Although there are many individual requirements to take into consideration when motivating our employees, we can also find some general expectations on motivating each of the “Generations” in our teams.  Having diverse teams covering different generations, in my book, is ideal as it provides a breadth of experience, an increased ability to learn from each other and can also enhance customer service.

Below I’ve detailed the high level characteristics of the generations and some general thoughts on motivational differences which will help develop your leadership skills and effective communication skills.


Statistics:  Born between 1981 and 1994 (also known as the Millennials), grew up in a wealthier environment where parents wanted them to have everything, and “just doing your best” was praised.

Characteristics:   Grew up relying on technology, preferring to communicate through email and text messaging rather than face-fo-face, using webinars rather than traditional lecture-based presentations.  They would rather have a more flexible working environment, with less hours and more time for family.  They are confident, are not afraid to question authority, but value teamwork and input from others.

Motivation:  Looking for meaningful work and a quick learning curve, they require regular feedback, guidance, praise and recognition.  Set clear expectations, include them in discussions (as they are committed when they feel involved), communicate frequently and about their role in the big picture, and provide coaching and mentoring to help them develop.  Include opportunities to network, flexible working hours, and use incentives which accommodate the family.  Look for “green” initiatives.


Statistics:  Born between 1965 and 1980, are ethnically diverse and better educated than their predecessors (the baby boomers) due to college/university availability.

Characteristics:  Come from an era of two-income families, rising divorce rates and tough economic times, with large numbers of women in the workforce.  Were part of the changes from a manufacturing to a service economy, and were the first generation to grow up with technology.  As a result, they are independent, resourceful and self-sufficient, valuing responsibility and disliking micro-management.  They are less committed to one employer and adapt well to change, are ambitious and eager to learn new skills.

Motivation:  They enjoy work hard/play hard mentality, incorporating humour and fun into their role.  Keep challenging them to develop new skills, get them involved in organisational changes, provide autonomy to learn in the way that suits them, give them freedom to make their own decisions as they like to be as efficient as possible, be supportive and earn their respect through trust and fairness.


Statistics:  Born between 1946 and 1964, as economic prosperity rose

Characteristics:  They challenged the old-fashioned values and were less authoritarian as parents, whilst divorce rates nearly doubled.  Lead consumerism and were the first to have disposable income and enjoy a level of status.  They like to see the whole team working together, to be challenged and fulfilled but rewarded for their effort. They are accustomed to the concept of working their way up the corporate ladder.

Motivation:  Reward them for a job well done with recognition and incentives, challenge them to take on new assignments, demonstrate a vision and purpose for the team that they can get involved in.  Incentives which help their busy lifestyles would be appreciated such as on-sight dry cleaners, car wash, childcare etc.  Provide formal feedback as part of a structured policy, and provide a clear career path.

And additionally: GENERATION Z

Statistics:  Born after 1995, will have more qualifications than any other generation and are preparing to join the workforce.

Characteristics:  Tested from nursery school, appraisals and feedback are normal to them.  Diversity and equality are the basics in work expectations, as are the use of the web and virtual environments.  They are likely to move jobs and locations more often, especially as they had less freedom as children.

Motivation:  Engagement is essential, encourage their technological awareness and incentivise based on their specific requirements (as many will feel that salaries are less important as mortgages are unattainable).


Consider the following if you have a team that spans the generations:

  • Communicate using a range of technologies, including face-to-face, email, messaging, presentations and webinars.
  • Reward appropriately, asking each what they would prefer (eg vouchers for different types of shops/restaurants)
  • Encourage respect, helping all team members to appreciate what they can learn from each other.
  • Provide a productive environment, taking into consideration flexible and standard working hours, incentives and working from home.

We are obviously complex human beings, with our own individual needs and expectations.  Although very interesting because of it!  But if you use the above descriptions in conjunction with other personality profiling and motivational preferences, it will help you to get the best results for your overall team and help make the working environment a more enjoyable and dynamic place to be.

I’d be interested to hear about the challenges you’ve faced when leading a mix of generations in your team.

To find out how executive coaching could help you develop your leadership and communication skills, click HERE.  Alternatively you can subscribe to the Assiem newsletter where you can also get your free guide to Achieving Employee Motivation with No Budget.


  1. RB

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  3. Fredric Gurnee

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  4. Takis Papadopoulos

    I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educational and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; this issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this.

  5. Victoria Mckearin

    Bookmarked! Thanks for an amazing post, will read your others posts.

  6. admin

    Thanks to Deborah Chowney on Linked In:
    Interesting! Perhaps explains the difficulties when one group tries to manage and motivate another as we obviously have very different expectations.

  7. admin

    Thanks to Andrea Barry on Linked In:
    Deborah, good comment; its a two way street so how individuals react to their management’s method should be taken into account. If the group is mainly one particular generation, you would notice a marked difference in response/outcomes? Illustrates the importance of employees perception of whether the organisation appears to be almost pandering to one generation?

  8. admin

    Thanks to Gill Hamilton-Orr on Linked In:
    Well worth bearing in mind when managing people

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