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Motivation by Generation: Specific Tips To Inspire Your Millennial, Generation X, and Boomer Employees

Posted by Deb Muoio

May 19, 2015 3:22:00 PM

specifics-tips-to-inspireCover-1Motivation used to be simple – or at least a lot of managers thought it was simple. Wave a bonus in front of employees like a carrot on a stick, and then sit back and watch them work.

It’s not that money isn’t a strong motivator; it’s just not the only motivator at your disposal. Aside from the fact that it’s short-lived, it’s not even the most important one for most people. In fact, for Gen Xers and Yers, it didn’t even break into the Top 10 motivators!

Managers who take the time to get to know their staff and what inspires them are mining for valuable information. The fact that employee motivation is multidimensional shouldn’t scare or frustrate you; if anything, it gives you options, which is essential if your company employs a multitude of workers from different generations.

In previous blogs, we offered tips to boost employee motivation in general, and discussed work motivators that Millennials, Generation X, and Boomers have in common (see Part 1 and Part 2 ). In this week’s blog, we will talk about work motivators that are specific to each generation.

Work Motivator - Power

Preferred by: Millennials, Generation X

What this motivator entails:

Employees motivated by power find it difficult to step back and play a small or supporting role. They need to feel that they have a certain level of influence, and will feel frustrated and trapped in any position where they have no say, no clout, or no leadership role.

Motivational tips:

  • Find ways to allow Millennials and Generation Xers to be a part of company’s decisions. Let them join in on the decision-making process, ask them for their input on proposed solutions, or let them do some research. It will be a valuable learning opportunity.
  • Pick their brains. Ask them for their opinion on projects, marketing plans, or allow them to participate in brainstorming meetings.
  • Give them an opportunity to take on more responsibilities and lead projects. Give them as much autonomy as they can carry. They need to be given a chance to show you what they can do.

Work Motivator - Stability

Preferred by: Generation X, Boomers

What this motivator entails:

Employees with this motivator need job security and are typically uncomfortable taking large career risks. They want their job to provide a solid anchor in their lives.

Motivational tips:

  • Be transparent. Keep them informed about the future plans of the company. Establish a trusting relationship by sharing how the company is doing financially, in good or bad times. When dismissing team members, ensure that the rest of the team understands the reasons behind it. Random (even just seemingly random), capricious or on-the-spot firing of a colleague will not sit well with people of these generations.
  • Find a cost-effective benefits program for your staff. People motivated by stability appreciate perks such as health insurance, retirement savings plans, and sick and personal days. Family-friendly policies also go a long way – on-site daycare, flextime or telecommuting, and job security when one needs extended time for compassionate care.).

Work Motivator – Structure and Order

Preferred by: Millennials

What this motivator entails:

Employees with this motivator prefer working in a company with an established system for performing tasks and duties, and a clearly structured hierarchy of employees. They do not cope well with ambiguity.

Motivational tips:

  • Spell out exactly what their role is in the company. Give them a weekly (if not daily) to-do list. Establish clear expectations and explain key performance indicators. Point out their strengths and help them capitalize on them. Indicate which areas are weaker and need improvement, and most importantly, work with them on an action plan to help them improve.
  • Before assigning a project, sit down with them and create a list of clear and detailed SPECS: What needs to be done, how, by when, and what resources are needed. Do not micromanage them – just give them autonomy within reasonable boundaries.
  • Set clear goals, break them down into short-term steps and give them regular feedback so that they know how they are progressing.

Work Motivator – Financial Reward

Preferred by: Boomers

What this motivator entails:

Employees motivated by financial reward want to see the fruit of their labor in terms of an ever-growing bank account. For some, it’s about the security of having saved up for a rainy day. For others, it’s about fairness; they want to feel that their salary and benefits equal the value of the time and energy they invest in their work. Some may perceive their compensation as a reflection of respect, status and prestige.

Motivational tips:

  • Offer a competitive salary and benefits according to the industry standards.
  • Offer a pay raise whenever it is financially feasible.
  • Offer different financial incentives: Bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, expense account, company car, living allowance - whatever is within the company's means.


If you’re interested in using CAMOP (Career Motivation Profile) or other tests for HR purposes, request a free trial for ARCH Profile here.

Want to learn more about using psychological tests for hiring, leadership development, career development or talent retention? Download our free eBook loaded with down-to-earth information about psychological testing for HR purposes.


Topics: HR Tips, Employee Engagement, Mentoring, HR Trends, Retention, Motivation, Coaching, Employee Relations, Millennials, Productivity

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