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12 ways to motivate millennials

When managing younger employees, a nontraditional approach may be better.

12 ways to motivate millennials
Hospital medic staff. Cheerful young female doctor in front of of surgeon at operation room

If you think your 18- to 40-year-old employees — aka millennials, aka Generation Y — are lazy, uncommitted and entitled, then either you hired the wrong recruits or you haven’t found the right way to motivate them.

Here are 12 ideas to motivate your Gen Y team members. They apply to receptionists and technicians as well as to doctors.

1. Offer a Meaningful Vision

The days of “Just be happy you have a job” are over. Millennials need a vision. They want to know their purpose and how that purpose impacts their community. Your hospital’s values, vision and mission should be clear. You do have values, a vision statement and a mission statement, right?

Millennials need to know how they individually are part of the mission. They need to feel important. A 2015 survey conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics found that 60 percent of millennials chose their career path mainly because of their life purpose. So provide them with opportunities to be part of the practice and the community.

2. Provide Guidance and Mentorship

Millennials want and need mentorship more than previous generations did. Pair them with employees who can serve as role models. Give them goals and remind them that you are there to guide them. And then let them know they are responsible and will be held accountable.

3. Ensure a Work-Life Balance

Millennials want a better work-life balance. Older generations were used to getting the job done, regardless of the time required. Millennials do not feel this way. They are willing to work hard, but only during their scheduled shifts. Overtime is not in their DNA.

In fact, studies show that a millennial’s attention span is 6.7 hours — less than that of previous generations. Studies show they prefer more time off rather than higher salaries.

4. Offer Timely or Frequent Feedback

Yearly reviews are passé. At the very least, meet with Gen Y’s once a quarter. Between meetings, your input needs to continue. Provide continuous feedback. Recognize their shining performance soon after it takes place — and publicly. Feedback given days or weeks later will not have the same effect.

5. Build Strong Relationships

Interpersonal relationships are very important to millennials. Bridge the gap between coworkers and managers professionally and personally. Being recognized in the company of coworkers is important to millennials. Team-building exercises inside and outside the workplace — from social outings to volunteer events — can be used to build camaraderie.

6. Offer the Right Compensation and Benefits

Millennials are not completely altruistic. They need appropriate and personalized compensation and employee benefits. They hate stagnation and want to move up the ladder. So provide constant educational opportunities. Millennials reportedly do not plan to stay at the same job for more than three years, so it will take some serious creativity to retain them.

7. Offer Flexibility

Personalized options are a necessity. They can be as simple as allowing employees to choose their break time, formulate a dress code, work from home when the opportunity arises or design a flexible schedule.

Involve them in the decision-making process. Millennials who feel they are in control of their life and career will be motivated to grow professionally, take on responsibilities and become an asset to your practice.

8. Play Games

Challenges and games can help motivate the troops. This generation grew up playing highly realistic games. Regardless of whether you believe games are beneficial or not, game structure provides a great basis to motivate and retain millennial talent.

Objectives are clear and given up front. Basic rules are given, but multiple avenues are offered. Check points, or small goals, are provided along the way to ensure forward movement and affirm progress. Rewards should be personalized when goals have been reached.

Here is a simple example: Start a friendly competition to promote specific products and services. If the team persuades 20 clients to do a pet dental cleaning in a given month, you will buy lunch for everybody. And let your team choose the restaurant.

9. Offer Freedom

Millennials need freedom. In our technology-based society, they can work from literally anywhere. Offer opportunities to work from home when possible. They could work on protocols, standard operating procedures or your employee manual. It helps them feel in control of their career and reminds them that you trust them to complete the tasks requested.

10. Adapt Your Communication

Millennials are used to instant communication. So adjust your communication style. Use technology and social media to your advantage. Multiple apps allow communication within a team. Others allow sharing schedules and requesting time off. Who needs paper and bulletin boards? Millennials are visual. Besides text, use photos and videos to communicate.

11. Be Trusting

Millennials need to feel trusted. They dislike micromanaging. Give them a due date and clear expectations, and then leave the rest up to them.

To be fair, with a millennial, you can expect some mistakes. Failure is a necessary and important part of the learning process. Learning through trial and error will help you shape a better employee in the long run. You may want to assign less significant tasks as learning experiences in the beginning.

12. Offer Enjoyment

A millennial’s career choice is not viewed as just a job but as an extension of her social life. Building bonds and creating friendships are critical. The workplace culture should allow for fun. The hospital culture significantly affects productivity and talent retention. When employees engage in fun-filled activities, they feel more connected to each other.

Millennials can be a wonderful asset to your practice. If motivated correctly, they can be loyal, hard-working, reliable and innovative employees.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman owns a traveling surgery practice serving eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. Stroudsburg, Pa., technician AJ Debiasse contributed to this article.