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Want to Motivate Millennials? Give Them a Reason
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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We remember our first two big gigs at two different agencies when we were first starting out in the marketing world. We applied ourselves to our studies, networked, followed up, and even made a little name amongst the young professionals in our area.

We thought we were so ready to handle things.

Now, we are cut from the Millennial cloth, and we want to provide two different scenarios. We will tie them in to the main point of the article.

Experience One:
We were going about our business, checking the mail, tying up loose ends with a client, and we were summoned by the agency's president. It was a small agency, so being called in by the head guy wasn't a big deal. But he tasked us with a number of weighty matters: We had to spot check a billboard poster, double-check the places where the billboards were being placed to ensure the traffic was what we wanted, and then confirm the price points for the bus panels for the company. Note: We were just finishing college doing this. All alone. We were pumped.

It continued. After a month and and change, we were gathering agenda items from the PR, creative, and executive areas and leading the agency meetings. We even had the opportunity to look at the company with fresh eyes and conduct a communications audit that was presented to the president. A year or so after we left the agency, we saw a few of our recommendations put into action! Super cool. 

Now, the other experience.

Experience Two:
Again, we came in as one of the young gunners, looking to make an immediate impact. We were charged with building a public relations/business development process within the agency. We thought that was awesome. So we got started. After only a few weeks, we landed a big splash by getting the company on the back page of a regional magazine. We started placing press releases into bigger pools and networking with journalists.

Then we were given the chance to meet with every business segment lead to modify their strategic visions: precisely our background, strategy. We asked for meetings, research, and paperwork. We got pushback. We asked for more support from leadership. We then got switched to work on something else.

Not exactly what we wanted, but whatever. We started remodeling the pitch presentation for the company. After we finished it, we didn't get the opportunity to present it. The folks didn't see a need to change it. We were trying to do what we were asked to do, but felt it too difficult or exhausting to do it.

What's the difference between the two experiences? Both were completely eye-opening, and we were fortunate to have those unique events happen at so early an age, but we couldn't help but feel one experience was superior to the other.

The Millennial culture is not hard to figure out; providing a channel for motivation or expression can really go a long way. Dr. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, noticed this in one of his studies of human behavior. Even a brief but positive expression towards someone's work can improve productivity and give someone a reason to be motivated. It will give them a reason to be a good employee or to do a task better than before.

It would be a generalization to say that Millennials are value-driven, but it wouldn't hurt to initiate a value survey at the very beginning of the working relationship. An example question is quite easy to implement:

Assign a numerical value to the areas you value most and least. The sum must equal 100.

Good pay:______
Flexible work hours:_______
Chance to be recognized:_________
Liking what you do:___________
Chance to be a leader:_____________
Being challenged:__________
Choosing work environment (alone or teams):________
Total (whole numbers, total 100):________

Adding something as simple as that, you can start to build an environment where Millennials will not only want to be, but where they would want to stay and be successful. There is no trick to attracting young talent. It just takes a little dedication to examining the environment and making a few tweaks. If it's worth it, it'll happen. 

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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