Millennials: How to engage and motivate

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As millennials start to enter the workplace, it can be hard to successfully engage and motivate them.

Not only is this important to ensure productivity levels are kept high, but also to help keep employee turnover, and the associated costs, low. Millennials are likely to have very clear expectations of the workplace and how they imagine it to be and so ensuring that they remain engaged and motivated in what they do forms a large part of an employer’s role. Here, I have suggested three steps that successful employers often take to engage employees from the outset.

Discuss mutual expectations

The aim of this step is to highlight and agree on the two-way support needed between the millennial and other members of staff, so everyone can achieve their end results and goals and it is increasingly thought that people need to be engaged beyond the pursuit of profit. Agreeing on mutual expectations is particularly important in today’s world of work, because very few jobs have aims and goals that are achievable without a whole range of people also achieving what they need to.

This step involves open discussions to build mutual accountability and thus creates an environment where people feel comfortable in their roles and reduces the risk of feeling exploited or overworked whilst other employees are not pulling their weight. In addition, it helps relieve the inevitable pinch points caused by change and growth leaving employees less likely to feel as if they alone are responsible.

Build honest and trusting relationships

It is vital, from the outset of a new employee joining the company, to ensure trusting relationships are formed. Leaders need to understand what motivates the millennial and the best ways in which they work. This then creates the groundwork for an honest relationship with the hope that any issues will be discussed. It also helps the new employee feel valued and worthy of being placed in the company.

This step is about discussing stories and past experiences with leaders, allowing both participants to understand the struggles involved with their roles from time to time which will then develop a level of understanding and respect.

Show genuine appreciation

Unfortunately, demonstrating genuine appreciation in the workplace is rare and infrequent. The norm is to work from a ‘deficiency’ model in which leaders look at what’s wrong so they can fix it. The alternative model is ‘appreciative inquiry’, in which there is a focus on the positive aspects and a concentration of efforts to develop these further.

Showing appreciation demonstrates that leaders not only care about the performance of employees, but also their emotional well-being. Beyond the point of directly pleasing the employee, this step is also about exploring the potential to develop their strengths further in other aspects of their work which will, with time, lead to movement up the career ladder.


When combined, these three steps have the potential to increase and maintain employee motivation and engagement, with a particular focus on millennials. Although none of them may seem immediately striking, they help tackle the issues deep down and improve long-term employee satisfaction by concentrating on the aspects of work that are most important to those who are entering the working environment for the first time.

Apart from the time needed to invest in the above points, they each require very few direct costs and so provide simple, actionable ways to ensure members of staff remain happy in their roles, which will in turn lead to reduced recruitment and training costs and lower staff turnover rates.

About Nigel Purse

Nigel founded The Oxford Group in 1987 following a career in HR and business management with the Mars Corporation and Burmah Oil (now part of BP). Under Nigel’s leadership, The Oxford Group has grown from its roots as a local training company specializing in Behavioural Assessment, to a global consultancy providing Leadership & Management Development and Executive Coaching.

Nigel is passionate about developing leadership capability in leaders of all ages, and writes and speaks regularly on this subject for audiences worldwide. He is leading The Oxford Group’s growth in Asia, building on the existing and long term relationships the business already has with many corporate clients in this region, including AstraZeneca, Motorola and Tetra Pak. Nigel’s areas of expertise include talent identification and development, leadership development and behavioural interviewing.


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