefit, which will in turn benefit you.

Encourage Collaboration and Company 

When it comes to job searches and entering careers, millenials can be intimidated by people with years of experience in the field. Instead of shoving them under the menacing management right away, consider offering co-leadership experiences to millenial employees.

These co-leadership opportunities can range from giving them a chance to develop and manage their own project to pairing them with someone who has years of experience. This way of keeping each other company is actually a clever mentoring and collaborating session that will make the millenial employee feel appreciated and respected.

While the higher-ups definitely have things to teach millenials, millenials can teach many things to the higher-ups. Innovation is prominent in younger minds — be ready to learn something from a millenial every day.

Give Them a Purpose, Not Just an End Goal

Previous generations would take just about any job to earn a paycheck. But millenials are picky —  they would rather have a job with a purpose than just a job where they show up and collect a paycheck every few weeks.

Millenials are more interested in the steps it takes to get somewhere than the actual end goal. They want to savor every moment and every experience that’s important to the task at hand. They break each moment down and analyze it to see if it suits their tailored needs.

Rather than the bottom line, millenials read between the lines. So when it comes time for you to motivate millenial employees, know that illustrating their purpose — why they’re here, what they’ll be doing and how it will benefit their future — will instill a sense of direction and fulfillment.

Have an Open-Door Policy

Millenials highly value the opinions of others. They were raised by their parents to be inquisitive and determined. As they grew up, the internet and social media became popular, and the sites are structured around the exchange of feedback. Due to these two influences, millenials naturally will ask a lot of questions.

Don’t expect millenials to be quiet and listen to your almighty wisdom all the time, however. Instead, adopt an open-door policy and encourage millenials to ask away. Your feedback will make them feel valued, keep them centered and tap into their creative minds. Yes, millenials are an open-minded, wildly imaginative generation. Use it to your advantage.

Be More Flexible

Sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day? Forget about it! Millenials are tech-savvy, which means they’re able to work from virtually anywhere on a computer. They’re also social butterflies — they keep in close contact with friends, and they want to actively balance their work life with their social life.

Like most millenial traits, it can be hard for you as an employer to try and restrain these needs. So fight fire with fire, and be more flexible. Show trust in your millenial employees. Provided that they can deliver quality work, what harm is there in adjusting hours to be more flexible, allowing telecommuting or even handing out more vacation time? Believe it or not, millenials can be dependable if they work under their own settings.

They Like to Give Back, So Make the Community a Priority

A 2010 Pew Research Center study found that millennials think helping people that need it is more important than having a job that pays well. Millenials are socially conscious, and they bring that attitude to their workplace.

As an employer, if you encourage community service or charity at your company, chances are millenial employees will jump on the opportunity. This encouragement will make millenials feel good about your company because they know you care about the people around you, just like they do. You can also use charitable donations as incentives for millennials. Where I work, our successes earn donations to a charity. Knowing that your work is helping those in need is a great motivator for millennials, and should not be neglected.


Millenials may be tricky to handle, but they aren’t wholly responsible for the understandable imbalance between them and older generations. A large part of motivating millenials is bringing yourself down from employer status to their level.

Figure out what’s important to them and know they are inseparable from screens. Remember they are motivated by purpose rather than an end goal, and they love to collaborate and ask questions. Together, you and your millenial employees will be able to innovate, learn and change the world.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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