Do we need to manage the millennial generation differently?

There are continuous discussions about how challenging it is to lead, motivate and keep the millennial generation. This article will give insight in some of the differences and similarities between this generation and other, and how you can succeed as a leader for this generation.

Today we know that a combination of nature and nurture have an impact on our personality and behavior. We also know that our brain is plastic, meaning that the brain will change throughout an individual’s life. Research is showing that mobile phone usage has an impact on your brain and is changing the brain, as well as stimulating different parts of the brain and diminishing the usage of other parts of the brain. This has an impact on memory and other thinking skills, an example of this is that millennials can only concentrate on one thing for less than five minutes before being tempted to switch subject. The millennial generation is the first generation that has grown up in the digital era and this has an impact on their skills and somewhat on their personality since they are used to instant feedback through social media and tend to be less patient and less able to concentrate. They are however better at more quickly digesting information.

The millennial generation is known to have less respect to authority. They have grown up during an era where strict discipline in school has been rarer and teachers don’t assert their authority in the classroom. Parents to the millennial generation have not exercised the same kind of authority but focused on boosting their children to follow their passion and find a job that gives personal satisfaction and happiness first before high wages and social status.

Gallup research shows that only 30 % of employees
feel engaged and/or motivated at work.


From another perspective the motivational factors for the millennial generation are the same as for any other generation. Research shows that every individual has primary or hereditary, basic psychological needs, which will stay unaffected throughout life. These needs tell you what makes you motivated and engaged and what needs to be fulfilled to thrive and feel well. Every person has six basic psychological needs that need to be fulfilled in various degrees to feel motivated and to get to a state of flow.

These three perspectives tell us that we do need to manage the millennial generation differently to a certain extent, due to their upbringing and background, growing up as digital natives. Mostly it is about how we communicate with them. But also about how you gain their trust since a millennial is less likely to listen to you because of your title. You need to find other ways of earning their trust and reliance. This is when the basic psychological needs get more important. Different individuals have different expectations and preferences on what a trustworthy person is due to their motivational factors (psychological needs). Some people are compelled by facts and details, you need to show them your expertise in a subject, some finds trust in you if you show them personal interest and others by showing them loyalty and reliability.

Regarding leadership I recommend focusing on how you can motivate and engage all your employees rather than just focusing on the millennial generation in particular. Gallup research shows that only 30 % of employees feel engaged and/or motivated at work. This tells us that we have problems with leadership in general and not just with engaging the millennial generation. If you concentrate on finding the motivational factors of all your employees, you have the possibility to create an environment where they have the prerequisites to feel flow. Which will give you the fundamental factor to increase the productivity by 31 %, get 37% higher sales and raise the creativity three times. A motivated employee is also 87 % less likely to quit.