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Motivating a Multigenerational Workplace: a Cheat Sheet

Remember when conversations around workplace motivation were as simple as, “what’s more effective—the carrot or the stick?” Ah, those were the days. With evolving and increasingly more nuanced organizational theory, there are so many new elements to throw into your calculus. Do you motivate introverts and extroverts differently? Should you focus on the individual or the group? Is compensation more effective, or is flexibility king? And what about Boomers vs. Xers vs. Millennials?

When it comes to generations, we’ve got you covered. And to keep it quick and easy for you, here’s a cheat sheet on how to best motivate each generation.

Baby Boomers – Motivate through Public Recognition
As optimistic and competitive as they are, Boomers appreciate when someone goes out of his or her way to acknowledge their work. Receiving public recognition is a big deal for this group—much more than other generations. Lauding their efforts in team meetings, giving them mementos to memorialize big achievements, and finding opportunities to publically honor their contributions will be your motivational secret sauce with this group.

Gen X – Motivate through Flexibility
For Xers, it’s a very simple equation. More time spent at work = time away from family and personal relationships. To better motivate them, give Xers time to invest in their personal lives. Help them streamline their work and implement tools and processes so they can be uber efficient. Cut back on extraneous meetings, and let them get their job done. They’ll give you 110% focus and attack to-do lists with a vengeance if they know that once the clock strikes 5 pm, they’re free to go.

Millennials – Motivate through Colleagues
One of the biggest ways to motivate Millennials is to help them find their squad at work. Developing a work family is a huge point of retention for this generation who has blurred the line between work and personal. They also strive to make a difference at work—in their team, in their company, and in the world. Helping them connect the dots between their tasks and the end results can be a huge motivator, especially when they’re working alongside a team of dedicated colleagues and friends who have their back.

Gen Edge – Motivate through Meaning
There’s still plenty to learn about what will motivate Edgers when they hit the workforce, but BridgeWorks’ latest research shows that this young generation cares about working for a company that aligns with their own beliefs. They want to work with their coworkers and leaders towards giving back to the community. Quick caveat though: steady compensation is key for this pragmatic generation. While they do crave meaning, financial stability will be their number one priority, followed closely by finding meaningful work.