THE BLOG
02/03/2014 02:57 pm ET Updated Apr 05, 2014

Motivating Multigenerational Workforces

Look around most offices. In most, there is a mix of at least three generations -- all with very different work / life values and motivators. This multigenerational workforce is the new norm. And because of this multigenerational mix, organizational leaders must break with traditional thinking that money is the ultimate reward and the organizational structure follows a hierarchy.

For the last 30-50 years leaders were able to rely on the knowledge -- the truth -- that most people from the same generation and cultural background share similar motivators and values. Leaders were able to rely on this because most of the North American workforce was made up of Anglo-Saxon Baby Boomers.

Today, we are experiencing a wonderful and expanding multigenerational and multicultural workforce. In the next few years half of our eligible workers will be Millennials. In addition, many Boomers are not retiring (because they have to keep working, or they find work fulfilling), and early Generation Z employees are also now entering the workforce.

What this means is that leaders will need to help employees from all generations learn how to communicate with... and motivate each other. When multigenerational communication works, respect, loyalty and personal / organizational success flourishes.

For organizations that wish to succeed, investment in multigenerational leadership and multigenerational communication is just as important as an upgrade of a critical piece of machinery. The only difference is that an investment in multigenerational leadership and multigenerational communication is without doubt one of their greatest competitive opportunities to propel their business into:

  • Greater employee engagement
  • Greater employee creativity
  • Greater employee retention
  • Greater employees and customer satisfaction
  • Greater growth / market share
  • Greater profitability
  • Lower costs

The organization that succeeds helps its employees recognize the value each generation offers and creates thriving, respectable teams. Successful organizations understand each individual can (and should), express their unique talents and personal goals as they focus -- together -- on shared organizational goals.

Shared Goals

Example: An organization wants a full system upgrade done in 6 months. As part of the upgrade team: 1. Boomer employees will likely want to know:
  • Will there be a bonus for a successful upgrade delivered on time?
  • Might this lead to a promotion?
  • Will there be sincere recognition for meeting deliverables (from their boss is usually OK - or could be something bigger like within the company newsletter)?
2. Millennial employees will likely want to know:
  • How can they uniquely contribute to the project?
  • What are they going to learn?
  • Who are they going to meet?
  • What might be the next opportunity that this opportunity leads to?

In a multigenerational workplace we need to give our employees / teams the tools, motivation and knowledge to build honest, respectful relationships based on ability (skill, knowledge and experience), and goals.

Quick Multigenerational Recap:
  • Boomers are traditionally motivated by money and status like office location, attending events and being the boss.
  • Xers are the first generation to focus on work / life balance -- they saw their parents who were very loyal to one company 20 or 30 years get laid off.
  • Millennials want more work/life balance, freedom and opportunity. They are driven by a desire to better themselves, get recognition for and share their successes and to do meaningful work.
  • Generation Z (1995 - 2007), are optimistic, flexible and networked like no previous generation. Several other descriptors include "Generation V" (for virtual), "Generation C" (for community), "The New Silent Generation", the "Internet Generation", and even the "Google Generation."

Conclusion: Multigenerational Leadership -- Managing 3 or 4 Generations

To manage across the generations we have to learn to be mindful of each other and treat each other as individuals.

No matter what generation we are from, it's too easy to keep doing what we are doing now and acting like each generation is (or should be), motivated by the same things we are. Even if our professional -- management instincts say "no -- of course we don't do this," we have to be careful that our actions don't demonstrate that we do. We always have to be mindful of our actions and stay open to listening to each other.

Use everyone's ability and goals.

Happy communicating. I'm always happy to hear from you: Click here.