There is a saying that “Chocolates should be the reward, not the motivation. If they are the motivation, then you just get fat!”
In business, and in team environments, this simple philosophy has proven over and over again to be the foundation of success. The opposite may provide short term benefits, but ultimately leads to failure.
It is critical for leaders to understand the difference between reward and motivation and recognise that it is not the same for everyone.
Over many years I have witnessed a shift in what motivates people at similar ages and what they value as reward. For differing generations, the motivation also varies. As a business grows, the opportunities for people within that business also change. This leads to the organisation attracting different people, who are motivated by different things. Small firms tend to attract people that value responsibility, intimacy, autonomy and flexibility. Larger firms tend to attract team players that are comfortable with structure, defined roles and who value job security.
Previously, young professionals were motivated by setting a career path and committing totally to the ultimate outcome. In more recent times, young professionals have a broader outlook towards their career and a greater focus on balancing life inside and outside of work.
Reward for young people has also changed. While financial recompense and career progression will always be important, today it is critical that young people feel valued and acknowledged in ways other than just by money.
As a professional’s career develops, the motivation also changes. Early in a career there is a focus on gaining recognition, building reputation, learning and developing skills. Later in one’s career, the focus shifts to working with likeminded people, tenure and work environment.
Understanding these differences, and being able to respond as the motivation changes within people over time and from generation to generation is not easy. Rewarding them appropriately based on these differences also adds to the complexity. Doing all of this within a growing business can become quite a challenge to get right. For businesses that rely heavily on people, success is based on maintaining an environment that satisfies all.
While it is easy to generalise in an attempt to articulate thoughts and concepts, it is wrong to assume there is strong demarcation between groups, or that within groups characteristics are common to all.
The key ingredient in creating the right environment is to treat people individually, with a full understanding of what motivates them and the best way to reward them. Achieve this, and not only will everyone get some chocolate, but it will taste a whole lot sweeter!
While there is plenty of literature around the characteristics of varying generations, all of which is relatively sound in its general assessment, my experience is that by treating people individually without bias or assumption, you maximise the opportunity of rewarding them appropriately. Understanding how to motivate them is no different. Individualise the approach, and the reward will be there for all to share.
In a professional environment, career development is fundamental to motivation and reward. There are constants, irrespective of generation and stage. These include the desire to be successful and the sense of progression. What does change is the measures of success and the definition of progress.