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May 4, 2024

20 Strategies HR Managers Can Use To Motivate Diverse Generations

Modern HR managers face many challenges, but one of the most pressing is how to inspire and guide employees from diverse generational backgrounds. From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, each cohort brings unique perspectives, work ethics and communication preferences. Below, Forbes Human Resources Council members explore powerful approaches that HR managers can use to bridge generational gaps […]

Modern HR managers face many challenges, but one of the most pressing is how to inspire and guide employees from diverse generational backgrounds. From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, each cohort brings unique perspectives, work ethics and communication preferences.

Below, Forbes Human Resources Council members explore powerful approaches that HR managers can use to bridge generational gaps among these groups. These strategies can help you honor individual values while creating a more harmonious work environment.

1. Find An Understanding

Seek to understand! HR managers can lead and motivate different generations by understanding their values and adapting communication accordingly. Tailoring programs to resonate with each generation's drivers is crucial for success. Using communication value propositions and adjusting them to align with the values of different generations can provide a great way to create buy-in and motivation. - Rachel Fletcher

2. Communicate In Different Ways

Communicate with your employees where they are. Think about how we digest messaging today. Gen Z and Generation Alpha process information in bite-size pieces; whereas, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials are used to more detail. Don’t have just one way to communicate to the broader organization, but try and do it multiple ways so that it is easier to digest and motivate the organization. - Jake ZabkowiczHudson RPO

3. Understand What Drives And Drains Each Generation

The more HR understands what drives and drains each generation, the more we can use this information to align employees with roles that will allow them to achieve their highest performance and greatest retention. Without this level of insight, progress will be stymied and growth will be prevented at both an individual and organizational level.

4. Cultivate Mentorship Culture

HR managers can unite diverse generations by fostering a culture of mentorship and cross-generational collaboration. By pairing employees from different age groups, they can exchange unique insights and skills, creating a learning environment that values everyone's contribution, bridges generational gaps and motivates through mutual respect and understanding. - Chris HoytCareerXroads

5. Avoid Generalizations

Recognize that generational differences are generalizations. One makes a critical thinking error when one assumes that diversity does not exist within each. Accordingly, lead and motivate by being inclusive. This means exploring each employee's workplace perspectives, needs and desires. Then, leaders can take informed and decisive action based on facts rather than assumptions. - Phyllis Wright, Ph.D.Vendor Resource Management

6. Be Curious And Learn Perspectives

Generations are composed of individuals with individual perspectives and individual values or needs. We need to manage individuals, not generations. Engage in conversations to understand the needs, motivations and values of individuals. We should not be enabling "group leadership" or perpetuating generational labels. One person does not fit neatly into a box. Be curious. Get to know your employees. - Debra BruneauJSR Life Sciences

Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?

7. Adapt To Different Learning Needs

It's important that HR professionals think of employees as individuals in different phases of their careers, instead of making assumptions about values, work habits and communication styles because of an employee's "generation." Creating a learning culture designed to acknowledge early career employees have different learning needs and concerns from employees facing retirement soon is key. - Gina DecianiAssociation for Supply Chain Management

8. Ask Instead Of Assuming

Understand what those needs, motivations, values, work habits and communication styles are. Don't assume or base your programs on statistics. Ask your employees and conduct focus groups and surveys. Go directly to the source. After you have the information from the participants, apply your learnings to the culture, values, processes and operations of the company for an enhanced experience for all. - Oksana LukashAvid Bioservices

9. Provide Frequent And Meaningful Recognition

One of the most stable and high-impact influences on motivation for employees of every generation is frequent and meaningful recognition. Research from Achievers Workforce Institute proves that the more frequently someone is recognized the better they feel about well-being, engagement, belonging, relationship with their manager and whether they'll recommend yours as a great place to work. - David BatorAchievers

10. Use A Multichannel Approach

An effective internal communications strategy is critical and should encompass a multichannel approach tailored to diverse adult learning styles, which will also address generational differences. Integrating video, written content, text and face-to-face communication will ensure a cascade of important company messages regarding strategy, vision, values and progress in a way everyone can digest. - Tracy CoteStockX

11. Don't Put People In Boxes

Stay curious and avoid assumptions. Just because someone may have been born in a certain era doesn't mean that's their preferred style or work habit. Truly understand people as individuals and ask them how they learn best, how they would prefer to receive recognition, etc. When we stop assuming and putting people in boxes, we can appreciate them for the individuals they are. - Nicole RobertsJones Lake Management

12. Implement Tailored Communication

HR managers can lead and motivate different generations by implementing tailored communication strategies. For example, they might use formal emails for Baby Boomers, instant messaging for Millennials and video content for Gen Z. This approach respects each generation's preferences, enhancing engagement and productivity. - CJ

13. Avoid Stereotypes And Create An Inclusive Environment

Leading and motivating employees based on their generational identities can perpetuate potentially harmful generational stereotypes and invite bias. People leaders should strive to lead and motivate based on the needs of individuals and instead work to create a more inclusive workplace, which in turn allows for more effective cross-generational collaboration. - Jennifer RozonMcLean & Company

14. Be Flexible With Communication

It seems simple, but it all comes down to communication. By adopting flexible communication strategies that respect each group's preferences and values, HR managers can create more inclusive and motivating environments. Tailoring interaction styles to meet the needs of different generations will make everyone feel heard and valued and will foster a productive place to work. - Tia SmithCognizant

15. Provide Authentic Feedback

For HR managers leading multi-generational teams, fostering an inclusive culture where every employee’s voice is heard and valued is paramount to individual motivation. That’s why authentic feedback is vital: ask questions, listen to feedback and act on findings—even if the action is sharing the rationale behind inaction. Consistent repetition of this cycle helps build authenticity and trust. - Antoine AndrewsSurveyMonkey

16. Focus On The Similarities

Start with intersectionality—what do all your employees have in common? Sometimes we focus so much on differences we forget what we learned in elementary school which is what we all share in common. Use the commonality as your compass to motivate and then branch out to acknowledge diversity and differences outside of generalizations. - Nakisha DixonVercara

17. Promote A Culture Of Belonging

Recognizing concepts of "generation" vary globally enhances understanding across culturally diverse contexts. Promote inclusive communications and foster a culture of belongingness through intergenerational leadership practices by encouraging cross-generational mentorship and collaboration. This empowers the contributions and unique strengths of individuals from different generational identities. - Karen Perham-LippmanOtis Worldwide Corporation

18. Utilize AI For Communication Strategies

Utilize technology like GenAI to tailor communication strategies and training modules to cater to diverse learning styles and preferences across generations. By delivering content in diverse formats like videos or podcasts and analyzing data on preferences and communication styles, leaders can personalize messaging to resonate with each generation, fostering better engagement and motivation. - Albert GalarzaTELUS International

19. Ask For Feedback And Pivot Your Approaches

It is critical to not assume a one-size-fits-all approach to leading or motivating different generations in the workplace. Put in the time and effort to understand the working components and preferences of each generation. Then, further tailor this to the individuals on your team, while maintaining consistency across the team. Don't forget the importance of asking for feedback and pivoting if needed. - Janet VardemanAvanade

20. Offer Wellness Benefits That Support Different Needs

Offering wellness benefits that support the needs of workers across all generations can improve engagement, satisfaction and productivity while creating a culture of belonging. For some employees, that means caregiver benefits, while others want help to manage stress or prevent illness. HR should offer solutions that meet these diverse needs and that are accessible to all employees at any time. - Michael HeldLifeSpeak Inc.

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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