Motivating a Multigenerational Workforce in the 21st Century Reply

Originally posted on Longnecker & Associates blog.

One of the biggest challenges in companies today is how to successfully motivate employees. No other time in modern history has the corporate landscape been as diverse as it is now with multiple generations coming together in the workplace. There are four unique generations that make up today’s corporate culture: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. Each generation brings unique attitudes, expectations, and values that companies must be sensitive to in order to cultivate job satisfaction, retention, and ultimately, productivity. Understanding what makes each generation distinctive will prove positive when selecting the method or vehicle of motivation.

Traditionalists, born on or before 1945, became the definition of “America’s Values” based on their hard work, honesty, and dedication. They are reliable, value job titles, like to think they contributed toward the company’s overall success, and expect recognition for their loyalty.

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are often referred to as the “Me” generation. Work is a high priority for them, perhaps the highest, which translates into long hours and stressful lives. They value teamwork, prefer a structured work environment and expect others around them to put in the same amount of effort and time.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, have been credited by some as bringing work-life balance to the workplace creating a shift from the Baby Boomers work ethic as they transition into managerial roles. They prefer to work independently with minimal supervision, purpose to get fast results and thrive on opportunities to grow.

Generation Y or Millennials, born after 1980, are technologically savvy and desire to be recognized for their performance as a strong asset to the company. Unlike previous generations, this group is interested in change, prefers flexibility and thrives on having continuous short-term goals and deadlines. For some Millennials, the labor market is seen as a place to sell their skills to the highest bidder and they don’t mind moving from one company to another.

In the past, there has been an unspoken employment agreement between the worker and their employer. In return for job security, employers were guaranteed loyalty and commitment from their employee. In the new economy, this is a rare relationship to find. As employers announce layoffs, employees often leave for better opportunities. Ironically, as companies are declaring people as the most important asset, they are still treating them as disposable. Companies must focus on motivational practices that meet every employees need, regardless of age. This will allow for effective development, sustainability, and alignment of the overall objective, profitability. To ensure that employees of every generation are effectively engaged and integrated into a company’s culture, employees need to know and feel that they are welcome, wanted, and there for a purpose larger than themselves. The following mechanisms are designed to achieve those goals.

Attract to retain. For longevity, get the right candidate in the right position. Look beyond the candidate’s skill set to ensure that their work style and personality fit in the culture of the company.

Provide meaning and purpose in work. Employees need to understand the reason for the organization’s existence. Create a mission or simply a vision statement that each employee finds exciting and stimulating.

Provide work-life balance. Work with your employees to give them flexibility. Companies must recognize that employees have lives outside of the workplace. Whether you are talking about the single employee, married employee or the employee with a family, everyone is looking for the right balance between work and social life. The smartest companies will allow employees to manage their lives and their work schedule as long as goals are being met.

Share the rewards. Traditionally, the employee was paid for hours worked and not for what they produced, created or serviced. Today, value lies in the employee’s knowledge and skill set that makes a company’s innovations essential in the market place. Develop a compensation system that rewards the employee for individual goals met as well as company goals reached. Annual incentives and long-term incentives both play a vital role in attracting, retaining, and motivating employees of all generations. Employees want to be compensated for the value they deliver not just the hours they invest.

Engage the employee with customized rewards. Learning what motivates employees of different generations is a necessary process to keeping employees engaged in the company. Not all employees, especially those that are from different generations, have the same interests outside of work. Take time out to know what your employees enjoy doing; that way you can reward them with a meaningful non-cash award for a job well done.

Offer benefits for everyone. Health and welfare benefit plans come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you offer benefit plans with everyone in mind. Every generation has different priorities and needs, encourage employees to assess every benefit option offered by the company to find the best one for them.

Build relationships to last. The key to a successful work environment is the trust and confidence that you have in your fellow employees. There is no better way to foster trust than to develop personal relationships with other team members. Employees need to feel valued and happy working with those around them. Without internal support and strength throughout the organization, employee morale and even corporate performance can suffer.

Since every workplace is unique, there is certainly no exact formula to retaining employees. However, in an ever-changing corporate environment, it is important to recognize that there is much more than monetary motivation for this multigenerational workforce. Employees need to feel they are part of an organization that challenges, stimulates, and values them. By taking steps to establish a successful relationship with open communication between employer and employee, employees will be enriched as will the companies.

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