How to motivate everyone: from Baby Boomers to Centennials

Alba Burillo

26 April 2018

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The modern office is not just multicultural and gender diverse, it’s multigenerational too. In fact, the workplace has always been multigenerational to a certain extent, but now more than ever the differences between the working styles of each generation need to be addressed.

In a recent interview, author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, talked about millennials and how they differ from the generation who employ them. But it’s not just millennials we need to consider – we need to learn to cater for a wide range of work personas. These days millennials can hold any position within an organisation from intern to CEO, so it’s important not to over-generalise. That said, developing a general understanding of each working generation – their strengths, weaknesses and preferences – is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern HR department. They’ll need to have a workplace optimisation strategy in place if they want to achieve organisational harmony.


Workplace personas: experienced vs. new energy


Baby Boomers: ages 52 to 70

  • What do they want: stable, long-term work. They don’t necessarily ‘love what they do’, work is just a means to an end
  • What matters most: leadership opportunities, financial security, competitive pay and steady employment
  • Positive stereotypes: reliable, experienced, loyal, more connected with industry contacts, more used to the workplace environment
  • Negative stereotypes: technophobic, reluctant to travel, slow learners
  • Facts & Figures: 77% have no kids at home

Generation X: ages 36 to 51

  • What do they want: work-life balance, opportunities for socialisation, competitive pay and steady employment
  • What matters most: financial security, childcare, petcare, flexibility, and leadership opportunities
  • Positive stereotypes: self-reliant, balanced, risk-takers, ambitious
  • Negative stereotypes: cynical, not necessarily ‘team players’
  • Facts & Figures: 46% have kids under 18 years old at home

Generation Y (Millennials): ages 18 to 35

  • What do they want: opportunities for advancement, office ‘perks’, a commitment to ethics, tuition reimbursement
  • What matters most: work-life balance, a social working environment, a sense of purpose, training opportunities, flexibility
  • Positive stereotypes: digital natives, multitaskers, enterprising, idealistic and creative
  • Negative stereotypes: lazy, disloyal, impatient, overly idealistic, entitled
  • Facts & Figures: 46% believe they should be advancing within the company after 1-2 years

Generation Z (Centennials): ages 7 to 17

This generation will be the next to enter the workplace. We don’t know a lot about them yet, however what we do know is that they’re truly ‘digital natives’, in that they’ve never known a world without the internet. They’re big believers in self-tuition, they’re creative and somewhat over-informed with a high propensity to consume large amounts information and entertainment. According to a study by The Futures Company they are also, generally, more pragmatic than Millenials.

  • What will they be looking for?: a work-life balance, a stimulating work environment, flexibility, a diverse workplace, and a sense of purpose


Creating a more multigeneration-friendly working environment

Of course, you can’t please everyone and these workplace personas are based partly on generalisation. Still, it’s important to have a workplace optimisation strategy in place in order to increase rates of talent acquisition and retention. Millennials, in particular, are self-confessed job hoppers and difficult to pin down. According to the Harvard Business Review, 21% of Millennial workers left their job in 2016 to work elsewhere, a number three-times higher than the rate of non-millennials doing the same thing. As job security is no longer a given, an environment that appeals to a multiplicity of work style personas is the key to amassing a workforce that enjoys what they do. There are a number of different strategies that could be implemented in order to achieve this, for example:

Financial security can be assured through benefits like retirement plans, private healthcare, dental insurance and childcare. With the cost of living what it is and the commute in and out of city centres still an undeniable nightmare, calls for more flexible working hours and more opportunities to work from home should not go ignored.

An increased focus on the mental and physical wellbeing of your employees will ensure happy and healthy co-workers, willing and able to give you their best eight hours each day.

Offering employees access to educational programmes and training demonstrates a commitment to providing them with a workplace that helps them develop as individuals. This is especially important with more experienced employees who, nevertheless, may be struggling to keep up with new technologies, as well as for interns and those new to the workplace who may need some on-the-job training. At Good Rebels we have our own trainee system which is based on our IEPE framework (Intelligence, Experience, Performance, Enablement). Following this framework, each Rebel decides his or her formative path. We believe in self-management, and so we try to encourage a proactive, self-reliant mindset from the very start.

Launching a digital transformation strategy can help you increase rates of productivity, ensure effective communication organisation-wide, increase flexibility, reduce time wastage, and provide your employees with more opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

More important than a ‘flat hierarchy’ is transparency. A survey conducted by Globoforce found that while 80% of workers surveyed said they trusted their peers, only 72% trusted their bosses, and just 65% trusted senior leaders. Trust and communication between co-workers is hugely important, and improving the level of communication between junior and senior employees could help build trust. At Good Rebels we’ve implemented a policy of open salaries to ensure complete transparency at every level and demonstrate our commitment to equal opportunity for career advancement.

According to a survey conducted by TinyPulse, just 42% of employees can recite their organisation’s vision, mission and values. Making sure that the people who work within your organisation are aligned with your core values is crucial – company manifesto’s are designed to inspire, to ensure that everyone understands why they do what they do, and to build employee loyalty. If you don’t care about your company’s cause, then what’s to stop you from accepting a better offer if one came along?


How are we doing this at Good Rebels?

At Good Rebels we’re working to create a more human centred organisation; one that’s individuals first, organisation second. We capture employee feedback through interactive workplace socials, through apps like Office Vibe, and through one-on-one mentoring. We’ve committed ourselves to transparency, increased flexibility and the promotion of a healthy work-life balance. In order to keep a multigenerational workplace motivated, it’s important to understand how individuals can differ from one another when it comes to styles of working and the reasons they have for sticking around. It’s not about experience vs. energy, it’s about learning to recognise what’s preventing your organisation from becoming truly multigeneration-friendly.