Oct 14, 2008

Maslow and Generational Motivation

Why do we work? Security? A sense of identity? Self-fulfilment? Each generation is motivated by a set of needs and thus creates an environment which satisfies them. From this new world the next generation arises with a different set of needs. The causal relationship between generations’ motivations can be mapped onto Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow explains that different needs grow out of each other, beginning with physiological, then safety, belonging, esteem and finally self-actualisation.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964), cultured by Builders (1925-1945) grew up in aftermath of the Second World War, so when they embarked upon their career, they sought security and a sense of belonging (as a result of scarcity). The world had stabilised by the time Generation X (1965- 1978) entered the workforce, satisfying the lower three needs, meaning they were motivated by a need for esteem. Generation Y (1979- 1995) has grown up in an affluent society, with all four lower needs cared for, so they are seeking work which 'fulfils' them.

Companies created by Baby Boomers and Generation X cater for their needs, but not for Generation Y. If employers want to retain and motivate this population, they need to target their desire for self-actualisation, such as encouraging and realising innovative ideas, ownership of projects and helping them understand their identity within the organisation.

Generation Y enjoys security, money and status like everyone else, but they are reaching for something more.

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