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Motivating Older Generations in the Workplace

Motivating Older Generations in the Workplace.

Author: Derrick Cramer written for Workinfo.com

Motivation is an integral part of any successful business, it is after all in your best interest to make sure employees have a reason to get up in the morning, come to work and perform at their best. There are many classic forms of motivation; money, the promise of career advancement and allowing employees to take part in tasks they enjoy doing are just a few examples. But, do these apply to employees that are part of Generation X?

Generation X is said to include those born from 1960 to around 1981, those who are between 30 and 51 years of age. These are no longer fresh-out-of-university graduates who are looking at breaking into their profession of choice, they are people who have established a solid foundation in their chosen career and will most likely stick with their current line of work until retirement. So do the classical forms of motivation still apply to them?

Classic forms of motivation and why they aren’t suited to Generation X.

The first classic form of motivation is incentive based, setting a goal for an employee and rewarding them once they reach that goal. While this is important for younger generations who are looking to break through into the upper ranks of the workplace, the older generations have been through this before, and more likely than not find themselves in the higher ranks of the workplace. Goals mean less than they did before; Generation X is satisfied as long as they reach their deadline at the end of the month through tried and tested techniques.

Another classic form of motivation is the “drive reduction” theory. This theory states that the longer a person deals without satisfying a goal, the greater the drive to achieve that goal. Once again this works well for younger employees who have set themselves long term goals and have dived head first into the workplace with no previous experience, older employees will have achieved these (depending of course on area of work as well as experience in that area) already, or rather have achieved many goal and as such this one becomes just another end of month target or deadline, and so the “drive” is diminished.

If these classic forms of workplace motivation won’t work on Generation X, what will? Let’s take a look at some numbers and see where Generation X’s priorities lie, maybe they hold the answer.

The numbers, Priorities of a Generation X employee

During a recent poll conducted among 80 Generation X employees, the number 1 priority of was family, most importantly providing and spending time with their kids. The numbers show that over 85% of those who took part in the poll placed Family as their main priority, the other 15% did not list family as a priority at all as they were single with no kids or “serious relationships”.

What we can take from this is, among all respondents with families, “Family” had a 100% priority rate. Other priorities that were common to most of the respondents were: Job security (90 %+), Savings/retirement plan (70%), Health/Medical cover (60%), and free time (40%).

What we can draw from these numbers is, many Generation X employees share similar priorities in life, and so any forms of motivation based on these priorities should apply to most if not all Generation X employees in the workplace. So how can we make use of these numbers?

Understanding these priorities and using them as motivation.

Family, the priority that most Generation X employee’s world revolves around, can be a great form of motivation. Whether it is medical aid support, bursaries for an education fund, or specialspa/golf day vouchers for your employee’s significant other, using incentives that relate to a Generation X employee’s family is a great way to motivate. Job security is important to all, but far more so to Generation X employees. With bonds to pay off, families to feed and hobbies to continue, reinforcing the feeling of job security among Generation X employees will do wonders for their workplace motivation, and is mutually beneficial to both employee and employer. Lastly, free time. Spending time with family, relaxing in the garden or taking part in their favourite hobby means quite a lot to your typical Generation X employee, so offer them some time off as an incentive to work harder, meet deadlines and perform at their best, a balance of work and play will not only motivate employees, it will also make them happy.

Our Conclusion.

Working with Generation X can be a rewarding experience. Their age means Generation X have the qualifications as well as the work experience you need in your business. Whether they’re old staff who need a bit of motivation to perform at their best, or new staff that need reasons to join your company, each and every Generation X employee wants something out of their job. If you can find out what that something is, and give it to them, chances are they’ll be a motivated, happy, and productive employee.

But Remember, “No one ever lies on their death bed and says, ‘I wish I spent more time atwork’...” – Anonymous.

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Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

Managing Director


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T: +27 (0)10 035 4185 (Office)

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Website: www.workinfo.com
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