Motivating an Employee – Not a “One Size Fits All” Approach

A question often posed in HR circles and leadership forums is “how do I motivate an employee?” This is a puzzle that most leaders would love to solve. While there is no one size fits all approach to motivating an individual, there are a few key areas to focus on to ensure that your business promotes a culture of motivation and achievement.
Are You Really Motivated By Your Job?
The first thing to consider is that motivation is typically fueled by an external factor. Most employees aren’t inherently motivated – something either at work or at home drives them to succeed. For many, the idea of extra time off is a motivating factor. Spending more time at home with friends and family is a big reward, and can push even the average employee to work harder and deliver better results. Some employees are enamored with the idea of earning more money – motivated by the prospect of raises, merit increases, and promotions. Whatever the specific motivation is, it is vital that leadership within the organization takes the time to directly identify what these factors are.
Motivating the Generations
One consideration to make regarding motivation centers on motivating all generations of employees. What specifically excites a generation X employee (born between 1964 – 1981) may not motivate a Millennial (born between 1982 – 2000). Generation X employees have demonstrated motivation in the workplace when an environment of fun, feedback, and flexibility is apparent. Generation X employees are motivated by flexible work arrangements. While their parents may have gotten used to punching the clock every morning at 9am sharp and grabbing their lunch pail at exactly 5pm, Gen X’ers appreciate and are motivated by flexible work schedules, breaks in the routine, and tangible rewards. Give a Gen X’er a gift card to dinner and an early out – and you’ll see an employee who is motivated to achieve the next day at work.
For the Baby Boomer generation, motivation takes on a different meaning. “Being in charge” can motivate Boomers. Titles, perks of the job, and anything that helps distinguish and accentuate the heights that a Boomer has achieved will go a long way toward motivating the employee. Older employees – say those born before 1945, are motivated by those who recognize the talents and depth of experience that these workers bring to the table. A leader of an older worker should understand that a traditional, “straight path” career model is comfortable for many in this age bracket.
Creating a Culture of Achievement
One of the simplest ways to ensure that employees are motivated is to create a culture of achievement at the workplace. Achievement must be the norm. It isn’t what employees aspire to – it is the day in and day out focus on setting new benchmarks, innovating on the job, and reaching new heights of productivity. These metrics might be different among the various generational groups, so the keen manager will ensure that they know not just what motivates the individual, but what motivates a generation.