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Millennials and their impact on the workplace often hit the headlines – and for good reason. Millennials, or Generation Y, already make up more than half of the workforce and, in less than a decade, will account for three quarters of all UK workers. Not only will this generation slowly begin to dominate every workplace across the globe, but with them they will bring a new way of working, and therefore a new way to manage talent in order to coax the best out of this young workforce.

millenialsBusinesses, have to keep pace with this change and adapt accordingly if they are going to attract and retain the most sought after talent in their industry. But, what do Millennials actually want from their employers? Is it a higher wage? Increased job satisfaction? Flexible working? There is no simple answer, but what we do know is that workplace benefits continue to be a driving force of job satisfaction and happiness across every age group. At the heart of it, Millennials want the same thing every employee does. To be recognised for their hard work and to have management that can lead them to success.

A recent report, The Rewards Report, from Red Letter Days For Business shows that nearly half of Gen-Y were not rewarded by their employer in 2015. The most rewarded age group last year was 25-34 year olds (77% were rewarded) and 35-44 year olds (69% were rewarded).

This low recognition figure for Generation Y is concerning. It shows employers are not doing enough to engage with the younger generation and this combined with high turnover rates and greater freelance and entrepreneurial opportunities, means that if organisations want to retain these younger workers then need to do more to keep them motivated and engaged with the company.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Our Rewards Report shows that there is scope for improvement when it comes to employers making a firm decision to relate with and engage their youngest staff members. In fact, increasingly we are seeing more and more businesses waking up to the benefits of properly incentivising staff to help them become more productive at work.

But how can businesses effectively motivate Millennials – the workforce of the future?

  1. Flexibility

This generation thrives on flexibility. Softer perks, such as working from home or flexihours not only boosts their motivation but also their productivity.

Red Letter Days’ for Business’ ‘What’s killing UK productivity 2015’ shows that when 18-24 year olds work from home a quarter said they would work eight to nine hours, compared to seven hours when in the office.

  1. Listen to them

As most of us spend a good proportion of our week at work, employees that feel listened to and that they have an impact on their environment with opinions that are valued feel more empowered. It’s a well-known fact that senior management can have a profound influence over an employee’s desire to remain with an organisation and its not different for Millennials. Managers that listen to their employees naturally create more empowered employees.

Empowered employees are not only more productive but also more loyal. Take the time to organise regular formal or informal meetings to listen to their ideas and make them feel valued.

Not every idea will be a game changer or reinvent the wheel and not every idea can be implemented on a company-wide level. However, if you can implement a few changes it will push their engagement levels up and make them more loyal to the business.

  1. Create a sense of purpose

Numerous studies have found that Millennials are finely attuned to philanthropic and societal concerns with many making this a key factor in their career choices. Creating a deeply compelling ethos and vision of what your company is positively contributing to society will help attract this generation who readily site a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work at their current employer.

Create opportunities and time for your employees to undertake or participate in initiatives or charitable causes and concerns that are personally important to them, particularly Millennials who are driven by the idea of doing for the greater good.

  1. Have a good work/life balance

When Millennials taking part in Red Letter Days For Business’ Employee Motivation report (January 2016) were asked what they wanted from their employer in 2016: extra annual leave (18%) and flexi-time (13%) ranked in the top five things, scoring higher than a promotion (8%). Help your younger generation to take advantage of a better work life balance by providing them with the necessary skills and autonomy to define how and when they work (within reason) around their personal commitments.

  1. Encourage learning and embrace technology

Millennials are digitally savvy. They grew up in world dominated by social connectivity, were the first to experience wireless and are regular adopters of new technology. Subsequently they expect to be able to use technology to empower them both in the workplace and personally. They use technology as a means to drive communication and innovate. Ensuring your business stays ahead of technological advancements and adapts to new ways of communication including instant messaging, blogging, social media and video within the workplace is imperative to maintaining their interest. Use these tools to exchange ideas, create open forums and collaborate across teams, departments or even with your global counterparts.

In addition, learning new skills plays a huge part in Millennials career ambitions. They are inspired by risk averse, dynamic self-starters and thrive on entrepreneurial spirt. By adopting a more ‘can do’ attitude within the workplace and encouraging them to embrace the idea that anything is possible through learning and experimentation, your business will benefit from increased enthusiasm, energy and innovation. This doesn’t need to be expensive long term study commitments. Send employees to leadership events and industry conferences, bring in experienced and qualified speakers and encourage them to openly teach and share their own expertise internally in informal meetings with the rest of their team.

  1. A manager who says thank you

Finally, when you do have a Millennial employee who is doing a great job, make sure they are rewarded and recognised by personally and publicly thanking them. Despite many of us thinking this generation want something for nothing, they’re actually very much like the rest of us and a thank you will go a long way.

In fact, when Gen-Y were asked for The Rewards Report research what rewards they wanted from their employer in 2016, a verbal thank you from a manager ranked at third place (19%), not too far behind overtime pay in second place (21%), with cash bonus in first place (40%).

By Bill Alexander CEO of Red Letter Days For Business