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You’ve got to find their purpose

By Brianna Liestman

I read a lot of Millennial think pieces. It often feels like a form of masochism because so many people get my generation so wrong.

However, one article I found felt more on the nose. My favorite quote from the article will forever be this. I can only hope people who write generational trend pieces can really let it sink in:

"All generational research needs to be taken with a grain of salt, given that we don't have data that has followed older generations' attitudes over time."

This article, posted on Fast Company, discussed the idea that Millennials are more motivated by “meaningful work” than other generations. Free pizza or rec rooms with foosball tables won’t cover it.

However, that concept is a little bogus. Millennials are motivated by a sense of purpose in their job but older generations were just as equally motivated when they were young. It’s not a concept unique to those of us born into a world that has always had the internet – Millennials just have a louder platform (i.e. social media) to voice their feelings.

Think about your own career: Would you put up with all the headaches that come with working in this industry if you didn’t love boating? It’s not always easy working in the boating industry, but a sense of purpose is what probably drew you to this occupation.

The article notes that research suggests that most people – Millennials or otherwise – would continue working even if they didn’t need the money. This means managers need to identify what the motivation is for employees, not create it themselves (see above: free pizza and foosball won’t motivate people). Many managers default to using money, and while everyone wants to earn a good wage, once an equitable salary is achieved for an employee his or her needs and goals go way beyond a paycheck – regardless of whether or not he or she is a Millennial.

As Dierickx sees it, what's been true long before there were Millennials in the workforce will remain true long after they’ve left it: ‘You have to know your people,’ and you can rarely do that by surveying them en masse and then offering raises or instituting ‘engagement' programs. Purpose is much more personal, and that's what makes it such a powerful motivator—now and always and for everyone.

So if you’re trying to keep Millennials working at your company, click away from the think pieces and really start to understand the young people who have their boots on the ground in your business. You’ll get more answers from them than any article you could read. Except for this one, of course.

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