By Emily Perry, Chartered MCIPD, Managing Director and HR Consultant


Millennials or ‘Generation Y’ are those employees who are born between the mid 1980s and the late 1990s. Gen Y have been shaped by technology, they are tech savvy, comfortable sharing their lives online. They work to live rather than live to work, and for them incorporating work into an already busy life is key – they want flexibility, a  work-life balance, they want to feel valued and they want to add value. Generation Y are demanding and are not afraid to move on if a job doesn’t satisfy their needs.

SCHR reviewed a number of different sources to identify motivators of the Generation Y workforce. By identifying these motivators employers can then ascertain ways to attract, engage, reward and retain these individuals.


  1. Nurturing company culture: Gen Ys view having meaningful relationships with colleagues and managers as extremely important to them. There is much anecdotal support of workers staying longer in jobs simply because they loved the people they worked with and did not want to leave them. Organisations can consider implementing either a formal or informal mentoring system for new starters, when staff have been promoted or if they are seeking to learn new skills. This will help develop and maintain the kind of strong relationships that Gen Y workers find valuable in the workplace. Employers might also want to set up a committee that they make regular financial contributions towards subsidised social events and sports activities encouraging a sense of community. To engage the Gen Y group employees can be encouraged further to manage the events and/or start up their own groups to foster engagement and help build strong interpersonal relationships.
  1. Feedback: After just a few weeks working for an organisation Generation Y employees can lose interest and may look to leave if they are not managed effectively. They crave constant feedback and close contact with their managers. In order to maintain Millennial’s engagement with the business managers should consider ensuring that regular feedback is incorporated into their staff performance management plan. There are many strategies for communicating; these include either an informal/formal appraisal approach as well as on the spot feedback. Regular feedback reduces anxiety and fear and if employees know feedback is coming they are better prepared to receive the information a consider it well.
  1. Job flexibility: Millennials are looking for flexible hours and flexible work, meaning they are looking to be have the ability to work outside of an office based environment because of their perception of how much work crosses over into their everyday life. They see themselves doing work everywhere and jobs should be designed around employee’s personal lives, not the other way round. Employers should identify ways to encourage flexible working for example enabling employees to start later so they can attend a gym class, or identify if there are core hours needed to run the business and allow employees to work flexibly around these as long as they fulfil their contractual weekly hours. If technology allows it, staff can be enabled to work from home either regularly or occasionally, this might be on days when they are not needed in the office, or if they have a big project to deliver where it might be more beneficial for them to work without distractions.
  1. Challenging work: Gen Ys, are graduating from university not only with academic knowledge but also with varied work experience under their belt, they feel this positions them to contribute effectively to their employer from the outset. This, added to the fact that they have a high regard for their own personal worth they have a tendency to seek challenging work from the start of their career. Whilst it can be difficult for managers to let go of some of the more challenging work, employers should be encouraged to trust in their employees and give them the opportunity to work autonomously and work that will challenge them and keep them engaged. Failing to do so, risks de-motivating and losing valuable talent.
  1. Professional and personal growth opportunities: Gen Ys value lifelong learning. They also tend to get bored easily and seek out new things. They want employers that invest in their learning and development, sabbaticals, secondments and other growth opportunities. Employers should offer their employees the opportunity to work in different departments consequently improving their skills, feeding their desire for development but also providing a benefit to the organisation by ensuring that their skills can be utilised beyond that of their core job role if the need arises. Consider offering staff with 12 months service, for example the opportunity to take an unpaid sabbatical from work, this may give them the prospect to go travelling, or to undertake volunteer work. Such opportunities for Gen Y workers are key for their need for lifelong learning.
  1. Promotional opportunities: While Gen Ys are not considered loyal they do seek out employers that have a plan for their success. Employers should examine and create new career paths to help guide younger workers through progression throughout the organisation. Whilst, in a small business it might be hard to demonstrate career paths with specific job titles, employers should aim to gain an understanding of where their staff want to be both in the short and long term and help them achieve their goals, either through secondments, professional development courses, continued professional development or internal/external training courses.
