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Sinead Healy

Fanclub Recognition

Co-founder & MD

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Managing & motivating multiple generations


The term ‘HR headache’ typically refers to a type of in-work behaviour that’s likely to result in someone from the HR team having a number of company compliance forms to fill out and difficult conversations to be had.

But one thing that will be causing one of the bigger headaches for HR teams is the growing divide between the generations within the workforce, and especially how to manage and motivate them.

Currently, there are four generations in most workforces. We have the Baby Boomers who were born after the end of World War 2 up to1964. We have Gen X born between 1965 and 1976. There are the Millenials and Gen Y who were born somewhere between 1977 and 1997 and then Gen Z, the office newbies born from 1997 onwards.

A headache for HR comes in the big difference between how these generations are motivated, what they expect of a company culture and how they feel reward in a role.

For example, Baby Boomers are completely used to annual appraisals of their performance, being set targets and, in an overall sense, being told what to do.

However, Gen Z and the now seemingly infamous Millennials prefer constant reinforcement and feedback, often on a project to project basis. Career development for the digital generations is a week to week sprint, whilst for the older heads in the workforce, it’s a step by step marathon.

For the Millenials and Gen Z’rs, that constant feedback and recognition from both peers and especially management really is vital to their happiness. It dictates their levels of motivation, their engagement in their work and reinforces that they’re both doing the right thing and on the right track.

That idea of instant reward and gratification is one of the reasons why these age groups are happy working within the gig economy. They know they’ll be paid for the work they do, and that pay is typically instant and based on their output.

But how does an HR department ensure a strategy that will motivate these wildly different generations? How can they ensure a company culture that truly does have a shared vision and purpose amongst all its employees? And on a base level, how does it help foster closer working ties and collaboration between a Baby Boomer and a Millenial and a Gen X and Gen Z employees?

Culture, structure & recognition

A lot of it will come down to the development and promotion of the company culture itself, and the business structures and HR strategies put in place to develop it.

In terms of structure, it’s worth considering how the organisation communicates between teams and departments. Whilst Baby Boomers have of course moved with the times and are more than happy using email over internal mail envelopes, Gen Z is more accustomed to instant communication via chatbots, social media and messenger tools. How many businesses within a creative industry, for example, have a shared company WhatsApp for example where anyone from any department can update or alert everyone right away?

One way around this may be to use a central organisational project or work management system that allows for both project updates but also instant chats between colleagues.

And then it comes to ensuring shared motivation and company-wide work engagement. We already know from above that sticking to an annual review system with limited feedback in between is little to no use for the younger generations within the workforce, and this group likely makes up the larger proportion of your staff too.

So how can you ensure that constant contact and regular, timely feedback? One way is through a social employee recognition strategy that encourages workplace appreciation between employees and recognition from bosses to staff.

For some companies, this could just mean a more concerted effort from management to spend time recognising good work and letting individual staff know they’ve done a good job.

For most, especially bigger, companies though, to truly get the recognition bug going viral, it’s going to take a more strategic approach and perhaps even the adoption of new platforms as a base for recognition to take place.

But if there’s one thing that is appreciated by all workforce generations, it’s knowing that their efforts are recognised. Workforces that know their achievements are noted are so much more motivated compared to those who don’t - even the Baby Boomers would want to know on a more regular basis than once per annum that their input is appreciated.

And that’s one of the big ways how you can bring all the generations together, working towards the same shared company vision.

How has your organisation looked to bridge the workplace generations gap to ensure high levels of motivation throughout the workforce? Leave your comments below!

Author Profile Picture
Sinead Healy

Co-founder & MD

Read more from Sinead Healy

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