Motivating workers – especially millennial employees – isn't always about bonus checks or trips to the tropics. Sometimes, it's the day-to-day gestures of appreciation (can we get a "thank you" over here?) that make the difference between workers who are engaged (no pun intended) and those who are ready to embrace the next handsome offer that comes along. Here's publicist Paige McDaniel of Seattle, who worked – but not for long – for a bridal chain that just wasn't that into its employees. In the world of retail, sales are everything. Sure, it’s great if everything looks nice, but if you don’t meet your quota for the day, you might as well be one of the mannequins in the window. So after days of folding shirts and organizing socks, you can imagine my excitement when I was offered a premium retail job: working as a wedding consultant for a major bridal boutique chain. Like any girl, I was addicted to the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress,” and pined after the commissions that Kleinfeld Bridal wedding consultants were making selling $10,000 gowns. While I knew none of the dresses I sold would be that amount, I knew that what I was doing actually mattered and was going to make a difference. The commission was just going to be an added bonus.
Fast forward three months, and my opinion drastically changed. Not only did I feel I was set up for failure on a regular basis; I felt that if I actually did do well, it didn’t matter. There was no recognition or acknowledgment of success.
If I hadn’t met my quota yet, that was the problem. If I did meet the quota, it was expected. If I exceeded my quota, it was time to move on to the next week. Managers remained static despite your progress.
Seeing that employees were giving up easily, the chain tried a different tactic. They created “Vow to Wow” slips where you filled out how much you needed to sell to reach commission. At the end of the day, you presented this slip to your manager and determined how well you did. If you met your goals, it was “Yay, have a good night.” If you didn’t meet your goals, it was “Yay, have a good night.” Moral of the story? As a millennial employee, I crave recognition. While money is an incredible incentive, I want to know that I’m doing a good job. The term “no news is good news” no longer applies to my generation; instead, we almost long for days of gold stars on our papers. In my next job, I look forward to knowing I’m succeeding.
Characteristics of Millennial Employees
- Self-confident and ambitious
- Digitally savvy and socially connected
- Needs frequent affirmation
- Likes immediate gratification
- Highly motivated for success
Tips for Incenting Millennials
To be effective, incentive compensation must account for the unique motivations of millennial employees. To do this, companies must:
- Clearly define job roles.
- Recognize individual performance and reward desired behavior with life-enhancing experiences.
- Provide consistent feedback.