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“If compensation were a sufficient motivator then all employee’s would already be performing at 100%”

“If compensation were a sufficient motivator then all employee’s would already be performing at 100%”

This months’ blog came about from discussing what motivates people at work,  with clients, candidates and my own staff and what I gleaned was in some ways very confusing but it did create certain clarity from a management perspective!

The discussion was based upon what keeps employees loyal to their employer and what triggers their desire to move on? Plus how do you keep your staff motivated at work, especially in difficult times?

Most candidates were very quick to state that their number one criteria for leaving their employer was money, however when asked why they joined their employer in the first place the motive to join was exactly the same. Which lead me to think does money truly drive performance irrespective of what role you do? Now most sales people will be saying “yes, money drives their performance”, really? Whereas let’s say nurses would be saying “no, I do it for the love of my job”, however, the number one reason for nurses leaving the NHS to go work in the private sector or leave NHS completely, is purely down to money.  So being a recruiter, I started to look and listen to what was truly been said by candidates and clients in order to look at the genuine motivators to leave and more importantly to stay.

What I discovered was that the market is driven by certain behaviours based on whether you are a ‘Baby Boomer’, Generation X,  or a Millennial or Generation Y.

“Baby  Boomers” people born after World War II and up until the mid-sixties, tended not to be focused on a financial figure as long as it was not going backward, but they were focused on the role, its progression, recognition and the culture of the company. So the “Baby Boomers” appear to be motivated more by the overall working environment than the financial rewards. It was extremely interesting listening to their reasons for leaving and more importantly the reasons to stay loyal!

The “Baby Boomers” in the main wanted to leave because they were no longer challenged in their role and felt they were unable to progress any further. They interpret this as a lack of respect of their ability which they found genuinely demotivating. Money was hardly mentioned! In fact, the only time money truly became a barrier, was when they felt that their immediate manager lacked respect for them. “Baby Boomers” in the main are extremely loyal and can be motivated by recognition coupled with the feeling of belonging to an organisation. However, push them beyond reason, then respect becomes such an important factor. I discovered most left a manager who was younger than them due to the lack of respect more than money.  Just think of the knowledge walking out of the door with these types of candidates!

Generation X, those born from the mid-sixties and up to the early 80’s, were more focused on status and promotion, which were either reflected in the job title or in the salary on offer. A lot of clients intermated that when either recruiting a new starter or promoting from within, the job title appeared to be more important than the actual job its self. The title “manager” or “director” irrespective of the size of the team had more sway than financial rewards in many cases.

Generation X grew up in the emerging technology era with the feeling that their parents had been given their future on a plate, while their own future was somewhat unappealing. They watched their future which appeared tainted with political and institutional incompetence, one which simply didn’t inspire them. Remember, Watergate, Bhopal, Iranian Hostages, Clinton-Lewinsky said everything about this era. These were the first true lackey kids, home alone kids, where divorce was the norm and commonplace.  Due to this they became independent, so when the economic decline hit the workforce in the late 80’s, the future to them suddenly looked crowded, so they had to become self-reliant, results orientated and productive. However, the big change was work to live not live to work.

Due to the competition nature of Generation X to become successful, career development is a major key motivator and key to keeping them in your employment! Without it in place, it became the main reason they leave. Status is key, job title, salary, on target earnings, etc. right down to the size of their house and how they are seen by their peer group. All these are key motivators to Generation X together with financial stability. Motivation is simple, status and financial stability on a personal level and their employer are reign supreme on their agenda. Add this in with financial reward then you control their destiny, but be wary! This generation is easily bought as they are “free agents” who see themselves as a marketable commodity who are technically competent but strangely loyal due to wanting to belong.

Millennials or Generation Y born between the early 80’s and mid 90’s are now entering the workplace. This generation has grown up in the accelerated technology era and all they have known are mobiles then smartphones, the internet, video games and real-time media etc. With all this easily accessible technology contributing to their lives, they have shaped their views on whether they actually have a future. Just think the march of the machine into the workforce, 9/11, and the world drive towards the “live for today” or “Just Do It” attitude has defined this group of workers beliefs, attitude, and behaviors towards work. In the world of instant gratification, the Millennials have high expectations of pay, rewards, recognition but with minimal effort or desired application from them in return.

Just think, the Millennials watched their parents strive to reach to the top and on route watched them go through a recession and in a lot of cases lose their jobs, but their parents still worked hard and fully supported their kids, unlike any other generation. So the Millennials don’t see “jobs for life”, they don’t see employers as loyal, they see work as unreliable and jobs as a project to be completed and then move on to the next project!  So job hopping is not an issue because they cannot see how they fit into the bigger picture. Some of the Silicon Valley’s biggest tech employers predict millennials will have 30 plus jobs during their career.

The question is “how you motivate a Millennial?” and it’s now a board-level issue in most companies being tackled by Generation X and Baby Boomer directors, as the Millennials are now becoming the major energy in the workforce. The Millennials desire to understand where and how they fit in makes them want to make an even bigger impact as they view their work as an expression and direct correlation of themselves. They value self-expression higher and much more than self-control, so they will speak out as they are resilient and crave change and can adapt rapidly. Just think each year a new game comes out, they buy it, adapt to it and in a year the game is scrapped for the next release.  To motivate them,  things have to happen fast for them, it has to happen right now and they want to be involved not ignored. They are great multi-taskers and need a challenge and due to them feeling a sense of entitlement, effort and reward to them are two separate things.

On a massive positive side, the Millennial is brand loyal and they see themselves as the brand. They see their life choices as their own, respect must be something earned in their eyes as they don’t recognise things like age as a given right to command respect.

So all three groups are different and need motivating in many different ways but one thing is abundantly clear. Despite money being important to all three groups, it is not the true motivator by any means. It’s about drilling down and finding out what truly motivates them based on their traits and not just the money in their pockets. How you communicate that, coupled with how you allow them to express themselves while they strive to make their mark will also be of significant importance to them. They say people don’t leave businesses but they do leave managers, so motivation comes from the management team and to me, the overarching tool to cross all three generation styles and needs is collaboration. Everyone wants to feel that they belong and that they are listened to, by their manager and employer.

So in my view performance is therefore not driven by money but by the feeling of belonging, of being a part of the bigger picture, by being appreciated for what they do but most of all by being recognised for what they contribute.

As always I am interested in your comments, as it’s not a one size fits all world!

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