The key motivation factors in the workplace have shifted along generations, from job security to promotions and career evolution. But more recently, even high paychecks and bonuses don’t seem to matter that much for the new generation.

Managing millennials: a new challenge

Indeed, for this new generation, work cannot just be a trivial, down-to-earth activity to make a living. Millennials tend to treat work as an experience, competing with other activities and hobbies. It has to be exciting, fulfilling, rewarding. What’s the point of waking up if it’s just to earn a salary?

As a result, historical incentives don’t work anymore: bonus, promotion, and profit-sharing are unable to motivate employees on their own. Indeed, millennials don’t share their elders’ unbreakable loyalty to their company and can switch easily to a more attractive one – or just leave their job to travel around the world.

In the same time, attracting and retaining the best talents is of strategic importance for companies. As the environment becomes increasingly competitive, key resources are companies’ most valuable asset. And the process of recruiting and training new employees on a specific job can be very costly. So, here are the 4 main drivers to attract, motivate and retain millennial workers.

Drivers that work for the millennial worker

Some say that millennials are not interested in working, are lazy and disobedient. That’s wrong, studies prove that they are, as much as their elders, committed to their work. But they are also sensitive to different incentives. And if companies want to attract and retain the best talents, managers need to adapt to these changes and better understand their drivers:

Empowerment and ownership

It’s not that millennial workers don’t accept hierarchy – on the contrary, they strive for a mentor that would make them learn and grow. But they do want to feel empowered, to own their project and be responsible, for better or for worse. Feeling like the simple executant of a task that was decided outside of them drive millennials crazy – you can be sure that they’ll quickly lose their motivation, hence their productivity.

How is your company organized? Are all decisions taken by the top managers of each branch or do you leave some responsibility to project owners?


What’s the worst for a millennial at work? To feel like in a prison at work. In order to be motivated and efficient, they want to feel free to organize their day as they wish. They may have a look at Facebook to take a break during their work day, and then answer an email from work at night, from their couch.

Millennials also value work-life balance: they want their company to be understanding and flexible about office hours. Arriving later for the late-sleepers or leaving earlier for those who need or want to shouldn’t be a problem. Likewise, millennials really appreciate the freedom to work remotely, at least once in a while.

Is your company more focused on effort or results? Have you implemented a remote-work policy?

A bigger goal

Work shouldn’t be “just” about making a living, it has to be meaningful. Millennials want to adhere to their company’s values and goal. They want to earn a good living while doing work that matters. According to a Deloitte study, millennials feel accountable for many issues worldwide. Opportunities to be involved with “good causes” at the local level provide millennials with a greater feeling of influence – even better if enabled by their employers.

Have you defined company values that go beyond economic profit? Do you take on pro bono missions, actively participate in associations or encourage your employees to do so?

Opportunities to learn and grow

The digital generation is keen on learning and acquiring new competencies. The knowledge acquired during university is no longer sufficient and quickly irrelevant. Wikipedia, MOOCs, online diplomas, videos, serious games… everything works to help the millennials grow.

Managers and human resources would better get up to speed. Having a comprehensive learning and development program makes a difference when it’s time to choose the company to work for – and to stick with.

Have you updated your learning and development programs to better fit the company’s needs? Do you take into account employees’ wishes? How much of your payroll do you spend on learning and development?

New forms of work in the digital economy

In our digital world, not only the motivation drivers have changed, the work itself is evolving. More and more people choose to work remotely, or even go freelance. And the impact on managers is enormous.

Indeed, freelance workers already make up 35% of the US workforce and 24% in Europe – and the numbers keep growing. Who knows where this trend can drive us? Imagine a world where workers are no longer employed by a single company, but provide services for different companies according to the business needs and their competencies. Of course this situation would require some evolutions in terms of freelance security and rights.

In this futuristic world, managers are conductors of a multi-located team of workers. They have to get everyone aligned with the company’s strategic objectives and working towards the same goal, despite their time engagement on the project (a few hours, a few days per week, …). Managers will have to leverage new technologies and communication tools in order to share the company culture and foster a sense of belonging to the company. Understanding individual aspirations and feelings will be crucial to the overall performance of the team.

Managers, be prepared: your job is about to change drastically.

Special thanks to our hipster friends, Tristan Laffontas and Nicolas Noullet, for their feedback on this article.


With TeamMood, make your team great!