Hierarchy of Millennial Needs

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Great managers have a deep understanding of their employees’ needs… what motivates them, how they like to be rewarded, and why they become engaged in their jobs. And every employee has different needs.

However, after studying great managers for years, and interviewing hundreds of Millennials, I found that there are some common themes for this generation. I’ve created a framework by identifying 5 core “Needs” for Millennials and prioritizes them in a pyramid, similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you’re stuck as a manager, this framework can help serve as a discussion point with each of your Millennial employees.

At the base of the pyramid is STRUCTURE. Structure has been a huge part of Millennials’ lives since the day they were born. The most important thing managers of Millennials can do is provide clarity to their Millennial workers about what their job is and what it is not, and set clear expectations. Every employee has know what is expected of them at work. That’s just basic. Structure answers the question, “What are the rules of the game?”

The next level on the pyramid is FEEDBACK. It is no longer enough to do an annual performance review, or even quarterly or monthly — Millennials need feedback as much (and nearly as often) as they possible. This “feedback” conversation should happen on a daily basis and only needs to take a couple of minutes: Ask them how they’re doing, talk about expectations, deadlines and anything else that is pressing. “Feedback” helps answer the guestion, “How do I know I’m on the right track?”  

Next is PURPOSE. Millennials want their job to serve a larger purpose in their community and in the world. Explaining to them the why — why we do this, why it matters, why it helps contribute to the greater good — can help Millennials understand their personal purpose as an employee. “Purpose” helps answer the question, “Why am I doing this anyways?”

The next level up is DIRECTION. While you may think about directions as “how to accomplish a specific task,” the direction Millennials seek is broader. This is about achieving their professional goals. They expect their manager to be a mentor and a coach who invests in them and helps them think through the direction their going in their job and in their long-term career. The question answered by “Direction” is “How do I achieve my career goals?”

At the top of the pyramid is CARE. This is something that only the best managers do. Millennials who feel like their manager has their back are more likely to perform at a high level and more likely to stick around. Care focuses on personal development — taking an emotional and genuine interest in their wellbeing. The question “Care” answers is, “Is someone looking out for me?”

The pyramid isn’t going to be exactly the same for every Millennial. In particular, I find that younger, Second-Wave Millennials prefer purpose at the base of the pyramid. But these five elements are a starting point to how you can more effectively manage your Millennial employees.

Warren Wright is author of Second-Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth. It is due for release in November. This blog is taken from an excerpt of the book.