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March 20, 2024

How to manage and motivate millennials in the workplace

Dive into strategies for attracting and retaining millennial talent and learn how to motivate this generation.


  • Who are millennials, and what is important to them?
  • What factors turned millennials into who they are today?
  • How can you manage and retain millennial employees?

Millennials—or Generation Y (Gen Y)—comprise 23% of the global population and 36% of the U.S. workforce, accounting for the largest share of working Americans compared to every other generation. What motivates them to put their best—and most productive—foot forward?

Let’s look at millennials in the workplace to discover what benefits are most important to them and learn what employee retention strategies keep them engaged.

Who are millennials, and what's important to them?

Anybody born between 1981 and 1996 is a millennial. Since childhood, this generation has experienced fast-paced changes and innovations. They’ve also witnessed the internet and mobile devices develop from humble beginnings to becoming omnipresent in daily life.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials passed baby boomers as the nation’s largest generation of living adults in 2019. As a result, employers rely on this group to drive their companies forward. If employers want millennials to deliver their best work, they should consider the following:

Millennials value meaningful work.

Members of this generation hope to make a difference beyond their existing roles. Their careers are much more than a salary—it’s a lifestyle fueled by their passions and interests. Millennials want to work for a company whose goals align with their own and are willing to choose jobs based on where purpose and growth intersect.

Millennials’ relationship with money differs from other generations. They’re more focused on doing meaningful work than building their bank accounts. While fair pay is on their list of priorities, it’s not as high as feeling personally connected to their company.

Millennials desire professional development and growth.

Some generations are comfortable becoming adept at only one role. That’s not the case for millennials. They feel a strong responsibility toward doing good—and being good at what they do.

Career opportunities that provide personal and professional education tend to be good fits for millennials. These jobs can include ongoing training seminars, new tasks, or certifications in particular skills—elements that lead to talent development. If these opportunities don't exist, 75% may leave their job due to limited career advancement.

It's become an increasingly important element of an employer's job to help employees gain confidence in their roles by providing holistic training, continuing education, and mentorship focused on topics that interest workers. Millennials who can try new things on the job may feel more appreciated and engaged. These opportunities can help encourage them to stay at their job while shaping them into more capable workers.

Millennials consider student loan debt relief vital.

Millennials need help buying homes and managing living costs due to student debt. 43% consider student debt assistance a crucial benefit from their employer-offered health care plan.

This group desires workshops and tools for budgeting, saving, and goal setting to improve their financial wellness and literacy. Employer financial relief can be loan repayment support, bonuses that offset costs, or education on debt best practices.

Millennials want to work for companies that take action.

According to Deloitte, Gen Z and millennials have high expectations for their employers, believing that business leaders have a significant role in addressing social and environmental concerns.

While these generations acknowledge the improvements made, they still expect employers to do more. In fact, only 44% of millennials believe their company is making a positive impact.

Millennials like quick and regular feedback.

Millennials want to know about their performance and where they stand in their employer’s eyes. This need for feedback requires company leads to meet with them through intentional reviews and short check-ins.

Real-time praise or criticism lets millennials know what they’re doing well and what may need improvement. Knowing the specifics of their performance ensures they feel motivated and engaged, giving them actionable targets to push toward.

What factors turned millennials into who they are today?

Trends, challenges, and milestones that shape millennials into a generation that deeply cares about the work they do include:

  • Technological advancements 
    Millennials grew up as the new millennium started—a period that saw the introduction of laptops, the World Wide Web, Microsoft, Wi-Fi, Yahoo, and Java. They’ve seen more advancements than any other generation, creating excitement for technology and automation.
  • 9/11 terrorist attacks
    While not all members were old enough to fully understand the attacks, most older millennials were aware of their severity. This event magnified the importance of security for this group more than younger employees who may not remember September 11, 2001.
  • Environmental impact awareness
    Humans’ environmental impact continues to be a talking point since the 1980s and early 1990s. Exposure to information about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions has generally led this generation to take responsibility for their actions and desire to make positive changes.
  • Previous generation influence
    Millennials witnessed those before them struggle with work-life balance and finding purpose in their roles. After learning from the older generations, millennial employees strive for more freedom and flexibility during the day.

How can you manage and retain millennial employees?

According to Gallup, millennials also have the label of "job hoppers." They get this name from being the least engaged group and the most likely to switch jobs. Within the last year, 21% of millennials have changed jobs.

The benefits millennials prefer that companies can utilize include:

Flexible scheduling and remote work benefits

According to Deloitte, 62% of millennials say work is central to their identity. However, a good work-life balance is what they strive for. It’s also one of their top considerations when looking for a new employer. The same survey found that three-quarters of respondents working in hybrid or fully remote positions would consider quitting if their employer brought them back to physical locations full-time.

Whether it’s hybrid work setups or customized hours, millennials want more autonomy with their time. They also don’t want to be confined to a cubicle. Flexible scheduling enables them to focus more time on passion projects, training opportunities, their families, and their mental and physical health.

Financial plan assistance

Debt can be challenging for millennials, as it complicates their financial planning. Employee assistance programs offering guidance, accountability, or repayment contributions can alleviate some of this stress and encourage workers.

Future-forward benefits can assist millennials with:

  • College planning for children
  • Estate planning
  • Life insurance
  • Long-term care planning
  • Real estate
  • Retirement planning
  • Tax planning

With financial plan assistance, millennials can focus more on their purpose-driven work knowing their families are better cared for. They also may be more likely to stay with an employer who takes some of the financial load off their shoulders, making it a valuable investment for companies.

Family leave and childcare benefits

Family leave can help employees care for a spouse, child, or parent with a health condition. This benefit provides the flexibility Gen Y employees seek and enables them to put their families first.

Although some of the millennial generation waited to start families so they could pursue career and educational advancements, many now have children and want opportunities to support them better. Employers could include childcare subsidies, an on-site daycare, or a family stipend in their employer-sponsored plan to help workers with kids. This support can foster millennial employee engagement and morale, improving customer service and company profitability.

Fertility benefits

This benefit type is newer to workplaces but is critical to millennials who want to have children and struggle with infertility.

Benefits can include:

  • Donor sperm or eggs
  • Egg freezing
  • Gestational carrier services
  • Infertility diagnosis
  • Intrauterine insemination
  • In-vitro fertilization

Fertility benefits can prove to millennials that a company cares about their employees’ well-being and personal interests, taking actionable steps to support their goal of having children.

Meet millennials where they’re at.

Delivering benefits that employees want can help with attraction and retention. Organizations looking to meet the needs of the various generations in the workplace can utilize the key insights of Marsh McLennan Agency to keep and attract engaged and productive employees.

Download our 2024 Employee Health & Benefits Trends: The Evolving Workforce report to learn more about what the millennial workforce is looking for in employment and equip your company to make the best decisions for every staff member.

Reach out to one of our specialists today for more information on employer-offered benefits plans.