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Motivating a Multi-Generational Workforce

Posted, by Lauren McAuley on 04/20/2016
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When typing the word “motivation” into Amazon’s bookstore you’ll discover there are over 100,000 books related to motivation: The Motivation Manifesto77 Ways to Get MotivatedDrive: The Surprise Truth About What Motivates Us; the list goes on and on.

But all that helpful advice must be taken with a grain of salt now that managers are motivating a multi-generational workforce. Three generations now make up today’s workforce.

Look around the office and you’ll see Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and who could forget all those Millennials. According to Pew Research Center’s 2015 study, U.S. Labor Force by Generation, Baby Boomers make up 44.6 million, Generation Xers make up 52.7 million, and Millennials make up 53.5 million of the U.S. labor force.

So why is this so important? Because each generation is motivated by different values, work styles, communication tactics, job responsibilities, and rewards.

Motivating a Multi-Generational Workforce

Motivating a multi-generational workforce

To clearly identify what motivates each generation it’s important to understand their lifestyles, how they think and what major events may have shaped them up to this point.

Lead Star’s recent report, Leading & Motivating a Multi-Generational Workforce, compiles guidelines —carefully differentiating them from negative stereotypes— to keep in mind when looking to motivate each generation.

Motivating a Multi-Generational Workforce
 
Chart created based on information from Lead Star's report Leading & Motivating a Multi-Generation Workforce.
 

While this chart isn’t a catch all for finding exactly what makes each generation tick, it is helpful in identifying how different tactics work when motivating a multi-generational workforce.

Think of it this way...

Mary is a 35-year-old mother of two who enjoys going to her sons’ baseball games and camping on weekends. Mary goes above and beyond on a big project and the boss wants to acknowledge her hard work and get her motivated for the next project coming her way. Based on the chart above, what scenario would be the best for Mary?

Scenario 1: Mary’s boss schedules an in-person meeting with her to reward her with a promotion. The promotion will require Mary to work longer hours and one weekend a month, but gives her a big pay raise.

Scenario 2: Mary’s boss calls everyone’s attention right before lunch to publicly thank Mary for all her hard work on the project. He gives her a handwritten thank you letter with a Whole Foods Market gift card for $100. The following day Mary uses the gift card to buy refreshments for all the parents at her sons’ baseball game.

In this case, Scenario 2 would most likely be the better choice of action. Generation Xers tend to value both public recognition and work/life balance over financial rewards like promotions.

Gaining an understanding of what each generation expects or values helps guide managers and leaders to successfully reward or motivate. Take a closer look at your workforce, when it comes to motivation it’s not a one size fits all scenario.


Topics: motivating a multi-generational workforce, motivating baby boomers, motivating generation x, motivating millennials, motivating with gift cards, motivating your workforce, multi-generational workforce, rewards for generation x, rewards for millennials, Employee Incentives & Engagement, rewards for baby boomers

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