How to Lead and Motivate Millennials: 7 Practical ideas that ACTUALLY work!

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I am technically a generation X’er and have had success developing members of this new workforce.  It’s tempting to over generalize a population of people. But some of the research shown from ”Mentoring Millennials” written by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd highlights a few key areas that will help us to stay connected to this new generation.  They do not remember a time without cell phones, email, texting or the Internet.  We are so connected that we are disconnected and find that the younger generation (Ages 21-30) have a different expectation, work ethic, and communication abilities. Everything is either text or email. I will attempt to offer a combination of commentary, sentiment and statistics shared by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd.


What do millennials want?  Here is what some of the research has uncovered:

Millennials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” by it. For that reason, they place a strong emphasis on finding work that’s personally fulfilling.

 What they want from their boss:

  1. Help navigating their career and to move to the next level quickly
  2. To be mentored and coached
  3. They are comfortable with flexible schedules and prefer formal programs

 What they want from their company:

  1. Opportunities to develop future skills
  2. Have strong values
  3. Allows for the integration of work and life
  4. Advancement opportunities that happen quickly

They are accustomed to getting immediate results and flexible enough to adapt quickly to new technologies and work environments.  Therefore, they will change jobs and careers frequently.

7 Easy Steps to Mentoring Millennials:

1)  Be a Mentor!  Be the model for workplace behavior by demonstrating how a task should be executed in great detail.  Include a timeline and set performance expectations up front.  Provide them with additional resources.  Millennials are fairly new to the workforce and do not have the level of expertise and real world experience that establishes professionalism.  Some of these lessons were learned early on by my generation because we all had jobs prior to college.  The statistics in the article show that the new generation has not had the level of work experience prior to high school graduation.  The character building years of working as a waiter, yard worker, grocery checker, or afterschool labor jobs were replaced with afterschool activities and high tech hobbies.  Again, keep in mind that this is an over generalization to some degree.  The fact remains that this new labor force didn’t have the paper routes that their predecessors had.  The world and the way we do things has changed culturally.  Who has the paper delivered anymore?  Who actually uses the post office anymore?  That is old school!

2)  The boomer generation is a valuable resource.  These two groups can mentor each other.  The boomers are closer to the age of the parents of most millennials and can gain from their years of experience.  The Boomers can learn from the millennials new technologies, skills and business practices.  Therefore, these two groups can mentor each other.

3)  Stay Positive.  Be optimistic and provide regular constructive feedback.  Avoid confrontation with this group and focus on clearly defined roles and expectations.  This group is responsive to transparency.  They put all of their information out there.  The gen Xer and boomers are more inclined towards discretion.

So here is the key takeaway:  Keep all lines of communications open.  Yes, this may include excessive emailing and texting.  Let them know how to best communicate to you as well.  Set some guidelines for communication or you will be bombarded by text, email etc.

4)  Encourage them to share their ideas. (show them that they are valued)  Resist the urge to treat them like children or a much younger sibling.  Be open to their ideas even if they differ from traditional business practices.  This generation thinks out of the box and can present solutions that have never been used before.  Tap into this energy and you will stay current.

5)  Define Work Expectations.  Provide millennials with concrete examples of what is expected in their job.  Offer constructive criticism with some possible solution options that include measurable results.

6)  Surround them with a team of management resources.  I have created a formal mentoring program for this group in the past and it was highly effective.  Creating opportunities to learn based around a project or task.  This could include travel with a sales representative, tradeshow participation or the attendance at a conference.

 7)  Add freedom and a degree of fun to the workplace.  Enable the millennials to have some autonomy.  Give them the ability to work independently but be available to answer questions or offer guidance as needed.


Try to remember what it was like when you first hit the working world and the mentors that you have had over the years. I have been fortunate to have several former bosses that I still consider mentors to me. I now provide them with networking resources as well. I also had to learn how to be a mentor.

We all face challenges. No one can escape being banged up and bruised along the way. This new generation is graduating with record debt. They are not impervious to this challenging economic climate. The value of challenging times is the wisdom you take from these life lessons. Some challenges we handle with grace and ease. Some we fail or struggle.  Each experience, good and bad has taught us something along the way.

Take a deep breath, be patient.   Remember what it was like just starting out and mentor these young minds with the wisdom you have learned thus far in your career. Technology and the economy have changed the way we live and work.

Embrace change and adapt…or become obsolete.

4 thoughts on “    How to Lead and Motivate Millennials: 7 Practical ideas that ACTUALLY work!”

    1. Be who you are. Help your boss find solutions and support the development goals of the team. Your boss will only think you are a slacker… if you are in fact a slacker. Nothing can replace initiative and the will to succeed. It is more valuable then natural ability. There are a lot of educated derelicts in this world. But raw ambition and drive are hard to come by.

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