Look Mom! No Job! Mastering the Art of Millennial Motivation

Written by Joanna Morrow

Joanna Morrow, Principal and Founder of Employer Benefits & Advice, is an employer consultant and advocate who has worked in the employee benefits industry for over two decades. She works diligently to help employers overcome obstacles in their business by sharing her expertise in Human Resources, Benefits & Compensation, Process Mapping, Risk Management and ERISA/DOL/IRS compliance. She is a licensed life and health insurance professional in the State of Arizona and is an active member of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU).

Look Mom! No Job! Mastering the Art of Millennial Motivation

Throughout the decades, the one thing we hear over and over from politicians is the continued loss of jobs overseas. The solution? Job creation of course.

After all what’s a campaign platform without it? But scarier than the idea of continuing to lose jobs overseas is the realization that the skilled and dedicated labor force that once performed those jobs is rapidly eroding.

Now be really quiet… do you hear that? That’s the sound of crickets.

Because no one is talking about THAT 800 pound elephant in the room and how we plan to fix it. That is until now.

Last week I attended a luncheon sponsored by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) Association – Greater Phoenix chapter. The guest presenter was Dr. Bob Nelson, a speaker and author who travels the world teaching companies how to recognize, motivate, and retain employees.

Although the topic of his presentation was “The 5 Trends Shaping the Future of Work”, I noted some common themes throughout that kept coming back to a bigger problem.

The mentality of the up and coming workforce is in direct conflict with the values held by the generations that came before them, particularly as they relate to work.

It doesn’t mean all is lost, we just need to get past our frustration and work to understand what makes them tick so we can groom them toward behaviors that promote profitability.


Current Workforce By Generation Segment

Workforce by Generation

Interesting Workforce Stats

Dr. Nelson shared some stats that I found particularly interesting . . .

  • Last year the U.S. was short 3 million skilled workers in the manufacturing sector alone.
  • U.S. workers rank last in tech skills when compared to 18 industrial countries.
  • When it comes to Millennials the average tenure with any one company is 1.8 years.
  • Millennials will represent 75% of the workforce by 2025.
  • Employers spend $15-25K on average to replace every Millennial who leaves the organization.
  • Since 2000 multi-national companies have shed 2.9 million U.S. workers and hired 2.4 million workers overseas.
  • 88% of those companies report they got better value for their money overseas; and almost the same number say overseas workers produced a better quality of work.

The Rise of the Millennials

So let’s talk about the youngest and largest segment of our workforce – the Millennials.

I’ll admit that I struggle with the mentality at times. I grew up in an era when you rode your bike to soccer practice. I had good, loving parents who showed up when it was important. But that’s the difference. Not EVERYTHING I did, said, made, painted, colored, rehearsed, or practiced was treated as important.

There was no cake or balloons when I moved out of diapers, no graduation ceremony marking the end of kindergarten, and no trophies or certificates for simply participating in the spelling bee even though I bombed spelling “serendipitous”. I had to actually accomplish something before I was rewarded. So I wasn’t shell-shocked the day I landed my first job and was told I wouldn’t be getting a raise for at least a year, and only then if I had earned it. Seemed fair to me.

What we learned last week was that Millennials need constant challenge and instant and ongoing attention by way of feedback and recognition from their employers.

This is the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram generation who are looking for 100 “likes” every time they complete a task. Their parents have hovered over them from day one, celebrating the smallest of victories while protecting them from many of life’s harsh realities – like constructive criticism or simply moving out of the house.

According to the Washington Post, 25% of people aged 25-29 still live with one or both parents. And while they represent $200 billion in annual buying power, they are not inclined to spend it on boring items like mortgages, health insurance or repaying their student loans.

The number of jobless or under-employed college grads under age 25 has risen 30% since the year 2000. According to global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, by 2020 the world could have 40 million fewer college-educated workers and that developing economies may face a shortfall of 45 million workers who possess secondary-school educations and vocational training.

In other words, in advanced economies, up to 95 million workers could lack the skills needed for employment.

New Tricks For Old Dogs

So although the following 5 workforce trends pose challenges for employers, Dr. Nelson left us with the hope that they can be overcome. We first need to understand the nature of these new trends along with the solutions he suggests we consider:

# 1 – Growing Shortage of Skilled Workers
Solution: Dr. Nelson suggests a better collaboration between business, government and educational institutions to better prepare students for the jobs of the future.

# 2 – Rise of the Millennials
Solution: 78% of millennials will work for less as long as they are challenged. Employers should look to promote more of a career lattice rather than a career ladder to this generation.

# 3 – Increase of Contingent Workers and # 4 – Evolving Role of Virtual Employees
Employer Strategy: Work is becoming a state of mind more than a place to be. Companies need to be open and flexible to consider alternate work arrangements, such as telecommuting, job sharing, flextime and compressed workweeks.

# 5 – Globalization of the Labor Market
Employer Strategy: Need to help workers be more competitive; show them how to add value and increase their contribution.


So when it comes to all that annoys us about Millennials, we can blame their parents for the fact that they tend to have inflated opinions of themselves and are over confident, particularly in view of the fact most lack any significant work experience. And as we say good-bye to the good old days when the only workplace recognition we needed was a paycheck, the youngest of our workforce will continue to be motivated by ongoing challenge and recognition.

If you can provide them with a steady supply of it they will in turn do their part in helping your company to thrive. Millennials are for the most part, techno wizards who learn quickly. They are generally very resourceful and can be high achievers once we understand what makes them tick.

For more insight into this generation, view the short 3 minute clip below of a 60 Minutes interviewMorley Safer conducted with some of the original Millennials back in 2008.