Motivation and Generational Differences Email Print
Published: 25th of Jun 2018 by: Debbie

One of the constant complaints we hear from managers today is this notion that Millennials do not want to work, the idea that they are not prepared to put the effort in for the amount of money they want to earn. In some instances this is described as a state of entitlement. A matter of rights vs responsibility or a matter of privilege with no accountability.

My response to these complaints always goes along similar lines.
Firstly let us look at the accountability.
As a leader it is your job to motivate. If you are able to find the motivational trigger, you are likely to get the results you need. If you cannot find the motivator you need to be looking harder!

Secondly let us contemplate what role the generational influence has in general.
It is true that the generational theory is born from the idea that youngsters are influenced by the heroes and entertainment of the period. These include parents, musicians, public figures etc. but also the technology and information available to them.

This is what makes South Africa such an interesting place to live and work in. Even today when you drive through our poorer informal areas compared to a more formal and affluent suburb, the contrast is striking. It thus makes sense purely from the Maslow Hierarchy of needs that the basic needs of those employees coming from the informal areas are hardly being met. In this instance we are referring to physiological and safety needs.

These millennials who are then fighting for salaries that corporations can see as excessive are simply fighting for what others take for granted. In this instance extrinsic motivation (incentives) surely will do the trick to a large extent...but not entirely as millennials have learnt from the past that money, whilst important is not everything.
They have a stronger sense of inner purpose than their parents.

The latter can be partly attributed to the fact that they have seen their parents and grandparents swallowed up by a system that did not reward hard work (input) and/or outcome equally for all people. Many of our millennials also had heroes who were (justly and finally) rewarded for being anti-establishmentarian.

On the other end of the scale we have millennials who have seen the toll that the equity and equality laws post 1994 have taken on their parents, where years of hard work for a promotion did not necessarily end in just reward. This combination of millennials in the workforce today can therefore only mean one thing.
There is no simple one fit for all solution.

We have to get to know the person, we need to understand the motivational factors behind the demands and we need to be visionary, understanding, bringing clarity and agility into our thinking to ensure that we are able to navigate our way through the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) conditions.

In addition, as leaders we need to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and we need to identify where we can make the most difference within our authority levels as leaders, supervisors and managers to ensure that we can tap into the rich wealth of diversity in our country.
We will also need to do so with great creativity and intent.

In other words it doesn’t help we see this challenge as something to complain about, but rather as a project with a definite goal and measurable outcome.

© Debbie Engelbrecht

Debbie Engelbrecht is the MD of Staff Training, established in 2001. She is a soft skills facilitator and management coach and strives to enthuse, assist and empower her fellow South Africans wherever she has the skill to do so.

For more information on the www. StaffTraining. leadership training, nationally call 0861 996 660 or enquire on email at

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