Managing and Motivating a Multigenerational Workforce

Over the last five years, the composition of the workforce has undergone a significant change. For the first time in history – four generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y/Millennial) are present in today’s workforce, each generation with its own perspective, expectations, needs and values. This presents a challenge in that a “one size fits all” approach to managing such a workforce won’t produce a productive and collaborative team. What might work for a Baby Boomer may  frustrate a Millennial and vice versa. It is thus important that leaders learn to understand the different generations and what drives them in order to ensure motivated, committed and productive employees.Although most traditionalists have retired, many remain in the work force. They value hard work, are extremely loyal and believe that respect for authority is tantamount. They tend to be technologically challenged, preferring face-to-face communication over email and are motivated by being acknowledged for what they know and what they do.Baby Boomers want to be valued as individuals and feel needed. They are loyal as long as they are involved and need a strong sense of security. They enjoy processes, collaborating and discussing work assignments (they are likely the ones who will call a meeting for everything).The Generation X’s are the individualistic sceptics who want to know what’s in it for them. They are ambitious, want to be autonomous and therefore loathe being micro-managed. They value work-life balance; they work to live and not vice versa and enjoy external recognition such as being given awards or a voucher.

The entrance of the Millennials into the workforce seems to be what has precipitated the discussion around managing a multigenerational workforce. This generation values innovation, believe that work-life balance is a birthright and want to know why before they do things. They struggle with working with people who they see as less intelligent than they are and expect to be consulted regardless of their level or experience.

So how does one manage and motivate a diverse workforce with different needs?  The answer lies in focusing on the similarities and the strengths.

All employees desire recognition and rewards, albeit in different forms. Creating a multi-faceted reward system (promotions, vouchers, time off, opportunities to study further, etc.) will allow an organisation to cater to and motivate each of the generations.

Create a sense of team work that focuses on the strengths of each generation. As an example, use the Traditionalist’s vast experience to give guidance into a project, allow the Baby Boomers to manage the project and processes, give the Generation X’s the space to work on their part of the project autonomously and give their feedback to the team and task the Millennials to look at ways to bring in innovation. There are several methods to get the best out of a multigenerational team, but the key remains in recognizing that each person is an individual with different needs, accept and respect these differences and finally, engage with your employees in order to better understand them