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Motivating Todays Younger Workforce


Part 2 - The Solutions

In Part 1, I wrote about the issues surrounding motivation and Generation Y in the workplace.  This 2nd part provides more understanding around their motivational needs, and looks at some of the things we as trainers can do to provide them.

Workplace motivation requires 2 things –the right environment and similarly-minded, motivated people (Adair). Generation Y will soon form the biggest part of our workforce, they’ll kind of be running things around here.  It’s important we understand how they are motivated, not just what motivates them, so that we can provide them with the best possible environment in which to pass-on our knowledge and benefit of our experience.

Different cultures, different values

If modern industry is to benefit from the potential and entrepreneurial abilities Gen Y bring, then we need to ensure key motivational factors are in-place. If recruitment processes are in place ensuring the right calibre of workforce, then todays’ leaders only need focus on creating the an environment that young workers find motivational, allows freedom of collaboration, inclusion and access. Todays’ generation don’t do hierarchies, they get in the way of progress (we all knew that anyway, but now there’s a whole generation pushing back, not just the L&D team!), so flatter structures rule OK, meaning we get more done, quicker.

Management principles of yesterday just don’t cut it anymore. Gen Y need good leadership and good trainership in-line with todays’ culture, if they are to be engaged.  That means leaders and trainers who understand and appreciate the values, attitudes and beliefs of the younger workforce because, surprise, surprise, they’re not the same as Gen X, or the Baby Boomers.  The formative events in their lives were different, period.

The extrinsic motivators that were once at the core of previous work generations, like overtime and bonus schemes, have lost impactthe recession made sure of that, with the opportunity of getting on the property ladder a distant dream for Gen Y – so unless there are seriously big financial rewards, these type of motivators won’t secure buy-in over the long term.  Todays younger workers would rather have more time to pursue their own goals, which may provide greater satisfaction and self-worth, and could reap them greater financial benefits over the long term.

Dan Pink is a leading writer on motivation, and in his latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he presents 3 intrinsic motivators that workplaces should consider:

·         Mastery – getting better at what matters

·         Autonomy – being able to direct their own lives/work

·         Purpose – being part of something larger than one self

I’m a firm believer in the ‘Rule of 3s’, as many of my past trainees know, and these 3 intrinsic motivators I think are powerful thought provokers.  Yes,  it could be argued that they are quite ‘surface’; they refer to the ‘what’ and what we really want to know is the ‘how’, but Pinks’ book goes deeper, and is worth a read.  Dan Pink can also be found on YouTube.

So what does this mean to us as trainers?

It’s said that the key ingredient of being an excellent trainer is passion.  But I think what’s more important is to ensure that that passion can be seen, heard and felt by your audience. This is especially so for todays’ graduates and younger workforce.  Demonstration of passion for imparting knowledge and skills to others creates a dynamic engagement – it motivates, inspires and builds rapport far greater than any extrinsic motivators, and it’s free!

Connect with your younger audience – they are more participative, and enjoy working with bright, creative people.  Ask them what they want from a learning intervention, how do they like to learn?  What resources would they need to make the most of the learning activities? How can you support their learning at work? Ask them!

Experiential learning is the most effective way of learning, so provide this for them, with plenty of practical application during training.  Exercises, small group projects, outcome-focussed discussions and on-the-job activities all provide opportunity to embed new learning.  Whatever you do, make it meaningful – Gen Y will appreciate this, not activities for activities-sake; link everything to their real-life context. 

As a trainer, you need to ensure you enter the training room in the right mind-set, or ‘training state’.  The right state is founded in your values and beliefs as a trainer. You should be clear in your mind as to what it is that inspires you to train, not just because training is something you do for a job. I train because I feel I am always giving something back, passing-on knowledge or the benefit of experience that will enable others to achieve more in their professional or personal lives. That’s my belief.

For the trainer, every training session should be eagerly anticipated, an opportunity to spark curiosity, provide challenge, excite, inspire and entertain, and learn!  Wow! That’s your training state. Think about your training values; what drives you to train, what you want to gain from training.  How do your values make you feel? It should be a positive feeling – if it’s not quite as positive as you feel it should be, take some time to re-align your training values.

Trainers are inspirational, they are mentors, trainers should utilise any activities or opportunities that encourage learning – there are no rules. These are some of my personal training values, and I go into the training room with these uppermost in my mind every time, although that’s not to say it’s easy!

Your values should not be something you air occasionally, but EVERY time you stand up and train. Train every session as though it will be your last, and go home at the end of the training day exhausted.

Key points for trainers:

·         Demonstrate passion

·         Provide experiential learning opportunities

·         Support trainees learning in the workplace

·         Provide learning resources that trainees can access on-the-move

·         Provide coaching – you are seen as a mentor as well as a trainer

·         Be in a ‘training state’ at all times

·         Go home exhausted

It really doesn’t take much to keep our younger workforce motivated – respect their values, personalise what you do, train to inspire, and show them you mean it!

If you do, you will find that many employees will become more motivated in your multi-generational workplace, and it’ll be a great motivational environment to work in. There’ll be a buzz, a dynamic, a natural intrinsic motivator that carries everyone along with it, and that’s got to be good for everyone, has it not?

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