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Motivating Todays Younger Workforce


Part 1 – The Issue

People will only change their behaviours and beliefs if there exists a powerful motivator to do so, especially young people.  Having trained and coached hundreds of young Post-Grads entering into the corporate world of IT Project Management, I’ve found that providing them that motivational element that will inspire and drive them in their training can often be the trickiest part.

That got me thinking about motivating trainees and younger staff generally, particularly in the corporate business environment, and especially in these financially trying times.

Extrinsic motivators such as employee-of-the-month, staff away-days, even bonuses, are all typical workplace motivators which, whilst seemingly effective at the time, are often short-lived, and do not result in overall longer-term changes in behaviour or performance.

Sure, some may say that money motivates just fine, right now.  But does it?  Employers’ currently hiring staff are now taking much longer to do so, taking their time to find the right person for the job who will ‘fit’ with their culture. Likewise, candidates themselves also want to make sure the employers’ culture will fit with them, too, for having spent weeks or perhaps months job-hunting, they don’t want to be stuck in a job that makes them miserable, having to do it just for the money – that’s no life at all.  This is especially true of Graduates, who having spent between 3-9 years in full-time education, enter the corporate working world with credentials ranging from a Bachelors to a PhD, only to find it was more satisfying working the weekend job.

Intrinsic motivators such as praise, responsibility, company social events etc. provide the more humanistic ingredient, yet still don’t quite provide what’s needed.

Generation Y motivation is about achieving a fine balance between both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, but the criteria have changed. 

Young workers, and especially Graduates, are motivated by different things than were the generation before them.  They have different expectations – they’re global, linked-in with social networking (which they mostly invented, by the way), eLearning, Safari Books, apps, downloads, they have their own language, they’re connected in different ways with different social rules – and they’re entrepreneurial, with creative new ideas and ways of applying them.  Old-style Baby Boomer and Generation X motivation doesn’t cut much ice with them.

So then, how to provide the elusive motivating factor that will encourage behavioural change, foster commitment, improve performance and team alignment and help to create that oh-so-desired open/transparent communication climate and culture of creativity, especially for the new generation of workers?

Well, it's easy...passion!

Passion is the trigger that sets off a short sequence of positive events in most people – they become enthused, fired-up, emotionally ‘charged’, exhibiting positive behaviour in body language and verbal response.  You’ve all seen audiences’ responses to passionate speakers such as Obama, Arnold, Tony Robbins, the late Steve Jobs – they all share a passion for what they do and believe in, which has got them to where they are.  Having a clear goal to work towards helps, too, but it’s their sheer passion that carries them along that road to success, and inspiring others along the way.

When this response is triggered, people feel motivated, and in a lot of cases, inspired as well.  It’s important not to get mixed-up between the two.  Motivation is short-term, but inspiration stays the course; I remember reading somewhere that ‘a person once inspired, no longer requires motivation’, and that certainly bears true of the gentlemen mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Generation Y respond greatly to passion in people, especially it seems, from us Gen X’ers and Boomers, who don’t tend to exhibit such a trait as often as the younger folks (they do sometimes seem a bit wary at first, as it’s unexpected!). Gen Y are our successors, and if we don’t show some enthusiasm for our working environment or profession that’s provided us with a roof over our heads for the past few decades, then how can we expect them to rush into it jumping for joy?

Passion can lead to inspiration, and displayed regularly enough, also provides that extra bit of motivation that helps to see the day through when the going is tough.

As trainers, we all know that the ‘secret’ to training is passion, and over the years I’ve seen a lot of trainers who exude this (and a few more that don’t…).  But passionate trainers aren’t in the workplace driving everyday operations along, so the provision of motivation, drive and inspiration must fall to the leaders, and the older, more experienced hands, willing to act as mentors and coaches.  It’s imperative that they take-up the reins, now more than ever, and bring the passion to the workplace that will inspire today’s younger workforce.

I can honestly say that in my 30+ years of working life, I’ve only ever worked for two organisations that came close to having a climate that provided both motivation and inspiration to its workforce in healthy doses; one a small family-owned outfit in the IT supply business back in the early ‘80’s; the atmosphere there made going to work on a Monday morning something to look forward to – every day was a good day.  And the other one?  Well, that was the British Army…

In Part 2, I’ll be talking about a bit more about motivation and inspiration to Gen Y’ers, and some useful NLP-based techniques that can be used in the workplace to help it along a bit.  Thanks for reading.

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