Motivation Across Generations

Remember: no two people are motivated in exactly the same way, so be careful of stereotyping. On the other hand, some motivators tend to be generation-based.

Some generation-specific motivators:

. Silents (or veterans or oldies) ‐ born before World War 2

Choose formality over informality, eg communicate face-to-face and by live phone calls rather than voice mail, fax, or Email. Explain the logic of any action. Use traditional forms of recognition - plaques, certificates, photos with top executives.

. Baby-boomers ‐ born between 1945 and 1960

Lay out a clear series of steps toward a defined goal. State objectives and desires in people-centered terms. Make boomers work well as part of a team effort; pep talks can help. Choose forms of recognition that are widely noticed, such as an article in the company newsletter.

. Xers - born between 1960 and 1980

Tell them what needs to be done but not how to do it. Give them multiple tasks but let them set their own priorities. Avoid platitudes and buzzwords. Provide frequent and frank feedback, and ask for their reaction and opinions. Pep talks do not work. Allow time for fun. Recognize them with bonus days off

. Yers (or nexters) - born since 1980

Provide opportunities for continuous learning and building skills. Know their personal goals and tell them how the tasks they've been assigned fit into their goals. Emphasize the positive; look on the bright side. Be more of a coach and less of a boss. Communicate informally, eg through Email and brief hallway encounters

More comments on generational differences

. Need to be careful of one generation's pejorative judgment of another generation's characteristic thinking and behaviour. For example, sometimes the baby boomer generation regards generation Xers as egocentric slackers whose work can be supervised as easily as cats can be herded. If you are an Xer, you may perceive baby boomers as staid, demanding, and about as creative and fun loving as a stop sign. Furthermore, a member of the silent generation may cringe at the thought of retiring and leaving the organisation in the hands of other generations (baby boomers and Xers), while generation Y people are perceived by other generations to lack the spirit of self-sacrifice and dedication to a common cause.

. There is a need to understand the generational differences as more and more generations are mixing in the workplace. For example,

- workers are increasingly staying in, or re-entering the workforce, after they reach traditional retirement age

- younger workers are more quickly assuming important roles in their organisations

- many organisations' hierarchies have given way to team-based structures that often include people of all ages

- seniority counts far less today

. It needs to be remembered that each generation acquired its own unique motivators, attributes and worldviews as it lived through a shared set of watershed events and conditions, such as depressions, wars, technological changes, booms and busts, etc.

. Common experiences do not necessarily mean common attitude. On the other hand, more often than not we want the younger generations to be what we were at their age. It is important to identify, recognize and appreciate the generational differences. These generational differences are additional to racial, ethnic, cultural, gender and religious differences that also need to be considered

(source: David Stauffer, 2003)


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