Want to motivate Generation Y? Try praise, attention

NEW YORK Thu Nov 29, 2007 4:29pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Youngsters known as Generation Y are portrayed as self-centered and demanding in the workplace -- and it's all true, but there are ways to get them motivated, according to a survey released on Thursday.

A poll of 11,244 employees from 872 different organizations by leadership training and research company Leadership IQ found the youngest workers, those aged 21-30 and known as Generation Y, are the least satisfied in their jobs.

Only 30 percent of workers aged 21-30 would strongly recommend their organization as a good place to work compared to 47 percent of workers aged 61-70.

"The least satisfied group was the youngest and the most satisfied was the oldest as we found the older the worker got, the more satisfied they were likely to be," said Mark Murphy, chairman and CEO of Washington, DC-based Leadership IQ.

Murphy said it was surprising to find such a clear breakdown between the age group but just as surprising was the significant difference in motivation for each age group.

"The younger age group wanted positive reinforcement -- praise and patting on the head -- whereas the 61 to 70 year old workers were not looking for praise. They are past that. They want clear direction," said Murphy.

The survey involved a list of questions such as whether the employee would recommend their company as a good place to work, if they shared work problems with their boss, if their boss inspired them, and if they were willing to make personal sacrifices to help the company succeed.

Only 39 percent of the 21-30 year old workers said their boss did a good job of recognizing and praising their accomplishments.

"It's become a cliche to bemoan younger workers' need for praise and recognition," said Murphy.

"But what's disturbing is that 6 out of 10 younger workers are being actively demotivated because their boss won't give them the one thing they really care about."

He said the study found no matter what age, workers who were satisfied with their workplace and their bosses were happy to go the extra mile to ensure the company's success.

"This is not excessively complicated. It is not like the younger generation is looking for something that is hard to deliver but the reality is they need much more praise and attention than previous generations," said Murphy.

"This, however, is pretty cheap and easy to do. They are not asking for a million dollars."

Murphy said the study should be taken on board by managers, most of whom are in a different generation.

"If you can get inside their head and figure out how to motivate them, they will be as productive and effective as another worker of a different age but the trick is to get them motivated," said Murphy.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; editing by Patricia Reaney)