THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want - part 2 - Gen X
THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want - part 4 - Generation Z

THE GENERATION GAP: Motivation & What Employees Want - Part 3 - Millennials


Welcome back to our motivational analysis of the Generation Gap. In the previous article (2 of 4) we covered Generation X. Today, we’re looking at Millennials.

Millennials: ‘80 – ‘95 


Millennials are an unusual generation, perhaps one might even say unique, because they grew up at the intersection of an analog (aka, a pre-digital) world, and the digital one. Millennials remember cassette tapes, VHS, and the floppy disc. They witnessed the birth of the internet in the same way as the previous two generations. But, they were young enough that they also grew up with this digital revolution. This means that Millennials are for the most part very tech-savvy. Navigating interfaces and software comes naturally to them, as does adopting new hardware. This is correlated with the Expert motivator—something they share with the Boomer generation, although perhaps it expresses itself in different mediums and forms.

Millennials are also all about friendship and collaboration. It’s significant that Millennials are often criticised for their expensive social lives—particularly by the Boomer generation—and we can see from the broad strokes of this motivational analysis why that would be. Relationship motivators are largely antithetical to the whole modus operandi of the Boomer, who is all about work, work, work. But Millennials like strong social ties. Not to digress too much into the personal, but I am a Boomer and my son is a Millennial. I have many close, intense friendships, but they tend to be one-to-one. My son, on the other hand, is part of several large (they seem almost unwieldy to me) social groups. This might be to do with personality, of course, but I think it’s interesting that he and his friends (who we must bear in mind are virtually all Millennials themselves) have stuck together for decades. Clearly, it’s a big priority in their lives. But what might this mean from a work perspective? In short, Millennials play well with others. They like to collaborate. They like to get a second opinion. And they embody the acronym for TEAM: Together Each Achieves More.

The final thing to observe about Millennials is they are often focused on the “greater good”, aka, ethical causes such as the environmental crisis, fair wages, and justice. This correlates to the Searcher motivator, which is characterised by the desire to make a difference.


In exchange for expertise, a collaborative outlook, and strong values, Millennials on the whole desire an empathetic employer. Again, this is a subtle shift from Generation X, who above all wanted trust. Trust is important, but tends to be more logical or “left brain”. Empathy of course is more emotional and right brain. To me this suggests they want not just a Friend motivator in their employer, but also someone who cares about them as a person and who identifies with the same causes that they do, hence the Searcher motivator—an employer who is looking to make a difference on both a macro and micro scale. This is also reflected in their day-to-day activities. Millennials dislike drudgery (unlike the Boomer, who might be okay with drudgery if it brings home cash), and want work that is meaningful and aligned with their ethical values. The best thing one can do for Millennials—if we’re speaking in broad terms—is to show them the outcome of their hard work. Show them the house they built, the client they made a difference too, the impact their project had on those in need.

As we have seen, Millennials have grown up with an ever-changing technological landscape, therefore they like to keep up-to-date, and hence training and development is critically important. Expert motivators don’t just like to remain static, relying on previous learning, but to continually acquire new learning in an effort of self-improvement.

So now we understand a little bit more about Millennials. In the next and final article, we’ll be looking at the youngest generation, Generation Z. As we shall see, their motivational trends look very different. Stay tuned for more information on closing the generation gap!


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