Let’s start with what we can all agree upon—it’s good for employees to be motivated and isn’t so good when they’re not. So the question then becomes, why is it that organizations continue to struggle with motivating employees? In our work with Millennials, Indifference on the part of Millennials is one of the perceived orientations of thousands of managers we interviewed. What was not clear was the intrinsic value driving indifference — their need to find meaning in their work. Connecting their need for meaning to their work is the key to motivating Millennials – and the rest of us too.

We know Millennials care about many things, and many of their concerns will make the world a better place. They see their work-life as a part of that endeavor. It’s no accident that the largest club at Harvard Business School is The Social Enterprise Club.

Yet what’s true for Millennials is also true for the rest of us. The difference is that older generations were willing to put up with just working for a paycheck. The younger generation has been raised with an aversion to the exclusive stick and carrot—punishment and reward—kind of motivation.

Motivation is the underlying reason a person has for behaving in a particular way. The default style management has traditionally used to motivate their employees in past years is the stick and carrot. The weakness of this system is being exposed by numerous scientific studies and experiments. For starters, if the incentive isn’t compelling it doesn’t work. If the reward doesn’t take into consideration the employees innate interests, how they are hardwired, or natural sense of intrigue, the result could be demotivation.

So the question becomes:

  • What rewards do employees value?
  • What kinds of incentives might a company use to influence employee behavior?
  • In addition to compensation, what other rewards can be used to motivate people?
  • And a more basic question is, what’s more powerful, intrinsic or extrinsic motivation?

If you want to know how to motivate Millennials, then Managing The Milliennials, 2nd Edition is a valuable resource for you.

There is a mismatch between what science knows and business does. The stick and carrot was okay for twentieth century tasks, but for twenty-first century tasks the mechanistic punishment and reward approach doesn’t work. And further, it often does harm!

The best strategy for motivating the Millennial workforce is not to do more of the wrong things. A new approach built around intrinsic motivation makes us more creative, and it makes us feel like we are a part of something important.

In our research, we discovered that Millennials do care deeply about many things. The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA reported that the entering freshmen class of 2005 showed a distinctive and widespread rise in attitudes reflecting social concerns and civic responsibility behaviors compared with previous generations. Two out of three (66.3 percent) report they believe it is essential or very important to help others who are in difficulty, the highest this figure has been in the past 25 years. An all-time high of 83.2 percent report that they volunteered at least occasionally during their high-school senior year, and 70.6 percent report that they typically volunteered on a weekly basis.

Stick and carrot management work well if you want compliance. But if you want engagement, commitment works better. Many studies and examples across the board show that productivity goes up, engagement goes up, and turnover goes down. When engagement goes down, older generations might quit and stay, but Millennials will quit and leave. And they take their information with them.

Does money matter? Absolutely! Paying people adequately and fairly is important. But it’s simply the threshold of motivation. It gets you in the door. Get the money (and bonuses) off the table, and then start motivating intrinsically with autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

In  Managing The Milliennials, 2nd Edition when we use the phrase motivate the indifferent, we are not suggesting that you can put motivation into unmotivated people. It is a fruitless exercise and usually ends with the manager frustrated. However, you can create an environment conducive to self-motivation.

Managing The Milliennials, 2nd Edition can help you do that.


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