Motivating Gen Xers, Millennials Requires Different Strategies

Young workers have different outlooks, responses to management 

They are connected but starkly different, two generations of Americans with different views of themselves, the world and their work.

Where the post-Baby Boom group of Americans known as Generation X meets the succeeding generation of Millennials sometime in the early 1980s is a cocktail of cultural, moral and professional contrasts. For employers, navigating the varying influences and motivations of Gen Xers and Millennials can range from tricky to downright maddening.

Generational differences can lead to misunderstandings or even conflict in the workplace, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s some insight into the two generations and tips on meeting their respective professional needs and how to motivate each group.

Generation X, frequently known as Gen Xers, consists of Americans born from the mid-1960s to around 1981. Millennials is the generation that followed, born from the early 1980s to around 2000, and is the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S.

Gen Xers saw shopping downtown migrate to the mall, took photographs with cameras that used actual film that required processing, called friends on rotary-dial phones and remember life before the Internet.

They were the first generation of Americans to spend significant time at home alone — giving rise to the term “latchkey kids” — that fostered a sense of independence. They also saw the mistrust and paranoia of the Cold War end and entered the job market at the economic decline of the late 1980s.

Gen Xers comprise about 50 million adults. Generally speaking, their parents worked long hours and sacrificed families for jobs. Yet when the economy tanked in the 1980s, many Gen X parents lost their jobs.

Motivating Gen Xers

As a result, Gen Xers developed a jaded outlook on the overemphasis on work by their parents and developed a perception of a cold-hearted corporate world that left their folks unemployed. David G. Javitch in Entrepreneur magazine identified three keys to motivating Gen Xers in light of their general background and experiences.

The first is to give them room to grow. Gen Xers should be given clear goals but a reasonable latitude on how to achieve them.

“Build on their interest in gaining new skills and knowledge by providing opportunities to grow on the job,” Javitch writes.

The second bit of advice is to give them opportunities to make choices. Gen Xers learned to fend for themselves so provide them options on selecting tasks, challenges, formulating new processes and developing creative yet appropriate conclusions. “You also want to allow them the freedom to use their own resourcefulness and creativity to achieve success,” Javitch writes.

A final recommendation is to mentor Gen Xers. Don’t micro-manage them or suggest rigid guidelines for completing projects, but spend time with them and offer clear and frequent feedback on their progress, Javitch writes.

A Digital Generation

Millennials is a digitally-savvy generation that has perfected the art of the selfie, considers a Vine a short video to share rather than something that grows in the jungle and quit Facebook because mom, dad and grandma are on it. It’s a well-educated, confident generation focused on achievement that wants to be good parents.

Yet they also grew up playing on youth sports teams where everyone got a trophy, were alternatively coddled and pressured by parents and may have a sense of entitlement. As they’ve entered the workplace, a common desire among Millenials is for feedback and a sense of teamwork.

Half of millennials polled say a poor work ethic left their own generation unprepared for work, according to a Bentley University “PreparedU Project” survey. Almost two out of three millennials say employers should limit social media usage to make them more productive.

Millennials may be more loyal to employers than what’s perceived, with 80 percent saying they expect to work for four or fewer companies for their entire career, according to the PreparedU survey. In their current job, 36 percent say they expect to stay for three to five years and 16 percent expect to stay with their current job for the rest of their career.

Coaching Millennials

One key for employers in keeping and motivating Millennials may be coaching. In a global survey by SuccessFactors in partnership with Oxford Economics, 1,400 millennials essentially said they want more coaching at work.

They want to be inspired, they want direction and they want a sense of mission that can be provided by their bosses or managers. Motivating a Millennial can be as simple as taking time to share the vision of the organization, group, or company and how they fit into it and the importance of their results.

Noticing effort can also inspire. Send an encouraging text to them. Let them know face to face you see their accomplishments. Suggest ways of improving without belittling them. Listen and be flexible.

Millenials say overwhelmingly in surveys that flexible work hours are a key to boosting productivity. Be open to allowing them to working remotely.

Regardless of the method, motivating Gen Xers and Millennials is going to be vital for any business. After all, the majority of workers comprise these two generations and within five years half of the workers will be Millennials.

Curious to learn more about how to engage your team. Contact us.

2016-01-06T21:12:05+00:00Human Resources|