When is tough love too tough? One Gen-Xer’s view on motivating Millennials

Let’s face it, Millennials already make up more than half the workforce. That may differ from organization to organization, but most of the companies I work with are actively faced with the challenge of motivating and engaging employees across the generations, when the generations have such different characteristics. And – newsflash, there just aren’t enough of us Gen X-ers around to step into the leadership roles that will begin opening up as the last of the Traditionalists and Boomers move on!

We’re going to be relying on Millennials to start running our organizations in the next 5 years.

I think it’s pretty natural for people to feel a bit of animosity towards the folks in the generation that follows them. I remember the Boomers before me scoffing “who do you think you are? You haven’t paid your dues yet” when I first entered the workforce, believing I could change the world. Now, 20 years later, I hear myself thinking the same thoughts about Millennials.

But then I stop to think about the changes that, by and large, Millennials aredemanding.

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They want to be treated with respect from the moment they enter the workforce.

Hmm. That doesn’t sound so bad. I like respect. And why would I hire someone I don’t respect into a position that I work fairly closely with? I’m going to see them all the time, so should I hire someone worthy of my respect? Shame on me if I don’t.

They want to understand what’s going on in the organization around them.

This includes the business goals, organization’s success, and the strategies to achieve that success. Gosh, I like to know what’s driving my organization and what we’re aiming for. That level of information allows me to opt in and decide to go for it. So yes! Of course I want to share this information with the Millennials I work with.

They want to know how compensation decisions are made

and in fact business decisions overall. This is one element of transparency that we talk with organizations about all the time. We help organizations get ready to be transparent all the time; what does it take? Cleaning house. But it’s important to clean house – not just because clean houses are nice – but because it turns out that employees are less concerned about being paid highly than they are about being paid fairly. Nowhere is this heightened sense of fairness truer than amongst Millennials. But hey – I like being paid fairly too!

They expect their organizations to have a positive impact on the world around them.

Ok, I’ll admit, as a person who developed my career in non-profit settings, my first response was to balk. Companies aren’t supposed to have values and change the world for the better and feel good – that’s the job of non-profits. But why? Why can’t companies do better?

Growing up, I was the kid who asked why why why until I was blue in the face. By the time I joined the workforce, I stopped expecting an answer. Kudos to Millennials for expecting their companies to answer the question why! Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk encourages companies to dig far past the how and the what to the why – why do they exist?! At PayScale, we’ve answered our ‘Why’ and it’s a huge rallying cry for the whole organization – across all generations.

So, as a Gen-Xer, leading a team of Millennials, I guess I really just want to say Thank You! Thanks for expecting us to be more. Thanks for opening a few doors so we could all choose to walk through them.



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2 Comments on "When is tough love too tough? One Gen-Xer’s view on motivating Millennials"

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Michael hall

I want to know if one of your employees was made to move out of my life and take my daughter . if there was some policy that made her lie to me.

Guilherme Duarte

Great article! Here ate Tap My Back we focus our attention on how to motivate and engage millennials and your thoughts are very insightful, thank you for sharing.

Build stronger teams – http://www.tapmyback.com