Leadership and career

5 Ways to Motivate Millennials and Gen Xers

By February 24, 2016 No Comments

We’re inundated with data on millennials — how they behave, what motivates them and what they like.

Employers are eager to learn about every aspect of their personalities. And rightfully so. Generation Y (also known as Millennials) is now the largest demographic in the workforce, so of course this is top of mind for employers who are looking to recruit and retain them.

However, employers would be well served to understand the differences and the similarities between motivating Millennials and Gen Xers. In many cases, Gen Xers, who are one generation older than Millennials, have the knowledge base that employers need in order to properly train Generation Y.

One surprising discovery, uncovered in a recent study of office workers — The Staples Advantage Workplace Index— is that Millennials are just as motivated by salary as their older cohorts, actually more so. Almost one-third of millennials (29 percent) report that higher salary is the biggest contributor to their loyalty, while 22 percent of Gen X report the same.

According to John Burke, Senior Vice President and Chief Culture Officer at Staples, it’s important for employers to understand what attracts both generations and keeps them happy. While more than one-third of Gen Xers consider title and work responsibilities along with work-life balance as leading contributors to their loyalty, Millennials prefer more unconventional benefits in the workplace.

Here are five surprising benefits millennials want – and how they compare to Gen X:

1. More Flexibility

More than half of Millennials report they work from home after the standard workday is done. Given this, it is no surprise that 49 percent say that more flexibility would improve their happiness. About 33 percent of Gen X feels the same.

2. Office Perks

A gym on site, a well-stocked break room and free lunches are valuable to Millennials. About 21 percent define a good work culture as one that offers incentives and perks, and nearly half (46 percent) say more office perks would improve their happiness. Office perks aren’t as significant to Gen Xers — 30 percent say more perks would improve their happiness.

3. Eco-friendliness

Going green isn’t just good for the environment, it can also help you recruit Millennial talent. When making an employment decision, half of all millennials say an eco-friendly company is important, compared to 37 percent of Gen X.

4. Encouraged Break Time and an Improved Break Room

More than one-third of Millennials (34 percent) say they feel too guilty to take a break, compared to 21 percent of Gen Xers. However, more than half of Millennials (62 percent) say having a break time to refresh would increase their productivity.

A well-stocked break room also leads to happier and more productive employees, less stress and a more social environment. According to Burke, employers need to do more than just offer healthy snacks and beverages. It’s important to think about the overall appeal of the break room so employees can truly take a break and go back to work refreshed.

5. Relationships with Managers and Trust in Leadership

Millennials who are not expecting to change jobs note that trust in leadership and in their direct boss contributes to their loyalty. This is one area where both generations share the same belief — 20 percent of Millennials and 19 percent of Gen Xers report that their direct boss motivates them to do their best work, and more than one-third of each generation note that strong leadership defines a good work culture.

Have you noticed these generational preferences in your workplace? If not, you probably will soon — so be prepared to respond accordingly.


Dana_ManciagliDana Manciagli is a career expert, speaker and consultant. She has spent more than 30 years as a Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive and is now retired after more than a decade at Microsoft. Dana is the author of the book, “Cut the Crap, Get a Job!” and a prolific blogger. She sits on the worldwide board of Junior Achievement and has her MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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