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Editorial Team
29 Jul 2020



Why you must motivate the younger generation of the workforce

The younger generation is making up an increasing share of the modern workforce. From recruitment to recognition, there is a lot that must change to adapt to their needs. 

The factory of today is a far cry from what it was even a couple of decades ago. Machinery is more advanced, production whirrs along at a fast clip, the shop floor is huge and neatly laid out. And the people working on the production lines are a whole lot younger!

That’s right – the workforce these days comprises a lot of young people. And this is true not just on shop floors but in offices as well. They live their lives in a world of technology, feeding on more information than ever and communicating non-stop, as it were. Their personalities have been shaped by major shifts in culture and society. They are great at picking up new ways of work, especially so if technology plays a significant role.

Take millennials, for instance. They have been part of the workforce for nearly two decades, and they will soon add up to the biggest chunk of the workforce, possessing the highest buying power as consumers.

So, what do the young people want? Authenticity, for one, from the brands they buy to the companies they work for. According to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, over 20% of millennials confess to their approval of environmental or societal initiatives of a brand driving their decision to stick with it. They are not even chiefly driven by money, seeking instead an organization whose values they vibe with even if at a lower paycheck.

This has of course meant a change is needed in how companies recruit and retain them. Gallup research in 2016 suggested more than 50% of millennials seek growth on professional and personal fronts with their employers, looking for good training and meaningful opportunities. The younger generation wants:

  • An employer with a great future: Top management with strong vision and leadership direction, communicated clearly and consistently
  • A company with strong values: Salaries and work hours matter, but more important are honesty, accountability, teamwork, and other values that sync with their own. Sustainability too is very significant.
  • A boss with belief, with mentoring capability, and recognizing their talents: Dynamic leaders who guide their juniors and express confidence in the latter can get the best results.
  • Parity in importance and respect with experienced employees
  • A voice in decision-making for the staff
  • Approval and appreciation for hard work

Younger generations of workers score high on digital nativity, and their technological competence and social networking skills could benefit all departments. It is but logical that organizations need to involve them more in how they work.

Yet, it is not happening. In 2018, Forbes suggested that just 40% of millennials believe their superiors offer acknowledgment and recognition of their efforts, implying that the majority of millennials feel disconnected. A report from Unit4 shows that 60% of US employees do not think they are contributing to the future direction of the business. No surprises, then, that many want to leave their current workplaces within no more than two years, with their reasons encompassing unsatisfactory pay, poor growth and development opportunities, work-life imbalance, boredom, and workplace culture that is not right – in that order. They in fact could hop between jobs up to 20 times in their careers, with the US economy picking up a USD 30.5 billion tab courtesy their turnover.

Organizations have however not yet fully adapted their work approaches for this generation. Traditional approaches clearly will not work, given the wealth of creativity and other skills with the younger cadre. Technology could again come to the aid of management, with human capital management (HCM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) combining to offer insights on younger workforce members. This HCM-ERP integration could be very useful, as:

  • Business leaders can better comprehend worker engagement and satisfaction levels, learning their expectations and sourcing feedback from constant interaction to address their needs.
  • Improved communication methods let the workforce track its KPIs and goals, and understand how to proceed on its career paths. This also plays to the desire of the younger workforce to learn and develop its career.
  • Employees can be educated on company values and CSR initiatives.

Employers need to accept the young way of life, allowing for some failure and encouraging what is done right. Respect breeds fierce loyalty, as does a welcoming, fun environment. They are independent and want to know what they stand to gain, so give it to them and they will be highly motivated. They are impatient, so give the good performers higher responsibilities and quicker promotions. Train them through videos and computer programs, not boring classroom sessions. Teach them not just what is to be done, but why it must be done – they will anyway question it. They come from a background of group projects, so put them into collaborative task groups at the workplace. They are social, so meet them one on one every week to understand their strengths and interests, and staff them accordingly. They are more productive when flexible, so do not make their work hours iron-clad or their locations predetermined, trusting them to deliver quality work within the assigned deadline. Keep the overall communication open, encouraging, and flexible, and the younger generation will bring in fresh perspectives and strategic value.

The war for talent is on, and it is hot! The workforce comprises more than one generation, and understanding their motivations is key to success. The right work conditions take the company ahead of the learning curve, and help the younger members reach their potential. And this must continue for the future!


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