Panel sheds light on how to engage, motivate millennials

Stock image | Photo by DisobeyArt/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Millennials have a notorious reputation of wanting to become the president of the company overnight, of having an innate distrust of hierarchy and bureaucracy, and being high maintenance and prone to job-hopping.

“Ask me anything: Panel dealing with the rise of millennial’s in the workplace,” members answer questions from the audience during breakout session of the 2019 St. George Economic Summit, St. George, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

But are they?

Those conceptions relating to the millennial generation were discussed Thursday during a session titled “Ask me anything: Panel dealing with the rise of millennials in the workplace” at the St. George Area Economic Summit.

A panel of millennials shed some light on how to best engage and motivate fellow members in this generation of about 75 million people between the ages of 18 and 35.

The annual summit, held at the Dixie Center St. George, provides an economic outlook and upcoming trends for Washington County and the surrounding region and offers multiple breakout sessions and networking opportunities for guests.

The panel was moderated by Don Willie, Dixie State University’s executive director Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

Panel members were millennials Peter Fuller, a systems designer for Camber Dynamics; Kelsey Price, who works in strategic communications for the state of Utah; Megan Church, who oversees events and community relations with Dixie State and James Porter, a trade services manager with the World Trade Center Utah.

The session opened with questions from the audience, many of which varied but all revolved around making it work with a generation that is often difficult to understand.

Millennials want to be president overnight

Millennials are impatient, but some of that may not be generation-specific, Fuller said. Some aspects associated with impatience spring from the environment that many of them grew up in, while other characteristics can be chalked up to “the fact that we are also just young.”

Stock image | Photo by Fizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Millennials are motivated by the prospect of creativity, change and social connections rather than typical motivations of high salaries and moving up the ladder. They want to feel fulfilled in their work and creating something is of utmost importance.

They also want a job that coincides with the lifestyle they envision themselves living, which may be portrayed as entitlement, but is in reality the desire to work in a dynamic environment where they are challenged to push harder.

Church presented a different spin on the topic, saying “being heard” is what they are searching for, and that titles are not as important as the contribution their efforts are making to the world.

When asked if being heard is the same as taking action on the feedback, Willie gave an example of a business meeting where the “token millennial” was asked to contribute their thoughts on the issue, but ultimately “their thoughts had no impact or effect on the the decision being made.”

“Take the entirety of the thought under consideration instead of just a brush-off,” Willie said.

Millennials quit the job after five days

Millennials reputation of job hopping often results in a poor work history that reflects numerous employers over a short period of time. While the panel members had varied views on the topic, one constant theme referred to the screening process during interviews and hiring.

Asking the potential employee where they want to go, and what they see themselves doing is the best way to determine if the job being offered will be the right fit for them, Fuller said. Being brutally honest with them is critical, and if it’s the wrong fit “they will become dissatisfied and leave.”

Church said billions are spent each year in training and hiring new employees, and those costs can increase for employers with a high turnover rate. Part of the responsibility falls on the employer, and she recommends that employers “assess who you are looking at. If the trajectory of where they want to go doesn’t align with the prospective job, then don’t hire them.”

Fuller said that the strong economy also has an impact on whether a millennial remains at a job, since there may be “five other jobs out there they can go to.”

On the other hand, “if  you can tap into that passion, then our generation can be one of the most productive subsets of your workforce,” Porter said.

Distrust of traditional hierarchies and top-to-bottom management structure 

This generation values the importance of the group rather than a boss “laying down the law,” and expressing ideas and creative solutions to a problem trumps a directive from management anytime.

Instead of a traditional hierarchy, a “more flat” company structure, where collaboration and idea sharing is the pathway to problem-solving and a form of leadership in which the group thrives in, Willie said.

With decisions that affect the group, this generation values input from the entire group. If a decision or vision takes a different direction, then it helps to explain why it took that direction. That tells them they matter and are a valuable part of the bigger picture and are in this together.

