Generational Behavior and Employee Motivation

June 29, 2021
Generational Behavior and Employee Motivation

By Gloria Maribel Rodríguez De Jesús, Ph.D., president of Resolución de Conflictos y Acción Mediadora, Corporación Profesional (CP).

A great organizational challenge for business owners is integrating generational diversity among employees to create balance in the workplace.

The effort is worthwhile as the advantages of integrating generational diversity include:

  • multiple perspectives
  • transmission of knowledge
  • making the most of each generation’s contributions

Let’s look at each generational group to learn about their traits, behaviors, and what motivates them.

Baby boomers (born between 1940 and 1960)

  • They are entrepreneurs for life, inveterate workers, they seek a feeling of belonging within organizations; they are loyal, feel young, and value quality of life. They also take risks and like to strengthen interpersonal relationships between them, they value teamwork, good communication, and education.
  • They are optimistic, process-oriented rather than results-oriented, sensitive to feedback, responsible, and ethical.
  • They tend to have good self-esteem, refuse to give up power to younger generations.
  • They are assertive and consistent.

What motivates them?

  • As they are focused on their professional development, a good motivational strategy includes training and constant development, mainly in technology and innovation matters, since they do not want to retire. Also, they want to expose themselves to new experiences.
  • Their work style is participatory, and they tend to be good leaders. They like in-person communication and face-to-face meetings rather than emails or text messages.
  • They look for job security and an employer who offers them health plan and insurance coverage.
  • They value money and titles. They feel fulfilled when perceived as necessary within the organization, and by having a sense of belonging. Public recognition is valuable to them. They prefer environments where there aren’t many workplace changes.

Generation X (born between 1960 and 1980)

  • They were the first to use cell phones and personal computers, they are independent and have access to technology.
  • They tend to reject authority and place lesser value on hierarchies.
  • Their strengths include the ability to adapt to changes, they’re competent and frank, they’re not easily intimidated, they’re usually defiant and honest.

What motivates them?

  • They are motivated by training focusing on new tasks and job changes. They also look for quick rewards, raises, and short-term bonuses. They enjoy working with little supervision and instant feedback.
  • Working as independent contractors is appealing to them because they see themselves as entrepreneurs. They appreciate free time, creating a balance between personal life and work.
  • Since they adapt quickly, they like structure and direction. They are flexible to change and geographical relocations. They are suspicious and incredulous. You need to speak clearly and directly to them.
  • They value independence and self-sufficiency when performing tasks since they do not adapt very much to authority; in fact, they tend to challenge it.
  • They are true to themselves and are technologically savvy. It is important to offer them continuing education and personal benefits. They prefer to communicate electronically, as via text message, and prefer meetings held via teleconference.

Generation Y (millennials) (born between 1980 and 2000)

  • They are known as the “Me” generation. They want to enjoy things almost immediately. They do not believe in authoritarianism nor in working at one company all their lives.
  • They have good self-confidence. They look for challenges that keep them busy and that test their imagination and creativity.
  • They dominate computers, the latest technology, and social media. They venture ideas and love freedom.
  • They have low verbal communication skills.
  • They are independent and value personal life before work. For them, justice is important and they demand rights.
  • They get bored quickly but are excellent at handling changes. They have a great social conscience; but need support to get organized. They have no gender biases or stereotypes. For them, anything is possible, nothing scares them, they look for work that has meaning and gives them the opportunity to make a difference.

What motivates them?

  • They want their work to be entertaining and challenging. They long to have their space and to have their autonomy and personal time respected.
  • They opt for immediate rewards.
  • When working, they prefer not to follow so many rules.
  • They hope to reach their personal and financial goals.
  • They seek a cultural change in traditional recruitment and evaluation methods. They prefer immediate communication via text messages, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.

Generation Z or Net (born between 2000 and 2010)

  • This generation has used the internet from very early on and is comfortable with technology and social media. They are innovative and creative. Digital natives communicate primarily through text messages, audio, and video.
  • They are independent and have entrepreneurial desires. They identify themselves as loyal, compassionate, open-minded, responsible, determined, competitive, spontaneous, adventurous, and curious.
  • They are polite and behave well. But perhaps, due to unprecedented exposure to technology, they tend to suffer from stress and depression.
  • Their communication is quick, they develop their businesses at an early age from home, and value remote work.

What motivates them?

  • The acceptance of new ideas motivates them; they are prepared for a global business environment.
  • More than a job, they yearn for the satisfaction and excitement of feeling that they are helping the world move forward. They look for ways to take advantage of career opportunities that will provide them with future experience.

Generational diversity as an opportunity for your business

Generational variety should be regarded as an opportunity. The challenge lies in fostering an ambiance and work environment in which employees can cooperate towards achieving the company’s objectives.

As a business owner it is important that you identify meeting points, complementation, and synergy in times of conflict. Understanding the motivations, behaviors, and interactions between generations is imperative to achieve a positive work environment that is conducive to success.

Diversity adds value and has a direct impact on creativity, innovation, efficiency, and communication. The goal of any organization should be to motivate and retain talent. This is achieved through a generational balance and by identifying objectives and resources to accomplish it.

The author is a certified dispute mediator and arbitrator. She has a Ph.D. in Business and Management Development, with a concentration in Human Resources. As president of Resolución de Conflictos y Acción Mediadora, Corporación Profesional (CP), she provides training services (continuing education) to mediators and arbitrators.

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