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Motivating a Diverse Workforce

A leader may respond to financial rewards or incentives, but that doesn't mean everyone on their team will share the leader’s sentiments.   There are many factors that come into play when considering how to motivate an employee.   Does the job itself motivate the employee?  This is considered intrinsic motivation and at times you find employees where the job itself motivates the employee.  They are challenged and love what they do.   However, most employees find they are motivated by activities outside of work and need to be motivated to do better on the job. The following must be considered when determining how to motivate an employee:

  • Generation:  The different generations have different expectations from the work environment, which makes it much more difficult for leaders.  

There are currently four different generations in today’s workforce.  What does this mean in terms of how a leader or a company motivates those employees?   The four generations have different needs and priorities in their lives.  Their values are different and this may require additional effort on the part of the manager/leader.    

- Millenniums, born between 1980 and 2000, have a strong focus on civic duty, they are confident, with a need for achievement, and the ability to multitask. So what does this mean for a leader in terms of communication and motivation?  They want to be provided opportunities to learn, and the ability to volunteer or demonstrate their civic duty.

- Generation X employees, born between 1960 and 1980, want to learn and be challenged. They want balance and flexibility in how and when the work is done.  They are self-reliant and independent.  So providing challenging and rewarding assignments can motivate these employees. Once they learn and are proficient in a job, they need more challenging work.   However, this is sometimes difficult, depending on the job.  If the employee is not motivated at work, they will find another activity outside of work that will motivate and challenge them.   

- Baby Boomers, born between 1943 and 1960, are hard workers; they will do whatever it takes to complete a job.  They want to make a contribution and be valued for it.   However, many of them are beginning to think about retirement and/or are struggling dealing with their elderly parents.  So for some what motivated them in the past may have changed, and what is important to them now may be flexibility in how and when the work is done.

- Traditional workers, born between 1922 and 1943, are hard workers, and they are willing to sacrifice.  They have respect for authority.  They are disciplined and want consistency.  Leaders need to provide as much consistency as possible in these times of change and value the experience these folks have to bring to the job.

In addition to the generations, there are other factors that come into play that the leader must consider:

  • Current life cycle – Where are the employees in their current lifecycle?  A single female has very different motivators, than a female who is married and expecting her first child.   Someone who is several years from retirement can have different motivators than a middle-aged man who has several children attending college.  (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)
  • Current job situation – Is the employee new to the job possibly in need of special attention and more face-to-face time with their leader, or are they experienced and need to be rewarded and recognized for their expertise?

Understanding the needs/priorities of each employee and understanding what motivates them is critical.  Leaders must find this unique lever to pull for each individual employee.  We know that in today’s economic environment, companies must use every lever possible to motivate employees, so that in return there will be an increase in revenues, expanded market share, and financial success. 

Rosa will be teaching the July 16 workshop Motivation and Leadership: Understanding and Influencing People at Work, as part of the Leadership Development Series.


There are many factors that come into play when considering how to motivate an employee and all of them are essential enough.Besides, we know that motivation is all that matters cause only a motivated team can accomplish the common goal. Wonderful post!


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