Five mistakes leaders make when leading millenials

Three years ago, millennials became the most populous generation in the workforce. According to Forbes Magazine millennials now account for 70 million workers in the North America. As demographic trends continue, millennials will increasingly dominate the workplace in the coming years.

Millennials are defined as being individuals who were born between 1982 – 2004 and they have matured to the point that one in every four are parents.

Company leaders that are able to successfully lead millennials and meet the expectations of millennial employees will generally be more successful in the future. That explains why some of the world’s larger organizations have rolled out ad campaigns or have retooled hiring strategies in order to lure millennial talent.

There are a few principles that leaders working at companies of all sizes might wish to keep in mind in order to successfully manage millennials. Here are five costly mistakes that leaders make when it comes to millennials, as well as ways to avoid the mistakes in the future.

1. Not Understanding What Motivates Millennials.

David Kurzmann is an entrepreneurial force. He and his co-founders are responsible for the creation of Women’s Best, a company dedicated to helping women live healthier lives. In his role as CEO, Kurzmann has learned a thing or two about managing millennials. According to him, “Taking a deeper look into the millennial generation, you notice that they value being appreciated, and seek a strong working atmosphere even more than being financially compensated.”

Kurzmann’s point is supported by a number of different studies. A recent Gallop Poll found that “engaged” millennials were nearly 65% less likely to move on to another job than “unengaged” millennial workers. When it comes to understanding what motivates millennials, compensation and career advancement do not provide the whole picture.

Millennials care deeply about their companies mission, vision and values. One study found that 84% of millennials care more about making a difference in the world than about professional recognition. As a business leader, it is important to create a work atmosphere that is charged with meaning and opportunity to make a difference. Millennials want to feel like they are working for a purpose larger than themselves. This helps to create engagement, which in turn creates as sense of belonging and in turn helps to create retention.

2. Misunderstanding Millennials & Technology.

Millennials certainly love their smartphones and social networking platforms. One study found that the average young person checks social platforms an average of 15 times each day. However, millennials don’t just care about technology for purposes of fun. Kurzmann says of millennials and technology: “Managers should know that millennials have opened their eyes to technology. They use technology as an information funnel, to gather facts and form opinions. This means that employees are much more capable of applying technology for professional purposes than previous generations.

3. Failing To Motivate Millennials.

It is not only important for the organization to create a meaningful working environment. Leaders ought to play a hands-on role in motivating millennial employees. An effective form of motivation can come from one-on-one interaction.

Take an experiment conducted by Sun Life as an example. The company established a mentoring program in which senior leaders mentored younger (millennial) employees. The study found that millennials who participated in the program were more likely to stay with the company than those who did not.

One reason for the success of the program was that mentors provided mentees with feedback. One third of millennial employees felt feedback was the single most important thing needed to improve professionally. Yet less than 10% of millennials in the workforce said they received routine feedback from their leaders.

4. Assuming That Millennials Are Like All Other Generations.

Not all young people are alike. In fact, not all young people belong to the same generation. There are significant differences between the motivations of millennials and the motivations of Generation Zers.

The generation following the millennials is known as Generation Z. Unlike millennials, Gen Zers are less collaborative, more entrepreneurial and highly individualistic. It will require different leadership techniques to successfully work with Gen Zers.

5. Underinvesting In Millennials.

Roughly 75 percent of employees are interested in career growth opportunities, and nearly 87 percent of millennials said professional development was a critical aspect when evaluating the desirability of a job.

It is imperative that leaders find time to invest in the career development of millennial employees. Doing so not only helps to keep employees more engaged; it helps build employees who are better able to offer value to the company. Remember that millennials are fast learners, who have figured out the latest technology through self-education, connection and intuition. Similarly, they are capable of learning new methodologies because they are a naturally curious generation, and because they want to advance their careers.

Leaders of millennials should consider building some sort of professional development cadence into daily life. This can include things like paying for millennial employees to attend conferences, organizing routine training sessions or hosting outside speakers. In some cases, simply providing millennial employees with time for them to “self-teach” can be effective. Take a look at Google’s famous 20% time program for inspiration.


The most successful businesses tend to be the ones that are able to attract and retain the most talented employees. Successfully doing this will help your organization to discover industry breakthroughs while competitors spin their wheels.

In order for businesses to retain the best people, leaders must understand what motivates millennial employees, simply because millennials will play an increasingly central role in the workforce.

Leaders working with millennials should know that motivations outside of compensation are often a critical factor in determining where they work and for how long. Providing feedback, mentorship and career development opportunities are important to keeping millennials engaged. It is also important for managers to understand that not all young people are similarly motivated.

Lastly, leaders should remember that technology is not just a fun distraction for millennials. Millennials are digital natives, who have witnessed the incredible changes technology has wrought and are generally eager to apply technology to workplace problems.

Note To Reader:

This article is written based on research done by the author. The writing originates from various sources and previously written articles. In some cases the writings are not the authors original thoughts however, based on the authors experiences, Nicholas fully supports the articles assertions.

About The Author.

Nicholas Pollice is President of The Pollice Management Consulting Group located in Southern, Ontario, Canada. An international presenter and consultant, he is known as a leader in operations management.  Nicholas conducts programs in leadership, supervision, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. He has been a consultant since 1989 and is the author of several professional publications. His presentations have been consistently ranked in the top10 % throughout North America. See Nicholas’ bio, his other publications and services on the PMCG. Website at