3 Tips to Motivate a Multigenerational Workforce



A common question that leaders have to wrestle with is: What motivates my employees? What moves them to action? What gets their fire going?

The challenge is that even when you figure out what inspires one group of people, that very same thing may not work for another. This is never truer than across the generations.

Leaders today have the unique experience of having up to four generations working together. This trend is very likely to become the norm. Given that, as a leader, you need to motivate many generations simultaneously.

How do you do this successfully? Below are three tips to help leaders learn how to motivate a multigenerational workforce and leverage the opportunity.

Tip #1: Realize that we’re more alike than different.

In Fierce Generations, we explore the characteristics of each generation, from Traditionalists to Gen Y. Then we ask the participants to choose which of those characteristics best describe them. The answers are usually surprising. As I wrote earlier this week, I picked many characteristics commonly attributed to my grandparents’ generation. More likely than not, your workforce has more in common than they think they do. As a leader, you can boost collaboration and motivate your group as whole by highlighting these similarities.

Tip #2: Look Backwards.

When leading individuals of different generations, you have to look backwards. In order to uncover what will motivate your employees in the future, you have to examine their experiences of the past. For example, going through the Great Depression, and then WWII, heavily shaped how the Traditionalist generation views business. Now, sixty plus years later, even though the world has changed, what motivates Traditionalists is still rooted in those experiences in the past. Spending some time understanding each generation’s history helps you as a leader to better recruit, train, and retain.

Tip #3: Go to your team.

If there is discord among your workforce due to the generation gap, take a step back and make sure that one generation isn’t dominating the conversation. If one generation is dominating who is in leadership positions, ask yourself: What generational perspective is being heard most often?

The answer isn’t to promote employees into leadership roles just because of their age. Instead leaders need to create a collaborative environment by harnessing the different generation’s perspectives. In our Team Model, we encourage leaders to look at their workforce like a beach ball. Each stripe of color represents a different viewpoint. When creating policies that will incentivize or motivate employees, don’t create them in a vacuum. Instead go straight to the source and open the conversation up to those you are trying to motivate.

As a leader, how do you motivate your multigenerational workforce?

This blog was originally published on October 31, 2012 by Jaime Navarro.

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