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What Motivates Millennial Employees? It May Not Be What You Think




“I can’t come in to cover someone’s shift today because I want to maintain my work/life balance,” said the 20-something employee to his boss. 

The owner didn’t like this. “What do I do to motivate these millennials?” he fumed.

Well, here’s what this millennial has to say.

First, and this may sound silly, but stop calling your younger employees “millennials.” Most 20-to-30-somethings hate being clumped in this term. The worst thing we can do to a customer is profile them before we know them; the same is true of employees.

Second, simply listen. The line the employee used in the example above may come across poorly. “Work/life balance!?” we owners say. “What kind of mumbo jumbo is that?”

Being recognized and encouraged in the workplace, however, made the top three.”


But as owners and managers, if we take a beat to consider what the employee said, we might discover the Holy Grail of motivation. While we may think giving employees more money, better commissions and a prestigious GIA education is generous of us, our employees may surprisingly not care about any of that. Maybe what they would rather have is flex scheduling, longer vacations and leadership training.

When an employee receives a benefit they don’t care about in the first place, the only benefit it provides is to make us owners feel better about ourselves.

Psychology Today revealed the top motivating factors for employees. Guess what — money didn’t even make the top five. Education, benefits packages, and bonuses didn’t even come close to the list. Being recognized and encouraged in the workplace, however, made the top three.

So maybe work/life balance is exactly what you should give them. How can you know? Just ask, “What motivates you?” Find out what they care about.

Maybe a nice maternity/paternity leave package means more than a 20 percent raise. Or giving 10 hours paid leave for volunteer work instead of greater commissions. Ask your team members, individually, what they care about and respond accordingly.

A few months ago, I felt myself getting burnt out at work. Then it hit me — what I wanted most was to spend more time with my wife, whose work schedule doesn’t always jibe with mine. So I started coming in two hours early twice a week, and I left early those days. Sure, it caused a few waves at first, but over time, everyone was happier. I was turning out better work, and the time I got with my wife was better than any raise I could have given myself.


Remember, if you care for the culture of your store, you’ll create a culture that cares.

Kyle Bullock is a fourth generation jeweler who currently manages Bullock’s Jewelry in Roswell, New Mexico. He is also a best selling author, speaker and performer, and small business coach. To contact him, you may email him at [email protected]

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of INSTORE.  

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