  1. Volunteering options: Gen Ys have a true commitment to bettering the world around them. Employers should develop volunteering programs and options that allow workers to continue these efforts. Having an organisational culture that supports these values is essential. As millennials like to feel that they are giving something back organisations might want to consider allowing a set time for workers to carry out volunteer work e.g. 16 hours per annum. Organisations can set out a policy that allows workers to carry out work that is relevant to their industry or provides pertinent work experience, or give employees a free rein to carry out whatever volunteer work inspires them. Instead of, or along the same lines of volunteering employers might consider allowing colleagues to offer pro bono work e.g. for charities a couple of hours a month.
  1. Competitive salaries: Millennials — especially younger ones who have recently left university — have more debt (both student loans and credit cards) than any previous generation, and they demand a salary that not only recognises their contributions, but also helps them pay off their debt. Employers need to ensure that basic salaries and pay increases are transparent and employees are paid fairly according to external market rates. By ensuring that pay is reviewed annually this will contribute towards employees feeling engaged and motivated, by linking pay to performance employees will comprehend that they have a key hand to play in the fate of their salary and should be driven to optimise their own performance. Initiatives such as interest free travel loans will assist employees with their commuting costs by paying for the annual travel up front, repaid through their monthly salary it can help employees get discount on their travel thus enabling them to manage their finances better.
  1. Reward and Recognition Schemes: Generation Y were raised in a bubble of constant praise and recognition from their families and school teachers.. To ensure they remain motivated at work, this kind of constant reinforcement and recognition is something they also expect to receive from their employer. As such organisations should consider implementing reliable reward and recognition schemes. From the financial perspective an employee incentive plan will provide cash bonuses to eligible employees if the Company achieves and/or exceeds profit objectives, there are many ways that this can work but percentage rates can be assigned depending on the level of the role and responsibility. For those employees who have management or business growth responsibility it is worth considering a separate reward plan. Of course, recognising employees’ contributions can go beyond the financials and employers might want to consider quarterly awards, it might be ‘lunch on management’, a week of ‘coffees on the house’ or a £25 voucher for a spot bonus. Supplying free fruit would also be viewed as a benefit of sorts as well as promoting and contributing towards a healthier workforce.
  1. Business casual: Millennials tend to have more tattoos and piercings than any previous generation; that personal style also applies to how they dress and how they want to dress for work. Many prefer a work environment in which they can wear comfortable clothing that also expresses their individuality, as such, in a non client-facing environment organisations might want to consider a more relaxed dress code. If workloads are high or the culture is for employees to eat lunch at their desks then a break out area may help to encourage employees to leave their desks, even if for a short time. If employees feel that they are working in an environment that is inspiring and unique, this may help with motivation, creativity and staff retention e.g consider air hockey or table football, or beanbags and sofas.
  1. Empowerment: Study after study show that Gen Ys have an extremely strong entrepreneurial focus — with many planning to start their own businesses (partly so that they can control their own fate). Employers can retain workers longer— by empowering these workers to demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit by setting up employer groups, these too will be more successful if managed by employees eg: in general terms a Sports and Social Club or more specifically a Football Team or Green Fingers Club.

Final Thoughts

Just as the work that is completed changes to meet the times, so, too, must the way businesses perform the work; Generation Y workers are some of the most independent-minded and tech-savvy workers employers have seen.

Changing the way you do business — and the way you manage, recognise, and reward your employees (including the mix of benefits and perks you offer) — is essential not only to your success in recruiting and retaining Generation Y workers, but to the organisation’s future success as well.

Get in touch

For help and advice with all areas of HR, get in touch with the SCHR team on 01243 717693, or visit us at our office in Arundel.

If you need us, give us a call on: 01243 717693 or message us directly