What Motivates Today’s Millennial Business Major Students?

What Motivates Today’s Millennial Business Major Students?

The language of people reading can be a difficult one to learn, but understanding an individual’s motivators can provide important insights as to why he or she acts a certain way. Motivators are described as the driving forces behind a person’s behavior, and they can be helpful in determining one’s beliefs, interests, and attitudes towards the world. Dr. Eduard Spranger provided the foundation for this concept in his 1928 book Types of Men. Over the years, his findings have been expanded upon by other researchers, resulting in the Motivators Model that is used today. This model describes six different motivators that are present in everyone with varying degrees of intensity. The more intense the motivator, the more influential it will be for that individual. The top three motivators reflect a person’s interests; these motivators must be satisfied for one to feel fully engaged and fulfilled. The bottom three motivators represent things that an individual may find little interest in, avoid, or view in a negative light. MapMyStrengths.com labels these six motivators as Economic, Conceptual, Power, Aesthetic, Regulatory, and Humanitarian.

The Economic motivator is characterized by a desire to obtain a return on one’s investment in time, money, energy, or resources. Those who place a higher priority on this motivator are driven by efficiency and productivity; they are constantly trying to improve upon themselves to find a more resourceful way to achieve their goals. On the other hand, those who do not place a high emphasis on this motivator are less interested in material things and view money as merely a tool to help them reach their ultimate goals in life.

The Conceptual motivator describes a constant thirst for knowledge and information. Individuals who hold this motivator in high regard are always seeking to learn new things and share their knowledge with others. These people are skilled critical thinkers and oftentimes prefer facts and data to emotions and opinions. Individuals who place a low priority on this motivator tend to go with their gut feelings when making decisions and do not feel compelled to gather all of the facts before reaching a conclusion. These people typically favor “real world” experiences over formalized learning.

The Power motivator is defined as a drive to achieve a position of authority, control, or influence within an organization. People who emphasize this motivator have a desire to be in leadership roles where they will be recognized for their accomplishments. These individuals are prepared to climb the corporate ladder and compete with others for the success and recognition of higher-level positions. Conversely, those that place less weight on this motivator do not generally seek out public recognition for their work, and would rather serve their organization from behind the scenes.

The Aesthetic motivator is defined as a desire for balance and harmony in all aspects of life. Those who prioritize this motivator are hyper-aware of themselves and their surroundings, and take time to “stop and smell the roses” whenever possible. These people are more creative and will find unique ways to express themselves. People who place a lower emphasis on the Aesthetic motivator are typically more objective and realistic when making decisions. These individuals deem the function and use of an object to be far more important than the way it looks on the outside.

The Regulatory motivator reflects a dedication to any belief system that provides structure and rules to live by. People with a higher interest in this motivator are typically more traditional, placing an increased emphasis on finding their purpose in life and adhering to it. They will maintain high moral and ethical standards for themselves and will rarely do things that conflict with their personal values and beliefs. Those who do not prioritize this motivator are more independent and generally do not conform to traditional standards or practices. These types of people are more open to exploring innovative techniques to solving problems.

Finally, the Humanitarian motivator demonstrates a passion to help others reach their full potential. Individuals who prioritize this motivator are extremely self-sacrificing and attentive to the needs of others. They feel that everyone deserves to be on an equal playing field, so they have a high sense of social responsibility to help the less fortunate. On the other hand, those who place less weight on this motivator emphasize the importance of personal accountability, believing that people should work hard to receive the things they want. These people view success as a product of hard work and discipline, so they do not feel as compelled to support those in need.

The MapMyStrengths.com motivators assessment was administered to 132 students enrolled in an Integrated Business Communications class at a community college. This class is one of the foundational courses necessary to obtain a major in the fields of Accounting, Economics, Finance, Management, Hospitality Management, and Marketing at this institution. Therefore, a majority of students enrolled in this course are likely pursuing one of these six areas of study.

DATA: Number of Students with Motivator in Each Position

Since an individual’s top three motivators reflect their natural interests, we can learn a lot of information about someone by looking at the items that they place the most value on.

DATA: Distribution of Students’ Top Three Motivators

It is clear that the students enrolled in this class place an increased emphasis on the three individually oriented motivators: Economic, Conceptual, and Power. More than twice as many students reported having one of these motivators in their top three in comparison to one of the group-oriented motivators (Aesthetic, Regulatory, and Humanitarian). This indicates that as a whole, students in this class are more focused on achieving their own goals than working together to further the entire group. The results of these assessments can help to shed some light on many characteristics of millennials that may perplex members of other generations.

Out of all six motivators, Regulatory was the least likely to be seen in the top three. This indicates that these millennials place less of an emphasis on the traditional way of doing things in comparison to older generations. This can help to explain why millennials are more likely to reject a structured 9-5 cubicle job in favor of one that provides them with the flexibility to express themselves in more creative manners. Google is one of the most well-known millennial-friendly companies; their California headquarters include swimming pools, athletic facilities, professional massages, gardens, etc. While most millennials do not expect these types of amenities, many of them do crave some sort of original and unique work environment. Something as simple as trading in the cubicles for a more open and communal office layout can significantly increase a millennial’s interest in working for a company. Companies must realize that they need to throw out the old ways and find more innovative ways to keep the millennial workforce engaged.

The millennial generation has been known to switch jobs every couple of years. This trend came as a shock to older members of the workforce because baby boomers and Generation Xers have been known to stay with one company for decades at a time. While it is easy to write millennials off as being impatient and fickle, a look into their motivators offers another explanation. The lower Regulatory levels of these business students may indicate that these individuals may not feel as obligated to stay with one company. Another possibility is that millennials may be frustrated with the lack of responsibilities that they are given as new hires. Many millennials have the Power motivator in their top three, meaning that they will be discouraged if they are not presented with the opportunity to hold influential positions within the organization. The most commonly valued motivator among these business students was Economic, indicating that the generation’s frequent job changes could also be motivated by a desire for increased financial security and benefits. When it comes to job retention, it is vital that employers ensure that millennials are given the opportunity to advance throughout the company while being adequately compensated for their efforts.

It is evident that millennials differ from older members of the workforce in a number of ways, but a simple look at their motivators may be all it takes to solve the mystery behind the millennial generation. Motivator analysis is essential to developing a management approach that can be effectively tailored to individual employees. Passionate and enthusiastic millennials are not hard to find as long as one takes the time to understand the things that motivate them.

Author, Athena Cahill is a 2018 senior at Vanderbilt University pursuing a degree in Psychology with a minor in Business & Corporate Strategy. As a summer intern for Competitive Edge and Paragon Resources, she has become a certified trainer in the DISC and Motivators Models.

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