Encouraging Millennial Workforce

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Last time I discussed how to build a great team with millennials and how some of the old “best practices” just don’t work in the new world. Now, I’d like to turn your attention to a subject of appreciation and encouragement, something that was essentially nonexistent when I started working (beyond token employee awards and the corporate ladder system, neither of which will do you much good with millennials in SMB):

The millennial language of appreciation is deep in encouragement, reinforcement and ultimately improving your team even if doesn’t directly benefit you financially.

Now that I’ve lost like 94% of my audience, yes, I acknowledge that the subject of employee empowerment that doesn’t directly feed the bottom line is somewhat taboo in business. And as alien as it may seem, you’re not going to get incredible employees from another planet, so you may as well just drop to your knees and thank whichever deity you believe in for giving you people you can develop into what you need them to be.

And for the sake of statistics, these are not your ordinary folks – you’re lucky if even 10% of your workforce has any bit of a genius and hustler mentality. The other 90% of your staff, that you have to hack, manage, provide alarm clocks and constant reminders and encouragement to do the basic parts of their job… I’ll cover that in another post. But for now, let’s focus on your geniuses.

Unicorn Millennials

If you’ve somehow managed to find these unicorns that speak your language while still having an open mind to be plugged into all the new technologies and trends, your old school appreciation language is not going to work. I mean that sincerely, I could fill up two books with all the ways I’ve failed to motivate and build up people over the years, and they would probably be word-for-word identical with what you can read in any business book: focus on corporate ladders, title, status, raises, promotions, written notes, perks.

Meanwhile your average millennial employee is more concerned about not having to fuss about their attire, being able to listen to their music as loud as they want to at work and they don’t care if you have them working out of an Amazon box – they care that they can do work somewhere outside of the “office” entirely.

Good luck reconciling all that. I will in another post. I know, I know, I’m teasing you but I want you to understand that I have been through this whole thing too and everything you’ve ever had work with grownups is going to backfire (sometimes horribly) with the new generation.

The reason I bring this up is simple: the new generation is magnitudes better than we are or ever were. The really good ones just don’t have the patience to play the game by the current rules which is why they’ll end up getting nowhere… but that too is for another day.


I want you to pay attention to the following, read it as many times as necessary for it to sink in:

When you have incredible people you can’t help them by cheering them on in what they are already doing, their ego doesn’t value your encouragement. It doesn’t need it. They they already know how to get moving.

They are doing it because they love to. It’s their passion.

You can help them, you can encourage them, you can build them up – but there is only one thing that they will value because nobody has done it for them before: push them past the point where they would ordinarily give up.

Your opinion, your cheerleading, your encouragement, your input, your work ethic, your contribution, your ____, should only show up when they have reached their limit. And working with them to get them past what they thought was the limit of their capabilities.

Pushing them past that point, through whichever means you have at your disposal, is how you’ll get great employees from the next generation. Treasure them, value them, build them up and build a mission together with them. Win-win.

It really is that simple and that time consuming. Yes, it’s gonna take time, money, research, effort – everything you thought you were going to worry less about by hiring people in the first place! And if you’re stupid, this is a great time to stop reading. If you aren’t, you have probably figured out what the payback is: These people aren’t going to be going on to another job at a different company: they will run the next company. The more you can teach them, the more value you’ll get out of them, the more aggressively you commit yourself to getting them to the next level the faster they will get your business and all your other employees above the typical corporate malaise and mediocrity.

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