How to motivate different generations for training

We all need a little motivation from time to time.

But we are not all motivated the same way. As a trainer, you need to understand what is going to make your participants want to learn and hear what you have to say.

Everyone is different, but one way to gauge how to motivate is by examining generations.

While it isn’t set in stone, we as human beings like to categorize, and generations are an example of that. There are many ways in which how or when someone grew up that can impact how they work and train best.

Below are some ideas for how to motivate trainees from different generational backgrounds.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers (also known as traditionalists) were born between 1946 and 1964. These years marked the launch of the civil rights movement, the Kennedy presidency, the cold war, and more. Baby Boomers are most known for their competitive spirit. They are motivated by working their way upward and surpassing their colleagues. They are dedicated to their work and very loyal employees, more likely to stay at one company for a long time. Baby Boomers like being part of a team and having meetings to organize tasks. They tend to prefer in-person communication as opposed to digital and don’t necessarily seek out feedback as much as other generations.

Baby Boomers are excited by titles and financial rewards, as they highly value providing for their families. They also appreciate hearing that they are a valuable and needed member of the team.

How do we motivate a Baby Boomer to do training with all this in mind? Well, it’s clear they want to grow and advance, so if we give training that we can show will result in tangible growth in their company, they will be more apt to want to take it on. If the training you give them could contribute to their advancement resulting in title upgrades and pay raises, they will be intrigued to take it in.

In addition to this (or if you can’t promise a promotion), an in-person expression of gratitude for taking the training may be all you need. Baby Boomers like to know they are valued, so approaching them and communicating this face to face will motivate them to see the training program through.

Generation X

Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1980. Generation X is very independent-minded. While they carry a similar competitive spirit to Baby Boomers, they tend to hold the work-life balance to a higher value than their former generation. They have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and are open-minded to new ideas and perspectives. As a generation that appreciates diversity, they consider themselves world citizens and view the world as such.

As communicators, they are very direct and are able to communicate both in person and digitally depending on what is most appropriate. They will ask for feedback when needed and enjoy the freedom of being able to work on their own.

Generation X is motivated by being able to accomplish tasks the way they want to do them. They don’t get too caught up in following the exact rules and prefer to do things in a way that makes the most sense to them.

When training Generation X, a more independent format such as training via a Learning Management System may be a good option. If doing an in-person or instructor-led training, giving them opportunities to work independently while being ready to provide feedback when they ask for it will keep them engaged.

Generation Y

Generation Y (also known as millennials) were born between 1981 and 1996. Millennials are the first generation to grow up as the internet became established. As the biggest generation in US history – even bigger than Baby Boomers, it is predicted that they will have a significant impact on the economy and how businesses are run. Especially as they continue to move into their prime spending years.

Millennials are more likely to switch roles frequently throughout their career. They make an effort to be socially aware and will vocalize that when they feel it is necessary. They love to engage with others and are very participative when working in groups. Their primary form of communication in the workplace is email and talking on the phone/leaving voice messages.

Millennials frequently seek out feedback and want to clarify that they are completing their tasks as expected and in good time. They want to do work that feels meaningful and rewarding to them, so it will be important to them to know they are doing a good job. They are motivated by being able to work with other creative and bright people they can learn from.

When training millennials, keep them motivated by giving them opportunities to work with other motivated people. If the whole group clearly sees the benefit and has a reason to be excited about the training, the motivation will bounce off everyone in the room. Focus on the value and how the training will work towards meaningful goals in their career.

Generation Z

Generation Z was born between 1997 and 2012. Gen Z has completely grown up with the internet and is very intuitive when it comes to technology. They are critical thinkers and multitask to stay engaged in their work. Gen Z is highly creative and prefers to be recognized for the work they produce rather than how much time they spend at the office. Not unlike millennials and even Gen X, a mix of remote and in-person work is ideal.

Like millennials, Gen Z seeks out work they really care about, and their entrepreneurial spirit makes them work for a business as if it were their own. They value a mix of job security and stability while also being well suited for their roles based on their talents and interests. They also are motivated by growth and progress in their careers.

To motivate your Gen Z employees for training, make sure to emphasize how the training will contribute to growth in their role. Also, consider giving them an option for online or blended learning that they can do independently.


We can categorize generations and notice generalized traits but at the end of the day, people are people. These aren’t hard and fast rules, and it is important to talk to your trainees and let them help you understand what motivates them. But hopefully, this can give you a head start in considering how to motivate your trainees.

How do you motivate different generations during your corporate training? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted by Katelyn Roy on

  • Tags: corporate training, employee training, Generation Gaps, Instructor-led training, Learning Management System

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