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Motivating Perennials

Perennials: Motivation Beyond the Generations

When it comes to motivation theory, there has been a lot written about millennials, Generation X, Generation Y and other terms that generally categorise employees by age. But are these definitions only achieving segregation of the workforce and highlighting what divides rather than unites everyone?

The latest thinking suggests that using demographics to motivate and develop staff isn't that effective in the complex world in which we live. If your workforce is multi-generational, it may be worth looking more at their attitudes, values and behaviours when developing your people strategy.

This is where the term 'perennial' comes from. Perennials refer to a growing part of the population that doesn't fall into the usual stereotypes associated with age or other characteristics.


Attitudes to work and careers

According to research undertaken by Deloitte Insights in 2020, the generational differences in terms of work/life balance, job security, and career advancement are decreasing. The results suggest that companies will gain more by paying attention to an individual's career aspirations rather than grouping people together.

Personalising development activities can be easier in SMEs because it's easier to develop closer working relationships and to find out what really makes people tick. While personal development plans can appear to be a tool from times gone by, the principle is bang on trend; that the manager and the employee outline what will support and develop that person's individual performance and career.

Attitudes to life

It's easy to assume that younger people are more focused on working and playing hard, people in their thirties are starting families and people in their fifties have one eye on their retirement plans. Because of the complexity of family life today, those notions are not necessarily true.

For example, lots of young people have had to take on family responsibilities before they even start their working lives. The Children's Society reports that 800,000 children and young people aged 5 to 17 care for an adult or family member in the UK.


Similarly, you may think that night shift work is more suitable for younger staff, when the TUC reports that there are close to 1 million night shift workers aged over 50. Each employee has their own life story, which heavily influences the decisions they make about work.


The alternative: Getting personal

Some organisations are looking into using personal behaviours and preferences as a foundation for their training and management activities. Examples include:

  • Teamwork - those who can lead teams through to those who work best on their own
  • Individual learning styles
  • Sociability - extroverts through to introverts
  • Innovation - those who come up with bright ideas through to those who make those ideas happen
  • Flexible working needs.

The success of such a programme depends upon a culture where managers and staff have built up enough trust to discuss their individual needs, ambitions and preferences. When a manager knows their staff, understands what their priorities are beyond work, respects their values and treats them as individuals, employees will flourish, perform better and be loyal to the company.