Employee Motivation: How to Keep the Job Exciting Across Age Groups

March 7, 2018


Most teams in medium to large sized companies span several age groups. Before you can really motivate them, you need to understand the values of each group. What culture and rewards will resonate with them? Although there definitely are individual differences and needs, there are also general motifs across generations that one can leverage to create a balanced approach to rewarding and motivating personnel.

For a leader there are constant challenges to bringing a team together, setting common goals, ensuring engagement and creativity. And it’s not made any easier when you consider that a company’s workforce might be made up of several age groups: Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, generation X-ers born between 1965 and 1980, and Millennials who were born between 1981 and 2000. And coming soon to the labour pool we will see generation Z-ers.

Each generation has been shaped by their experiences growing up and relating to the world around them. Each one also values different things. Understanding what motivates each age group will help you determine how you can reward each one to increase engagement and performance at the job.

Let’s start with the Traditionalists

These were born between 1928 and 1945 and we can still see them in some companies, where they often play significant roles. You can recognize them by their loyalty and strong belief that honest work will always pay off and be rewarded by an honest wage. Motivation in this case is simple — they value status and the amount on their payslip every month.

One of the largest sectors of the workforce — Baby Boomers

These employees are in their fifties by now and well-established in their careers. They are goal-oriented and quite competitive in their workplace, they value a to-the-point approach as well as recognition from their peers. As they are getting close to retirement age, they also appreciate solid pension plans, insurance and other perks like a bigger office and better parking spot.

Bringing work-life balance into the picture — generation X

Seeing their parents spending enormous amount of time working, these are the employees who are notably motivated by more flexible schedules and telecommuting possibilities. They are often entrepreneurial and tend to like working for themselves and they appreciate opportunities to make their own decisions and grow within their work environment.

Smart in tech and not as loyal — generation Y (or Millennials)

Many of these will be okay with selling their skills to the highest bidder, and it won’t matter for them how frequently changing companies might look on their CV. If you spot a talent and they happen to be from the Y generation, be aware that they are motivated by working from home, having more time off and having fun at their work place — remember that “organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Company stock will probably be the best financial motivation for these employees. In their working environment they will appreciate endless learning opportunities and growth, mentorship, and frequent and immediate feedback.

Optimistic, flexible and valuing relationships — generation Z

Sometimes called the “Internet” or “Google” generation, these employees grew up during the era of widespread Internet access. They do not hesitate to “Google” for information on something they didn’t know before and form their own opinion. Like Millennials, they love flexible schedules, constant feedback and mentorship. They value relationships and their main motivational factor could be summed up as “being happy”. Wow, that’s big on any scale!


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