Exposing Some Truths About Motivating Millennials In The Workplace

November 8, 2010 4 Comments

Tanveer Naseer guest posted at my blog recently an article entitled “Leadership Failure In Our Education System.” I returned the favor by guest posting at his site an article entitled “Exposing Some Truths About Motivating Millennials In The Workforce.”

There is a strong perception that millennials are radically different and harder to manage than the rest of the workforce, and there is no shortage of consultants feeding that perception and selling snake oil to solve the “problem.” The truth is the hype about generational differences in the workforce FAR exceeds the evidence, which is largely anecdotal. A new study I review in my post shows that the work values of millennials are not that much different than the rest of the generations in the workforce, which means the “problem” of managing younger workers is largely a mirage.

The study did confirm that younger workers do have a sense of entitlement, meaning they strongly value extrinsic rewards (e.g. pay, promotion) but are less willing than previous generations to put in long hours to work for those rewards. More than any other generation, younger workers value leisure and time away from work.

The study also confirmed that across all generations, intrinsic rewards remain highly valued. Contrary to popular belief, there really is very little new under the sun when it comes to the fundamentals of motivating behavior at work.

Please click this link and visit Tanveer’s site to read the entire article. While you are there, take a look around at the rest of his blog – he has great content.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Bret, I agree with your comment about most research on Millennials being anecdotal. As a trainer once told me, “the plural of anecdote is not data”. It’s a tad dangerous to assume that all Millennials are one way based on our experiences with a couple of them. We also sometimes forget that most of the Millennials are still teenagers, or just out of High School .No one really knows what they’ll be like in the professional world.

    The best (and possibly only) exception to the anecdotal research is done by Reginald Bibby and James Penner. They have published numerous books on Canadian teenagers, and their data is developed from the surveys Bibby and his research crew have been running since the 1970′s. They have asked the same questions to the same age group at multiple times. The differences in answers are fascinating. They can actually say with merit what has changed in the mindsets of teenagers, and it’s great information to review.

    Of course, the research is Canadian, and may or may not apply to the US. Check out http://www.reginaldbibby.com if you are interested.

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Tim! I’ve not heard of the research you cite, but I will check it out. Thanks! Bret

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  2. Matthew Spaur says:

    I realize that this is an anecdotal comment instead of research, but here goes. Every since Gen Y has been in the workplace, I’ve enjoyed working with them. Overall, in three very different workplaces, I’ve found them to be as productive and motivated as anyone while also being more pleasant to work with and easier to collaborate with. For me this has been true as a manager, a colleague, and a mentor. I consider myself on the leading edge of Gen X, and probably fit many of the Gen X characteristics. I can’t wait for the Boomers to exit the workforce and have the true capabilities of the Millenials unleashed.

    [Reply]

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Most of what we hear about Gen Y is just hype, so claims that they are significantly different from other cohorts are exaggerated. Thanks for sharing! bret

    [Reply]

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