Millennials Want Purpose

In my book, Second Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth, I lay out the Millennials’ Hierarchy of Needs – a framework that helps managers prioritizes how they can understand and manage Millennials so they can become the next generation of leaders.   

In previous blog posts, we talked about the bottom two elements of the pyramid: STRUCTURE – a need for clarity about role and expectations in an organization, and FEEDBACK-- the need for frequent communication about their progress and how they are performing.

Right smack in the middle of the pyramid is PURPOSE. Millennials need to know why they are doing certain tasks and how those tasks relate to their job, role in the organization, and the organization’s role in the world. They also want to know if their job is contributing to the greater good.  

Millennials grew up with the highest volunteer rates of any generation: they value helping others, buying food that’s eco-friendly, supporting products and organizations that are socially conscious and do good in their community and in the world. Does your organizations meet those needs?

One of the most helpful things a manager can do for their Millennial team members is to emphasize the link between the Millennial’s job or tasks they do with the overall purpose of the company or organization. Make sure they understand how their job fits into the larger ecosystem and why their role is important and valued.

Here’s a simple example: Let’s say you have a Second-Waver in the insurance industry. It’s their first job out of college, and they’re happy to get a job, but it’s kind of boring. A typical manager would say, “Okay, here’s your job. This is what you do.” But what really helps is to say, “Let me tell you about the insurance industry: It actually saves lives. It helps build houses for people whose houses have been destroyed; it’s a vital part of the economy. You’re helping and protecting people.”

In addition, Millennials are attracted to companies that actively help their employees help the community. Companies that set up volunteer opportunities will find themselves with employees who are engaged and fulfilled. Be clear that their role serves a larger purpose, and you’ll find yourself with happier team members – from all generations.