Motivating and Maintaining Millennials

 Motivating and Maintaining Millennials


By Alex Danza

Millennials are radically different – no doubt. They are the “can do” generation, never worrying about failure. They are extremely focused on developing themselves and thrive on learning new job skills, always setting new challenges to achieve. Positive and confident, millennials are ready to take on the world. So what’s the key to managing their expectations while maintaining high-performing businesses? Meeting the challenge lies in learning what makes millennials tick.

This generation must be lured with the promise of future growth, coaching and development, and most importantly, evidence they are going to be part of something bigger than the “job.” Millennials thrive in creating something totally new and innovative from the ground floor. And with the right leadership, they’ll develop into top talent, as tomorrow’s leaders laying the groundwork for true loyalty.

Here are three methods to motivate and maintain millennials that work:

 Demonstrate Purpose

 Generation Y wants to be a part of something, invested in something, engaged in building something. This is not just a paycheck for them. They are founders, focused on career building only when it’s purpose-driven. It’s certainly not the “climb the corporate ladder and BMW at 40” group of the generation before them. This peer group thrives on a shared vision for the future and knowing they’re being developed, grown and groomed for great things.

Millennials must see a higher purpose than the bottom line. To demonstrate purpose over profit, constantly be talking about the future and describe for them what it looks like and where they will be in that future. This is especially important for folks who went away to college before the Great Recession. The picture of their future many had when they started was very different from the reality they faced graduating in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

As part of building the meaningful relationships they crave, let them have a say in how things are done. Put it in their job descriptions to come to management meetings and share process improvement ideas. Encourage them to share their thoughts on running the business, empowering them through communal contribution. They are smart enough to see the future of the idea. Instill in them that first hires with a track record of loyalty will one day be running the company.

Deliver Praise

 Millennials need constant feedback and in particular, praise, praise, and more praise. This group needs to hear – daily – they are doing a good job. Growing up, they were reassured of their achievements and were recognized with stars and trophies for those successes. Whether or not the trophy was deserved for each individual, the entire team received the positive reward. It is a generation that needs to continue feeling valuable, while adding their opinions and ideas to every company decision.

For every one piece of coaching, give twice as much praise. Constantly be on the lookout for concrete things to publicly praise. Don’t make it up . . . but when deserved, put it out there. Daily customer surveys really motivate the team. Send out a positive quote about an employee to the entire company. They thrive on seeing that their hard work and intense focus on service is appreciated. Interestingly, most don’t ask questions about financials, but many do inquire about what customers are saying about service.

Feature millennial employees in social media regularly. Commending these young workers where they live, at the intersection of cloud, mobile and social, is essential. Millennials pine for acknowledgement that their skills are essential to the success of a project. Recognition gives them the drive to contribute with passion.

Develop Potential

 Millennials seek leadership, and even structure, from their older and managerial coworkers, but expect their ideas to be drawn out and respected. They seek a challenge and do not want to experience boredom. They need to see where their career is going and they want to know exactly what they need to do to get there. They await their next challenge – and there better be a next challenge. It’s important to create career paths with a timeframe short enough for them to envision. Encourage . . . don’t squash them or contain them.

Generation Y wants to look up to mentors and learn from them. They want “in” on the whole picture and to know the scoop, and they desperately want to be heard. The best feedback sessions are interactive, so employees have the opportunity to share their feelings and ideas. Brainstorming together can be a very effective technique. For this group, directions during feedback sessions must be clear and specific and performance milestones should be delivered on a more frequent basis than once a year. Once a week might do the trick.

Because Millennials rarely hold back (they were taught not to), they are going to actively pursue the career they want. It’s not that they are not loyal – they are – and they will stay with an organization as long as their needs are being met. They are relationship-driven and desire meaningful relationships with repeat customers and a bond with a boss who is close, caring and aware. They want and deserve the very best investment of time in their success.


Leadership must inspire loyalty, as millennials cultivate careers providing not only monetary reward, but fulfillment and a sense of purpose beyond profit. They’re the rising workforce of the future and worth every effort to reinforce and retain.

Alex Danza is the founder and CEO of Vonlane, an executive luxury motor coach service catering to Texas business travelers. Vonlane began operating daily scheduled service between Dallas and Austin in May 2014, and has recently expanded service into Houston.


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