Admittedly my perspective may be skewed by my location – I’m in Ottawa, surrounded by abstract public servants, or self-important technology (especially software) companies. They read the popular press, and believe what they read there. Both of these universes tend to think the Millennials are special and need to be handled with kid gloves (oops, accommodated) in order to attract and retain them in the proverbial fold. Curiously, only one of these universes actually does anything about this cohort, though I’m not sure it’s the right thing.
Technology companies actively pursuing scarce programming talent, of any age, are quick to diagnose problems to effective recruiting and on-boarding, and even quicker to apply remedies: ‘Of course these Millennials want to play computer games in their down time, and it makes perfect sense to install foosball tables in the cafeteria.’ And so the actions of these employers reinforce the stereotypes of the distracted Gen Ys.
But do all young people, lucky enough to be employed, want these latest hygiene baubles?
Or are Millennials just as motivated by real motivators as previous generations?
Frederick Herzberg demonstrated in his research that people in fact are not motivated by extrinsic factors (foosball tables and beer carts) beyond the initial attraction to the organization. He called them hygiene factors (Dissatisfiers if not met):
Policies and administrative practices
Salary and Benefits
Affect on Personal life
Rather, people are motivated, both to join and to incrementally improve performance by the opportunity for:
For Herzberg true motivators are intrinsic, internal to the person. And chief of these is the work itself; people are internally satisfied by the opportunity to do something, to use their best talents in accomplishing something worthwhile, even if only modest. Besides engaging an employee’s competencies, Herzberg also argued that employers can design the work-place to meet two other intrinsic needs: Relatedness and Autonomy. Human beings are social animals and the extent to which people are motivated to interact with others, having opportunity to relate to others in the workplace is often important to work satisfaction. And lastly, people like to be responsible for their own work, to be held accountable for their results, and have the freedom and necessary authority to act on their own.
Many managers today scratch their heads and rail away at what they think (or have heard) are the untenable attitudes of Millennials: spoiled, self-absorbed, obsessed with technology over relationships, expect to be rewarded for little effort, ‘illiterate’; and they worry that organizations have to accommodate these young tyrants rather than the other way around.
These issues may be more a matter of ‘socialization’ than innate characteristics of an entire generation. Young people may act inappropriately in an employment setting, not because they are Millennials but because they are young – they have yet to learn how to behave in a work world. Think about when you were a new entrant in the workplace. Were you lucky enough to have a mentor, guide, or co-worker to show you the ropes? – and the ropes are not just the technical requirements of the job. If you are a manager of younger workers – especially Millennials – you owe it to them to train them in the corporate culture – ‘how things are done around here’.
It may be true that Millennials (and probably Gen Xers), whose parents suffered the indignities of the recessions of 1991 and 2001, have become jaded of employers who promise one thing – pay and pensions, and pool tables – but deliver the opposite – layoffs and underemployment. They won’t be bought; they want to do meaningful work, they want to be recognized for their