a voice crying out in the postmodern wilderness

Motivating Millennials

Motivating Millennials

(This post is a response to a reader question about how to motivate millennials.  We hope this is helpful to those who lead millennials and to millennials themselves.  Thanks for sharing in the conversation, Leslie!)


We have written about the topic of millennials recently, but let's explore a little deeper.  Millennials have gotten the reputation that they don't work hard and that they're flighty and we need to do something with that.

I am a millennial myself (an ancient one - right at the tail end of millennialism) and I am a bit of a workaholic.  This isn't a humblebrag, like when you tell someone in a job interview that your one flaw is that "I am just too driven."  Workaholicism is actually something I have to battle with.  I share this because my biases and sins can affect the content here.

So, for you parents and leaders of millennials - how do we get young folks off the couch?  Engage their hearts.

Check out what leading research firm Barna Group finds about millennials and work (article here):

"When it comes to work and career, more than anything this generation wants to be inspired. Finding a job they are passionate about is the career priority Millennials ranked highest (42%). They don't want a job merely for the sake of a paycheck, and they are willing to wait to find the right job. Some may interpret this willingness to wait as a sign of courage, while others may view it as colossal irresponsibility. Having grown up in an era where parents and teachers were constantly telling them they could "be whatever you want to be," many Millennials see this decision as their prerogative, even if it means having to live off unemployment benefits or parental assistance."

If you have a millennial hanging on your couch, leaving Dorito crumbs and Mountain Dew cans around their video game controllers, you are probably apt to take the above paragraph as an annoying truth.  But hold on just a minute - this is great news.

Millennials may be lazy, but they aren't sell outs.  At least they keep it real.

Older generations may have been content to go to a job they hate for 40 years until they earned their freedom by way of their bottomless ATM machine that was a pension, but that isn't the world in which we live anymore.  Millennials don't want that world anyway.

The great news about millennials ranking passion highest in their job priorities is that they want to do work that matters.  They want to make a difference and see the results of their work.  Whether that is a cop out or not is hard to determine.

Here is some advice to parents and leaders of millennials: explain to them why you want them to do something.  Give them the big picture and the mission behind it - then hold them accountable.  If they agree with the heart behind something (i.e. work as unto the Lord, this work honors their parents, this work helps people, they need to provide for their family, etc.), you can circle back to the mission and hold them accountable to work hard for the purpose of the mission.  And don't let them live on your couch if they're grown.

Here is some advice to fellow millennials: if you are living with your parents and are not in school, get a job and move out.  There is no sacred/secular divide in work so don't sit back and do nothing while claiming you're searching for your calling.  Cleaning toilets serves your fellow man and honors God.  If we had no toilet cleaners we would probably get sick from bacteria.  Go start a business.  Go try.  You don't have to map out your life - just go live it and produce something.  Work that matters will never find its way to you while you sit idle; you must find it.

Millennials can teach older folks a lot about pursuing passion and creativity in work, but older folks can instill the value of hard work for hard work's sake into their young brains.  It isn't either/or - it's both.

Hustle with purpose.


Photo credit: Marines via Flickr

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