Motivating the 21st-century worker: A case study of Maslow's hierarchy of needs as it applies to the current generationally diverse workforce

by Carter-Steward, Janice, Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2009, 145 pages; 3372705


The purpose of this study was to research Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a motivational theory for 21st-century workers. How does the hierarchic pyramid relate to today's diverse generational workforce? During his initial research of motivation, Abraham Maslow's study did not involve a multigenerational workforce. It appears that no one motivational theory addresses a single generation, nor are the theories known to be specific to all generations. Today's leaders face challenges of effectively managing four generations in the workforce: Seniors, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. The workforce's moral values and structures achieved by Seniors and Baby Boomers have deteriorated throughout the years, resulting in an emotional strain for current managers trying to maintain a current generational productive workforce. Motivational theories have been studied and researched to enhance management effectiveness. This study revisited Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as it applies to today's diverse generational workforce, to determine if there would be any significant changes. There is a growing need for resources that can be used to better understand and improve management effectiveness in addressing the generational differences in businesses and organizations. Successful management is never easy, and is further complicated by the multigenerational workplace. Managers must be prepared to lead effectively and motivate individuals across all generations to increase and sustain high-level workplace performance. The researcher studied the motivational needs per four diverse generations in the workforce using Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a motivational theory model to observe if the theory can be applied by managers to motivate the four generations of workers in the 21st century. In this qualitative study, questions were modified for a greater understanding and queried among 25 participants representing the four generations. Per the results of responses to a focus group, it was determined that the current generations identify motivation by situation rather than by definition. Therefore, the researcher recommends that further research be completed in a much greater depth to gather a greater understanding of generational success in the workplace as it relates to motivation.

AdviserStephanie Fraser-Beekman
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Occupational psychology
Publication Number3372705

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