Published: May 07, 2019

Compensation means many things to many people. What motivates people to want to work for the public sector, or any job really, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s a quandary HR Managers everywhere are facing. Some have looked at the issue by generation, which seems to give a fairly accurate picture of the wants and needs of employees in different age brackets. And although we know money is a motivator for most, there’s more to compensation than just a paycheck. What drives employees to say yes to one job and no to another? When it comes to compensation, the four prominent generations in the workforce all say something a little different.

Millennials are the most talked about generation these days, mainly due to the fact they’re now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Since the average millennial college graduate is $24K in debt, money is a driver and health benefits are a must. However, millenials also place a high value on learning new skills because it makes them more valuable. They may be skeptical about ever seeing a pension, or Social Security for that matter, so benefits that give them options to invest in their future are appealing.

The Gen Xers consider themselves “stuck in the middle” between two behemoth generations according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Between children and/or aging parents, they generally have a lot going on in their lives and desire work-life balance to help them keep their sanity. This could be in the form of flexible work schedules, adequate time-off policies, and easy access to amenities that support their well-being.

Baby boomers have begun exiting the workforce, but not as fast as originally anticipated—mostly because of the 2008 recession. This generation is loyal and could potentially be convinced to stay on even if it’s a part-time or contractor role. Like the Gen Xers, pay and flexible hours are an incentive. They are a way for them to continue to keep some cash flow going and still spend time doing things they would do if they were retired. Many will qualify for Medicare, so health benefits aren’t always necessary.

While traditionalists are technically past retirement age, some are still employed. They typically feel a pride in what they do and want to continue making a difference. Respect is a value this generation takes seriously. Though it isn’t necessarily something you can compensate on, there are ways to show respect with a reward like a plaque or gift.

Public service is an honorable career. Employees, regardless of their generation, take pride in adding value in their workplace and community. Salary and benefits provide employees with a means by which to function in their day-to-day life, but there’s nothing like that feeling you get when someone pats you on the back and says, “You Made a Difference.”