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Mary Pomerantz

How to Inspire and Manage Millennial Employees

Mary Pomerantz

Ms. Pomerantz is the CEO of TPG HR Services USA. She holds a Master’s in Human Resource Management (MHRM) and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). Mary also serves as CEO of Mary Pomerantz Advertising, one of the largest recruitment advertising agencies in the country. Earlier in her career, she was president of the 17th largest staffing firm in the country.

A diverse group of millennial employees.

Did you know that more than one in three American workers is a millennial? In 2015, millennials (adults age 18 to 35 in 2017) surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, bringing with them vastly different values, motivations and experiences. In light of their unique identity, how do companies inspire and manage millennial employees?

The Generational Divide

If you’re a baby boomer or member of Generation X with a millennial on your staff, you may have found yourself wondering how to connect with him or her. The fact is, this highly fickle, ambitious and mobile talent group is on its way to becoming tomorrow’s leaders, and it’s imperative for company leaders to understand them to develop them.

When compared with older generations, millennials are more racially and ethnically diverse, and on track to being the most educated generation in American history.[1] They embrace self-expression, with three-quarters maintaining a profile on a social media site, one in five posting at least one video of themselves online and nearly four in 10 bearing a tattoo. Among the fortunate few who have found their life’s work (one-third in a Pew Research Center study of roughly 50 million millennials), nearly two-thirds say it’s unlikely they will remain with their current employer the rest of their careers.[1]

A group of four young and diverse millennials looking at their mobile devices.

A Look Inside the Millennial Mindset

So, what about these jobs inspires and motivates millennials to want to return day after day? Here are some factors that matter deeply to millennials.


Millennials want a fulfilling career, which means they want to enjoy what they do and make a real difference in the world simultaneously. In fact, a 2010 Pew Research Center study found that most millennials would trade a high salary for a more fulfilling career, and that 57 percent had volunteered in the previous year (more than any other generation).[2] Millennials believe social consciousness should be weaved into the workplace, regardless of the industry or position. And when they feel fulfilled, they work harder. According to a survey by Project: Time Off and GfK, millennials are more likely to see themselves as “work martyrs” than older workers and less likely to use all their vacation time.[3]


Whereas previous generations wanted a clear divide between work life and personal life, millennials prefer the two worlds to live in harmony. They want to talk about feelings – yours and theirs – and know that you care about their career development, to which they see their personal life contributing. Ask them about their sister, pet or weekend plans – anything that shows you have an interest in their lives. Regarding work, they value open and honest dialogue, and the opportunity to voice their opinions. But at the same time, millennials can often take things personally, so as his or her manager, you’d be wise to keep an objective tone. Ultimately, these individuals want to be themselves and feel like they belong without a worrying about breaking some professional code.


It’s important that millennials feel comfortable in their work environment, which means being able to work in the way that suits them best. They’re primed for success when they’re able to think, speak and dress like themselves. While growing up heavily connected to technology has blurred the line between work and home, many would prefer to work in an office than at home or alone.[4]

A male working on a laptop while sitting on a bean bag.

However, they do feel constrained when faced with what they see as outdated working practices, management styles and rigid hierarchies, which they find to be roadblocks to productivity and creativity.


Most millennials want to experience as much training as possible and actually crave mentoring by senior management. But surveys have shown that there is some tension in this area, with many millennial employees saying older senior management does not relate to younger workers, and their personal drive seems to intimidate other generations.[5] Ideally, they’d like to have a boss that’s more of a coach, supporting them in their personal development and guiding them along a career path. Because they want to come up with the answers themselves rather than being instructed, turning the tables and managing through coaching, instead of instructing can be mutually beneficial.


A picture of a manager encouraging a male millennial employee

Millennials are a self-confident generation raised with a steady stream of validation. As a result, one of the strongest millennial traits is that they welcome and expect detailed, regular feedback and praise for a job well done. These individuals have specific expectations and needs with regard to learning and career development. One 2011 survey of roughly 4,500 millennials across 75 countries found that 51 percent said feedback should be given very frequently or continually on the job and only 1 percent said feedback was not important to them.[5]

The companies that are most successful at managing millennials are those that understand the importance of setting clear targets and providing regular and structured feedback. Instead of receiving annual reviews, millennials want to know how they’re doing on a regular basis. Providing honest feedback in real time, while highlighting positive contributions or improvements is key.

Work-Life Balance

“Millennials value work-life balance higher than all other job characteristics”

Even though a career of purpose is important to millennials, they place a great deal of value on work-life balance. In fact, a 2016 study by Deloitte found that millennials value work-life balance higher than all other job characteristics.[6] Millennials desire flexibility when it comes to where and how they work, and they’re often willing to take a pay cut, relocate or even pass on a promotion to achieve greater work-life balance. The prospect of taking off for mental-health days, earning more vacation time or even working outside the standard 9-5 work schedule can have a profound motivational impact on the millennial worker.

For millennials, evaluating a possible job opportunity and staying put in a career is about much more than salary. As a manager of a millennial, keeping an open mind and finding new ways to relate to this unique brand of employee can have a lasting impact on your business.

At TPG HR Services USA, we understand the importance of creating the right workplace structure to help millennials learn and challenge themselves. As a national HR provider offering a full suite of administrative services, including employee relations, we can help you get the most out of your millennial talent to help your business succeed. Call 732-917-6000 to learn more.