I recently gave a keynote on the topic of employee engagement. After my presentation, I was asked the following question, “What strategies do you use to motivate millennials?” I paused for a moment to gather my thoughts and then responded, “I believe all this debate about millennials is overblown. I motivate millennials in the workplace the same way I motivate everyone else.” To my surprise this short, simple answer was met with applause.
Since this presentation, I have talked more intentionally to other leaders and employees (both millennials and others) about the impact and role of millennials in the workplace.
The reactions have been varied. One manager declared, “I have hired three millennials in the past year and they have all either quit or I have had to fire them; I won’t hire another millennial again.” Another small business owner (who is also a millennial) expressed, “All my employees are in the millennial generation, and I am open to having employees from any generation. In my industry millennials are a definite plus.”
While my conversations with others about millennials were not consistent, I became more firm in my belief that we need to move beyond the millennial question. It is important to note that I don’t view myself as a generational expert, but I do lead an organization that has multiple generations represented. Based on my experience, here are a few things I have learned:
Let’s get back to the question about motivating millennials that I received after my keynote address. I would never get asked the following questions: “What strategies to you use to motivate (insert a gender),” or “What strategies do you use to motivate (insert an ethnic group)?” Think about how absurd those questions are. And yet people who would never ask these questions are comfortable asking the millennial question.
Please, let’s move beyond the millennial question and stop stereotyping millennials.
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