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Motivating through the ages

One of the complexities of culture management is knowing what motivates your team. But with four active generational segments in today’s workforce, how can you as a manager or HR leader make employees happy when each person is so different? We took a look at the variety of wins and losses people typically experience in each decade of their careers—as well as in their personal lives. The most attractive companies, like Google, offer benefits or employee rewards that cater to all of these motivational factors, ensuring that management is adequately meeting all of their employee’s diverse needs. Which is important, because happy workers equal higher profits.

In their twenties

Fresh out of college, employees in their twenties are loving their independence and are hungry for success. But for many, the 9-5 confines of becoming a citizen of adulthood

But for many (employees in their 20s), the 9-5 confines of becoming a citizen of adulthood leads to disillusionment.

What equals success? Getting their “yellow belt.” Employees in their twenties move farther away from entry-level positions and start seeing their hard work rewarded with their first promotions.

What can be a challenge? Ch-ch-changes. A recent study confirmed that 80 percent of employees in their twenties change career paths. Often, a job or an industry isn’t what fresh grads thought it would be.

How to motivate? Employees in their twenties want to feel like their work is contributing to something important, so be sure to make your company’s mission clear and meaningful. Take time to show them the results of their efforts and don’t forget to recognize good work.

In their thirties

Employees in their thirties are starting to settle into a long-term career path, and will have accrued enough experience to be choosy about the type of companies they apply to.

Success: Leadership roles. With a decade of accomplishments, thirty-to forty-year-olds are getting to call some of the shots (and making better money).

Challenge: Work-life balance. Thirty-somethings with children will find themselves negotiating time between home and work—like having to stay at home with a sick child on a day packed with conference calls.

Motivation: Offer employees flexible schedules that give them the freedom to manage their work and personal lives. Consider implementing a gracious family or medical leave policy, or offer flexible work time and enhanced technology to support remote communication like the folks over at Gap Inc.

In their forties

Success: Employees in this decade of life claim a specialty, have built a strong professional network, and revel in the fact that they always “know someone they can connect you with.”

Challenge: The elusive mid-life crisis. Employees are taking a step back and assessing their career choices and their general path in life, often beginning to accept that certain opportunities have passed them by for good

Motivation: One of the reminders that the forties have arrived is a lower metabolism and the onset of certain aging issues. Make it easy for employees in their forties to meet their health needs—consider offering sensible snack and lunch options, as well as a gym membership subsidy to help them boost energy both inside and outside of the office.

In their fifties, sixties, and seventies

Success: Employees in their fifties (and up) secure real seniority and enjoy their top management positions—with retirement in sight.

Challenge: Fifty-somethings fear age discrimination, or being replaced by a younger, zippier employee (who will work for less).

Motivation: Offer professional development resources that help employees learn new skills, which will inject something new into the routine, and boost confidence when competing with a younger hiring pool. And take advantage of all their acquired skills by putting into place a mentor/mentee program—signing up senior executives with Millennials to help develop the next round of leaders.

Motivating the different generations at different stages of their careers can be tricky. But each generation has something to teach the others. As a leader, look for ways of recognizing the unique values in each workforce generation, and encouraging them to share across the ages.

Jane Callahan is a content writer for Blueboard. Looking for rewards and recognition that spans all life stages? Check out Blueboard's experiential reward offerings at

This article was originally published on and reprinted here thanks to a lovely relationship.