Uncommitted, difficult to work with, expecting that everything will be handed to them on a silver platter

These are some examples of what leaders say when asked about working with millennials. Employers may complain about them, but they also need to face the facts: Millennials are the people they work with. It’s important for them to know what they can do to motivate them and, as a result, be surrounded by truly engaged employees.

Millennials: Not Worse; Just Different

People are different. They do not enjoy the same things, and their communication styles vary. The same goes for their motivations. Learning what drives people to work is key to creating conditions that will make them want to work for the organization and its common goals. Building an engaged team is a never-ending challenge. Today, it is even more important, because more and more millennials are joining our teams.

Every generation has always had some issues with the previous one. Millennials are simply different. They were brought up unlike the other generations, and they don’t have the same work expectations and motivators, which they might communicate in a unique way. The task of their leaders is to find out what their needs are and how to address them. It is we who invite the millennials to work with us, not the other way round.

It’s a good idea to view millennials through the prism of their passions and inner motivations. If employees’ current positions and corporate culture and values match their inner motivations, they will be enthusiastic about their work. However, if they don’t align, we can expect employees to jump ship, and we will have to spend time and money looking for their replacements.

Knowing that to have a motivated team, we must learn what motivates and drives its members, the next step is to identify those motivators and how they may prove useful for leaders. During its study on employee motivation, PeopleKeys hypothesized that if we hear what millennials say about themselves, we will be able to create the right conditions and adapt our leadership style to deliver what they need to perform their jobs with enthusiasm and commitment. The study identified six millennial motivations that translate into results (the I-SPEAK acronym):

Inner Awareness

Millennials motivated by inner awareness want to feel that their careers are consistent with their personal values and to be able to identify with the project or the organization. They also need to develop more as people and not just employees who have competencies to develop and a financial target to deliver. They value work-life balance, which does not, however, mean that they want to stop thinking about work as soon as they leave their workplace – in fact, quite the contrary.

Training Tip: Make these employees aware of what competences they can develop, how they can become better people and how they can increase their effectiveness at work.


These people treasure relationships and need to feel that their work can help someone. They are very good at teamwork, because they perceive the exchange of experience or supporting their colleagues as a way of helping others. Companies who share these values and communication style are a good place for this type of millennials.

Training Tip: Make these employees aware of how the competences they develop can become a practical tool enabling them to help their customers or coworkers more effectively.


Millennials guided by this attitude need to feel that they can exert influence over others or contribute to the direction of a product’s or sector’s development. They value the prestige of their position. This attitude is characteristic of some millennials, but not as many as the Baby Boomers.

Training Tip: Make these employees aware of how they’ll be able to use specific competences to foster their development within the organization, advance in their career and influence others.


This group of millennials, the so-called “microwave generation,” wants instant gratification. This trait is what distinguishes them from previous generations, whose mindset was to work hard to earn a decent living. These young people want to know how their career will look in the next two or three years and what they can accomplish financially during that time.

Training Tip: Emphasize how the scope of the training will help them achieve their objectives, including financial targets, more quickly.


This group gives task-oriented managers a headache. Artistic millennials say that they need space to express themselves and their ideas. The key to engaging them is understanding how to address their needs and identify the project tasks that fit them best.

Training Tip: Make these employees aware of how innovative the training is, both in terms of the tools used and the skills they will be acquiring.


Millennials driven by knowledge want to learn, develop and know the plan to learn and develop. You can motivate them by creating conditions enabling them to master their skills.

Training Tip: Because these employees like to be learning constantly, show them how the training will translate into their increased knowledge on a given subject and tell them the specific skills they will acquire.

Identifying these motivations can help us understand millennials better – instead of judging them. By understanding them, we can create conditions that will make them feel good at work, so that they can strive for common business goals.