What drives them is different as well. Millennials are much more interested in a good benefits package as opposed to a strong 401k contribution, for example, Price said, because they saw their parents suffer through the great recession where many lost their retirement funds in a series of market crashes.

Millennials are high maintenance

Millennials have a different social mindset, and what some may view as being high maintenance may just be the result of growing up with high expectations and, along with that, praise and affirmation at each stage.

They also grew up with the internet and social media, so are more familiar with instant feedback than previous generations.

Letting them know the business’s vision is important because they want to know that their work matters in the scheme of things, and that they are a part of something larger, instead of just punching in and clocking hours.

They want feedback on how they are doing, and they want that feedback often because it helps them to grow and flourish as an employee and a person, Price said.

Millennials live on their phones and prefer texting over talking with people

No other generation has grown up steeped in technology like the millennials have, and so what is seen as optional or gadgetry for older generations is a natural and required for this group.

“This isn’t the first generation that may prefer not to talk to people, but now we are being forced to talk to people in order to be successful in life, in work and in friendships,” Fuller said. People and connections are important to them.

In fact, more than 60 percent of millennials prefer in-person collaboration rather than remote technological solutions, one panel member said.

The rise of the millennials

The fact is that millennials are not all that different from previous generations in the most important aspects of work, including ethics, habits and teamwork, according to the panel discussion.

They are much more likely to build loyalty with a manager team than with the company itself, seek out mentors and want to learn from previous generations. As Church said, “We are looking to learn from you, which is a great testament to your generations.”

Millennials also make up approximately 50 percent of the workforce across the U.S., and by 2031 that number will increase to 75 percent. “This generation is the most dynamic generation yet,” Willie said, so the employment landscape needs to embrace the changes taking hold.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.


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  • Kilroywashere January 11, 2019 at 8:50 am

    Good luck. Just keep the public service campaign encouraging young people to say “thank you” going. When I first saw that ad it made me realize how far the millennial generation has gone down the rabbit hole. It is not their fault. The instant gratification structure was created by a revolutionary shift of technology. Further, attention deficit syndrome and lack of soft skills was also another outcome of the new paradigm. But ultimately Gen X and baby boomer parents are to blame for sheltering their kids I e. helicopter parents, playdates, and allowing video games and social media to take precedent over climbing trees and building forts. Tech once again enters the fray, as often parents didn’t understand or keep up with what their kids were doing. Meanwhile, their kids developed a superior attitude as they were smarter then their parents in regards to tech. My brother once bragged during a Thanksgiving gathering about my nephew’s ability to set up a wi fi network (no cables needed, oooh) yet had no idea that his son was had the ability to access the internet in his bedroom late at night. Needless to say my nephew had every tech device he owned confiscated as well as a a ban until his senior year in HS. So the Millineal generation is not to blame, and such business forums as this are a good idea, as they are the future and current workforce. Embracing their unique traits and different approach to things is a dire necessity to keeping Anerica going. On the other hand, lookout for generation Z. The most conservative generation since pre WW2. The millennial will have to buck up or be left in the dust.

  • Comment January 11, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Well, from what I’ve read “millennials” are those born from the early ’80s up to some point in the mid ’90s. So it seems they’re lumping a big chunk of gen z’ers or “post-millennials” in with millenials.

    Oh, KW, I wouldn’t exactly call ‘gen z’ conservative. I really don’t know what they are–maybe not brain-dead hard-leftists to nearly the extent that millennials are, but I believe to call them conservative would be a stretch.

    • Kilroywashere January 11, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Not conservative as in politically conservative as you are likely imagining Comment. Do a little browsing in regards to gen Z on the internet. Not a stretch as you will see. GEN Z is a backlash to Millineal GEN. I would also not subjugate the Millineals as one consistent group. I would nowadays, divide them into LATERDAY millineals (those who have moved out of Mom & Dads house, and support themselves), NEO millineals (those that are on the borderline to Gen Z and the youngest segment of the group), and ARYPICAL millineals (those that still live at home and have truly never been on their own or self sufficient – having been away living at college doesn’t count either).

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