Twentysomething: 7 Ways to motivate your millennial


By Ryan Healy – I want to work, I want to grow and I want to learn. What I’d really like is challenging, fascinating projects and the perfect mentor. The typical entry-level job doesn’t always allow this to happen. Below are a few simple ways to keep me interested and motivated.

1. Be Spontaneous
You don’t have to make any drastic changes. Something as small as going out for a long lunch with a few co workers could be enough to keep me from going insane in my cubicle. If you want to get a little crazy, tell me to go home at 1pm every once in a while – and really mean it. If I think you don’t really mean it, I won’t use it. Even holding a scheduled meeting in a different location, like a local coffee shop or deli can throw a wrench in the status quo.

2 Give me feedback
I love feedback. In fact, I need fairly consistent feedback and encouragement to know if I am performing up to par or not. And bring on the criticism. In fact, if I know that I’m not doing something right I will ask you how to improve, so be prepared to give me some guidance as well. Further, if I exceed your expectations on something please let me know. This won’t go to my head and I won’t think I am overqualified for the job, I just need an idea of what is expected from me.

3. Ask for feedback
I understand that a lower level employee does not typically openly critique their superiors, but why shouldn’t we? We are the ones who see your management style first hand and know what works and what doesn’t. The key to this one is providing an open, knowledge sharing atmosphere where no one will take offense or belittle anyone else.

If a manager makes it clear to me that they want honest feedback about their performance, I have no problem giving both positive feedback and constructive criticism. The normal performance evaluation gives the impression that you are the teacher and I am being graded. A two way performance evaluation will greatly increase communication and allow for a more engaged relationship.

4. An Optional Reward System
Sometimes a minimal percentage raise is not the most exciting reward for someone who will probably just put it toward their massive college loan debt or next week’s happy hour. A bonus is a more exciting performance reward for me, but an optional performance reward system would be a great way to keep me motivated.

For a twenty-two-year-old, an extra few days of vacation time is a lot more exciting then a small percentage raise that is barely noticeable after taxes. Other options might include extra flex time or occasionally working from home. I’m sure if you asked your twentysomething about possible performance rewards they would come back with a page full of options the very next day.

5. Keep me in the loop
Not having any idea about major business events on the horizon can be really frustrating. I realize there is often confidential information that needs to stay in the hands of upper management, but I want to understand where I fit in. For example, if I’m on the iMac team then it’s fine if you don’t tell me about the iPhone. But if you want me to do work on the iPhone, you have to tell explain to me what I’m working on. If you don’t trust me to keep confidential information confidential, you should fire me.

What makes business fun is seeing how management operates and executes on its strategies. I like hearing what you are working on and thinking about. Not only will this keep me interested and motivated, but it’s a great learning experience for someone who will eventually be in a management position. Also, I like to have some input. You probably won’t take my advice, but hearing a different perspective can’t hurt.

6. Be my friend
Don’t worry I don’t want to be your drinking buddy, and I’m not going to tell you my deepest, darkest secrets. But a little friendly interaction goes a long way. This could mean talking sports for a few minutes in the office or going out for a quick lunch and discussing both work related and non-work-related issues.

I have an excellent relationship with my manager right now. Not only do we get along in the office, but we play in a non-work-related basketball league together. This has created an actual friendship that doesn’t always revolve around work. And it transfers over to the job by creating a loyalty to my manager that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

7. It doesn’t hurt to smile
I can’t think of anything that would turn me off more than a manager who comes in every day with a scowl on their face, looking like they can’t wait to go home. If I have any plans of staying with the company, then most likely my goal will be to move up the ranks and take over my manager’s position.

If I see that this person does not enjoy what they are doing, then why would I want to stick around to take over that position? Obviously, I can make up my own mind about whether or not a job is a good fit for me, but dealing with a disgruntled manager every day will send me running for the exits. Be positive and at least pretend you enjoy your job.

If you don’t think these techniques will work, go ahead and ask your twentysomething what they think, I bet you will get some good feedback.

