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The Secret to Motivating the Intern at Work (or the Old Guy)

What's the secret to motivating those new interns or the old guy that they just put on your team? Today's workforce consists of five different age groups and you need to know how to connect to get your projects completed.

I don’t have to give you a bunch of generational stats to know that there are people of all ages working today. The days of retiring at 55 have long gone. In the past, the gap was so large that one group would be retiring as the next one entered the workforce. Developments in technology have reduced the gap.

There are some disagreements about the names of new generations and when they start and end. All you need to remember is…

Each generation has different ways of communication, learning, viewpoints, and expectations about work and the culture of work.

To build a great team, figure out how to talk to one another and motivate your colleagues by doing a little bit of research on influencing people effectively.

The Silent Generation (born 1925-1945)

Ages: 95 to 75 years old. More than 80% are retired.

Traits: Dependable, Straightforward, Tactful, Loyal

Communication Style: Face to Face with an agenda or memo in front of them. To impress them, give more personal touches like a handwritten note rather than email.

Learning Style: Traditional classroom. Coaching.

What They Want: Motivated by money but they also want respect. Long term care insurance and catch-up retirement funding.

Expectations: My dedication and service have been rewarded.

Performance Reviews: If no one is yelling, I’m good. Give me the essentials I need to do my job.

How to Motivate Them: Your experience is respected. Give them satisfying work and opportunities to contribute. Discuss stability.

Generation Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)

Ages: 74 to 56 years old

Traits: Optimistic, Collaborative, Driven

Communication Style: Face to Face but in a conference room rather than a conference call or webinar

Learning Style: Classroom extended through critical reflections

What They Want: They prefer monetary rewards but also value flexible retirement planning and peer recognition. 401(k) matching funds, sabbaticals, catch-up retirement funding.

Expectations: It’s about time. I’ve paid my dues.

Performance Reviews: Once a year, documented. Give me more money.

How to Motivate Them: You are valued. You are needed. Give them specific goals and deadlines. Give them a mentor role. Offer feedback in a coaching style.

Generation X (born 1965-1980)

Ages: 55 to 35 years old

Traits: Independent, Self-Reliant, Skeptical

Communication Style: Email or Text

Learning Style: Self-directed or self-paced. E-learning or structured lectures.

Want: They value bonuses and stock as monetary rewards. Less supervision and ability to get to work done quickly. They want physical and psychological space to do work in the office or at home. They want a job with opportunities for growth. Telecommuting, workplace flexibility and tuition reimbursement.

Expectations: I’ve delivered the results, why can’t I be promoted yet?

Performance Reviews: Sorry to interrupt, how am I doing? Give me more time.

How to Motivate: Do it your way. Forget the rules. Give them immediate feedback. Provide flexible work arrangements for work-life balance. Give opportunities for personal development.

Millennials (born 1983-1999)

Ages: 37 to 21 years old

Traits: High Self-Esteem, Achievement-Orientated, Always Learning

Communication Style: Prefer to email or text rather than walk across the room to chat with someone.

Learning Style: Informal or short three to five minute videos compiled that create a course. Short attention spans.

Want: Stock options as a monetary reward and feedback as a non-monetary reward. They want to work for a company with a higher purpose which is more important than salary. They want a fun work life with the opportunity for growth. They believe in having a mentor. They don’t always trust their boss.

Expectations: What is my next career move? I’ve been here for 12 months and haven’t been promoted yet.

Performance Reviews: What do you mean I’m not outstanding. Give me positive affirmations.

How to Motivate: Opportunities to work with other bright and creative people. Get to know them personally. Manage by results. Be flexible with schedules and tasks. Provide immediate feedback.

Digital Natives or Generation Z or Generation Alpha (born 2000-Present)

Ages: 20 years old and younger

Traits: Resilient, Technology Savvy, Less Entitled

Communication Style: Text or Social Media. Self-identify as digital device addicts.

Learning Style: They expect their employer to provide formal online training and opportunities for certification programs.

Want: More interested in social rewards (mentorship and constant feedback than money) but also is motivated by meaningful work and being given responsibility.

Expectations: Value independence and individuality. Prefer to work with Millennial managers, innovative coworkers, and new technology.

Performance Reviews: Interactions with their boss daily or several times a day.

How to Motivate Them: Offer opportunities to work on multiple projects at the same time. Provide a work-life balance. Allow them to be self-directed and independent.


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