There is so much conversation these days about how to motivate Millennials – the generation of the workforce that is generally born between the years of 1981-2000. Also sometimes referred to as the Trophy generation, it has been said that in the workplace, Millennials value community, need constant feedback, and demand interesting and engaging work.

Recently a client remarked that they had a hard time motivating their Millennial sales staff, because the group just didn’t care about money. They cared about being accepted and respected by their peers, and doing interesting work…but money was not a driver. This impacted sales performance—and ultimately, turnover—because the promise of money for doing more of the success and skill they developed was less attractive than tackling a new challenge…like opening a new account, for example.

Although I am on the cusp of being a Millennial, money has been a personal motivator for me in the past. So, I can identify with both sides of thinking. I would argue that motivating Millennials has less to do with age of the workforce, and more to do with how our work has changed over the years.

Scott and I recently read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink. Based on his research, carrot and stick motivation—which includes a commission-based compensation system—does not work for the type of work most Americans are performing these days. In fact, this type of rewards system can hurt productivity and satisfaction in most jobs, especially those that require a degree of creativity and “fuzziness” (read: most jobs!).

There were lots of great insights into how we are motivated, and how to motivate your workforce, in his book. He also points out that, surprisingly, some of the most successful people we know in the world are intrinsically motivated (what interests me?) as opposed to extrinsically (acquiring stuff, status). Here’s Dan’s TedTalk that highlights some of the concepts in his book:


Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!