Flipping the switch part 5 – boomers part 2

Like every generation, Boomers bridge the attitude gap between the old and the new. In the first article about Boomers, I listed the first two motivators – the importance of feeling important and the autonomy to make decisions. In this post I’ll list the last three.

3. Future goals – the promise of tomorrow. I hate busy work and I hate even more being assigned busy work. If you’re going to give me an assignment make sure that it has meaning. Tomorrow must hold more than just a potential for new opportunities. It must hold the fulfillment of expectations and completion of objectives. No boomer wants to be busy for the sake of being busy. The Boomer generation has sought meaning since they were old enough to think for themselves. Give Boomers projects and assignments that have targets – targeted dates, targeted specs, targeted results.   And celebrate the victory when they cross the finish line.

Chuck, a Boomer, was a salesman who topped the month’s goals by closing one final high dollar sale. When he called his sales manager to report on passing the finish line, know what the sales manager said?

“Did you remember to sell an extended warranty with that?”

That’s it. No congratulations. No thanks. No attaboy. Only a certain message that said no matter how well you have done you should have done more.

Do not, DO NOT, insert any suggestion into the celebration that they could have done better. It is not only counterproductive and insulting, it’s a stupid thing to do and will come back to bite you.

4. Bank balances – show them the money. Boomers have decades of experience. Experience has value, or it used to. The economy being what it is, Boomers are looking retirement and diminishing capacity to work square in the face. A fair and just return for work has great power. Offer them ways to multiply their money – retirement plans, investment opportunities, pension plans, matching contributions to  401(k) plans and other financial enhancements. And, pay them what they are worth. Boomers often have a higher work ethic, miss less work, and work more creatively than do others. Reward that. An “employee of the month” plaque is good. Cash is better.

5. Loyalty – a little help from my friends. It is a sad, sad reality that experienced, seasoned, proven employees are being cut loose because the present labor pool is so deep. A friend of mine was a manager of a grocery store, part of a very large regional chain. He hired on as a young man at a relatively low salary because the company promised more money and perks over time. After several years with the company, he was due for a big bump in income when he was suddenly dismissed. Checking around with his colleagues, he discovered a trend in the company. They hired management trainees right out of college offering the same opportunities as he had been given. As those new hires reached a certain time within the company, they were in turn dismissed as well. None of them ever realized the rewards they were promised. It was a device the company used to keep down expenses. They would hire at a low rate promising bigger money later, dismiss before they had to pay the bigger money, replace the released workers with new hires offering them bigger money later.

Boomer’s parents lived in a time when employer – employee commitments were strong. Boomers saw the value in it and put a high value on companies that have established policies that treat them fairly and on companies that actually do abide by them. It is difficult for anyone to follow the unknown, doubly so for Boomers. Lowe’s screwed up its work force by summarily changing its pay structure in a manner that penalizes long-term employees and rewards new hires. They also abandoned their policy of paying spiffs and commissions to their sales team, another long-term policy. This signaled to the workforce that the company is unreliable and untrustworthy. Telegraphing to everyone that there is no such thing as company loyalty, they effectively demotivated their work force.

So, the five motivators are:

  • The importance of feeling important.
  • Autonomy to make decisions and take action.
  • The Promise of tomorrow.
  • Bank balances.
  • Loyalty.

On Monday, I’ll address GenXer’s, followed later in the series by GenYer’s.

Now, I think you know this already but I want to risk boring you and say it again. No one is stereotypically faithful to every characteristic of their generation and no two are motivated in precisely the same manner. What I wrote a couple of articles ago applies always, get to know each and every person you work with, learn what trips their trigger, then follow through accordingly. The principle is to do to them what you would do if you were them.

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