Millennials’ Hierarchy of Needs: Building a Base of Structure

In an earlier blog post, we talked about Millennials’ Hierarchy of Needs — a framework that identifies 5 core “Needs” for Millennials and prioritizes them in a pyramid, similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

At the base of the pyramid is STRUCTURE. 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 to know what is expected of them at work. That’s just basic. Structure answers the question, “What are the rules of the game?”

Go beyond the written job description and talk to your Millennials about exactly how they should behave in the workplace. Second-Wave Millennials like to know that there are rules and like the rules to be followed. Rules are important to them. Perhaps the most visible display of this is the students who survived the parkland, Florida shooting. What they’re really saying is that if we had sensible, rules-based laws and restrictions that these things wouldn’t happen. This is the “food, water, and shelter” of the hierarchy of needs: the fundamental starting point for engagement.  

Why More Than Boomers and GenXers?

Structure has been a huge part of Millennials’ lives since the day they were born. Millennials were raised in a highly-planned and structured environment. Their parents and teachers scheduled every second of their day, and free time and simply “playing” wasn’t something Millennials did. Another reason they need structure? Millennials hate to take risks and hate to fail. An “opened-ended” assignment for them is viewed as a risk.

 Xers and Boomers never had much structure, so when they got to the workplace, they didn’t expect structure. They expected to figure it out themselves, but Millennials want a more comprehensive view of things in addition to specific directions on how to do an assignment correctly and the reason why it is important. That means they are dependent on you as a manager.  

The Data for All Generations

At Gallup several years ago, we designed a model that was tested by 800,000 managers—an enormous data set. Basically, Gallup researchers came up with the twelve conditions necessary in the workplace for people to be engaged. The very first item (bottom of the pyramid) is simply the statement, “I know what is expected of me at work.”

Remarkably, something like 50% of employees out of the 5 million interviewed didn’t completely agree with that statement. in other words, 50% of employees running around doing their jobs don’t agree that they know what’s expected of them.

That’s a recipe for disaster; it means they’re not engaged, and when employees aren’t engaged, work can be done really poorly.

As a manager, make sure to provide not just the map, but the route from point A to point B for Millennial employees. Doing this will ensure that your Millennial employees are on track to succeed.  

 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.

Warren Wright