24 replies
  1. AjiNIMC
    AjiNIMC says:

    I call them touch-me-not generation, they can work as hard as you want but do not shout at them without understanding the problem. They are not here to screw up anything, if something is screwed up then there are more reasons behind it. [b]Treat them as co-workers not juniors and they will make you the true senior[/b].

    Many points can be clubbed under one point, “make them partners to the business”.

    Wow, bullseye, Most motivational sentence for any co-worker, “Go home early”. Keep posting

  2. Susan
    Susan says:

    These are great ideas, but I’ve never had a manager use any of them (leave early?! extra vacation days?! ha!). The attitude has always been “you adapt to me” and never the other way around. It’s a shame.

  3. Maureen Rogers
    Maureen Rogers says:

    Ryan – Nice job! Your insights are terrific and your writing is clear and sharp. Very enjoyable reading.

    As for your list, I’m no longer in a corporation, running a group, but “in the day” (not that long ago) I managed a team with a mix of twenty-, thirty-forty-, and fifty-somethings. Your list is excellent,and, frankly, cuts across all age groups as effective management practice.One other thing I also found that people liked was getting some visibility higher up in the organization. So I was always on the lookout for opportunities for the junior folks to be able to be in meetings with/present to my boss, or the higher-ups. After all, they knew more about what they were working on than I did…

  4. Dave
    Dave says:

    You’re right about feedback. It also gives me the motivation to do better. Whether it’s positive or negative, it’s still a manifestation of a change in performance. It means that I have to do it better when others think that it needs improvement or I have to do it better to prove that I am worthy of admiration.

  5. Rahul
    Rahul says:

    I work at a company where all of these points are in effect. Should I feel special?

    * * * * * * *

    You should feel like your company is special.


  6. Richard
    Richard says:

    You have GOT to be kidding me —

    “I want to work, I want to grow and I want to learn. What I'd really like is challenging, fascinating projects and the perfect mentor. The typical entry-level job doesn't always allow this to happen. Below are a few simple ways to keep me interested and motivated….”

    This entire column is ridiculous. “Be Spontaneous? Ask for feedback?” (what — from you, to a managing partner — he/she is not your parent.) And my personal favorite — Be my friend.

    Hey chief, how about one motivator — a paycheck. It’s worked for thousands of years…

    If this column is not satire (possible) or a belated April Fool’s joke, this has got to be one of the most cossetted generations in history.

    I suggest you rent “Glengarry Glen Ross” while your cube-neighbor is gunning for the corner office.

  7. Rahul
    Rahul says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t consider a paycheck the primary motivator in my professional life. I don’t know about you, but I do in fact place a lot more value in a boss who acts like a real person. In fact I’d exchange a couple hundred bucks from my paycheck for a workplace with all of the abovementioned factors.

  8. Mary Baum
    Mary Baum says:

    I’m not sure this list is peculiar to Gen Y. I would have liked some of these things twenty-five years ago.

    And if I went back into a full-time situation today, it would be nice to have some of them then too.

  9. Mitch Matthews
    Mitch Matthews says:

    This is great Penelope!

    I just wanted to let you know that it was the PERFECT compliment to my blog post this morning! So… thanks for the confirmation!

    I love it!

    Thanks… and know that I linked to you on this.

    Keep up the great work!

  10. Adam Khoo
    Adam Khoo says:

    I’m at work now (well sort since I’m reading this) and I just found this post. The truth is, I’m not really motivated and I know how important this subject is. I know how much better (and more efficient) I work if I am more motivated and when I look at how my company handles this I can’t help but wonder how they’ve maneged to become as successful as they are (no, I’m not telling you where I work).
    I think that the most important thing (for me at least) is that I want them to keep me in the loop. If I know exactly what I’m working towards and can clearly see and envision the end product, I can actually enjoy working. I do. And if I have to stay a bit longer that day, it’s not nearly as difficult.
    I just wish my boss would read this, but there’s not way I’m sending him the link. Well… back to work.

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