0 How to motivate multiple generations in the workplace - part II

In Part 1, Trainer Frank Newberry looked how each age group in the workplace has been described in recent times, e.g. Millennials, Baby Boomers, Generation X etc. In this concluding part (2) he looks at the question of each generation's motivation.

It has been recognised across industry for decades that, if people see their pay and working conditions as being fair, money is not the main motivator for them to work hard.

They are, apparently, much more likely to be motivated by the way they are treated in the workplace. Money and perks may keep them loyal to an employer, but it does not make them work any harder.

Many people ask themselves: Am I being treated equally at work? Do I have opportunities to grow and develop? Do I feel respected at work?

Value seems to be central to motivation

Across all generations, the issue of 'value' also seems to be central to people's motivation to work harder and be better at their work.

Many ask: Is the work I do of value? Do I feel valued as an individual? Is my work team valued? Do my team mates value our team (and the individuals in our team)?

If the answer to these questions about perceived value is 'yes' then employees will be more motivated than if the answer is 'no'.

We need to be able to motivate all generations

We need to be able to motivate all generations (or get them on our side). Many have workplace influence now and we will need others to step up to the plate to wield positive power in the future.

It may not be that simple of course, external matters like problems at home, health issues and financial concerns can always demotivate individuals and affect their work performance for a time.

Setting external matters to one side and continuing from Part 1, let's deal with each of the five generations that could be in your workplace, one at a time, starting with:

1. SILENTS or Traditionalists
(Born between 1925 and 1946)

Likely to be part-timers or owners, volunteers, Board members, Committee members and some contractors.

Motivating this generation

In my experience, this generation are motivated to work well and to cooperate with others if they feel that communication is good in the organisation, if they are consulted early on and if their opinions are sought.

Phrases or questions you might try could include: 'We could not succeed without your ideas and input', 'I need your advice' and 'I was thinking we could do this for a trial period - and then make a decision?'.

(Born between 1946 and 1964)

Baby Boomers will be at all levels in the organisation and many are working as supervisors, managers, owners and/or Committee members.

Motivating this generation

Many Baby Boomers are workaholic to some extent. They feel they have succeeded in their lives only if they have been successful in their work. Their work achievements can define their lives.

In my experience, people in this generation are often self-motivated but they thrive on being reminded of their work achievements and consulted about important matters - particularly those situations where courage, engagement and commitment are vital to success.

Phrases or questions you might try could include: 'I remember when you delivered the goods on this project', 'You are an example for us all to follow' and 'What do you think we need to consider?'.

(Born between 1965 and 1980)

Many of the people in this early to late middle age group are the senior members of work teams and a good number of them serve in management and leadership positions. There is a fairly good chance that they will be in these positions for a good few years to come.

Motivating this generation

Many Generation X people compare themselves and their achievements to those of their Baby Boomer parents and find themselves wanting through no fault of their own.

In my experience, many have developed great strengths on their journey through life and are happy and motivated when they can share their learning and experiences with others.

At your workplace you may like to encourage supervisors and managers to share their workload by giving Generation X people the opportunity to coach and mentor your Millennial and Generation Z team members.

Phrases or questions you might try could include: 'Can you spare the time to help 'this' person with 'that' task? 'I imagine you have made some good deals in your life - can you help me with this negotiation?' 'I would like the team's views on this - can you help me to get a discussion going?

4. GENERATION Y or Millennials
(born between 1980 and mid-1990s)

If not already the dominant age group in your work team, they could soon become the main one. Most millennials will not yet be in supervisory and management positions. However, they will probably be working for people who are not in their age group and who may be having real problems understanding them. They are the future of the profession and we need them to engage fully in their work.

Motivating this generation

Things move fast in the millennial world, so we need to keep up with them and give them praise and criticism as things happen.
In my experience, we should not delay any feedback until the end of the week, the month or (as some do) save it up for the annual appraisal interview.

Keep meetings fast paced and utilise SMS, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc. to get their results and opinions about specific, and more general things quickly.

Work with their desire for new things and novelty, but make sure they have quality time with experienced and skilled people in the workplace. Many millennials will also be motivated by skill development and career development opportunities.

Phrases or questions you might try could include: 'Can you help us to make the most of all these social media apps?', When would be a good time to talk about your future?' 'Can you help me with a team discussion about how we can improve the way the team works together?'

(Born between the mid-1990s and 2001)

This 'teens and twenties' group currently have the least amount of power and influence in the organisation. They are also the future of the profession and we need them to engage fully in their work.

Motivating this generation

Things move even faster in the multi-tasking world of the Generation Z individual. These young people can watch a film on television whilst texting friends and streaming music at the same time. This makes the advice for millennials about a fast work pace, and speed of response, appropriate also to this generation.

Generation Z people may also be flattered by being given additional responsibility and trust. In my experience, they are quick witted and creative, and efforts should be made to harness these talents for the motivation of the individual and the benefit of the work team.

Many are motivated by good causes and want to leave a lasting impression on society. Again, efforts should be made to ensure that the scope of the work done by the team is expanded to encompass social programmes of relevance and merit.

Phrases or questions you might try could include: 'What good causes do you like, and which ones should our team/our organisation get involved in? 'We are thinking of having an Open Day - could you check out what other organisations have done for theirs and let me have your thoughts on what we might do?' 'How can we attract more younger players to our facilities?

Find the time to treat people as individuals.


Now, in closing, you may have found that some of the things that motivate different generations motivate you as well. This sounds healthy to me because it shows just how complex people can be. Ultimately, we need to find the time to treat people as the individuals they are, and the tips suggested above are merely guidelines for people to use in their efforts to understand people a little better.

So, good luck with motivating the multiple generations in your workplace and always remember - people are motivated at work when you find the time to make them feel valued.

© 2017 Frank Newberry

For more on this topic and some great training seminars, why not enquire about Pitchcare's Supervisory Essentials Workshops?

Frank's proven, popular, highly interactive and entertaining one day seminars are 'stand-alone'. You can take any one, any two, any three or all four seminars. For more details visit the website www.groundstraining.com

Editorial Enquiries Editorial Enquiries

Contact Kerry Haywood

07973 394037

Subscribe to the Pitchcare Magazine Subscribe to the Pitchcare Magazine

You can have each and every copy of the Pitchcare magazine delivered direct to your door for just £30 a year.