• Jim Toth

What Motivates Generational "Tweeners?"

What is a “Generational Tweener?”

A Tweener is someone born on the cusp of a changing era. With that said, they adopt qualities of both the prior and posterior generations. Why should you care about this? These unique individuals make up a minute percentage of the total population that assume leadership roles to bridge the gap between employees that come from different cultural backgrounds and mindsets. For example, some of our recent presidents including Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barrack Obama, and Donald Trump were all born on defined transition years. The most recent transition was approximately 1995 – 1997 which marked the end of the Generation X (Millennials) and the start of Generation Z. The survey was completed by 70 male and 70 female business students at Ashland University ranging from freshmen to senior status. The estimated age range from the participants in this study is approximately 18 – 25 years of age (born between 1993 and 2000).

Survey Results Explained (142 Ashland Business Students):

Positive Workplace Culture: It’s obvious that employees want to enjoy where they work, but what characteristics make up the ideal company culture?

  • Shared core values: Employees have a common understanding of what is most important in life.

  • Cooperative atmosphere: Teams work as a strong, cohesive unit to accomplish the same goal. “I” is never smarter than “we.”

  • Transparent Communication: An open line of communication must be established between managers and employees to maximize productivity and positive relationships.

  • Treat everyone with respect: The “Golden Rule” is no exception here, respect must be given to all employees regardless of position or level.

  • Selflessness: Employees prioritize helping others to achieve a common goal rather than worrying about who gets the credit.

  • Humor when appropriate: Who said your job has to be miserable? The best teams enjoy themselves while at work and can flip the switch when it’s time to take care of business.

Flexible Hours: The nine to five work schedule is becoming less and less appealing to employees in the workforce, especially to Tweeners. What are some of the reasons why this classic structure is becoming a relic of the past?

  • Personal Freedom: When an employer says, “you must be here from nine to five with exactly a one-hour lunch break, no exceptions,” it creates a sense of control over the employees. It also gives the impression that its workers are just a number in the crowd, and that work comes before everything else in life. It shouldn’t be the end of the world if someone has to go to a doctor’s appointment. If the employer can’t trust the employees to make up the work on their own, he or she has to do a better job of hiring quality people.

  • Increased Productivity: Everyone hits “the wall” at different times. Flexible work hours give employees the power to decide when to work when they feel the most productive.

  • Work/Life Balance: In recent years there has been a greater push towards maximizing work time with family time. One of the most frustrating examples about a rigid time schedule is when a boss makes you sit at your desk even though they know there is no more work to be done for the day. Not only is this a waste of time for the employee, but it also takes away time that could be spent with the family or other alternatives.

  • Working Remote: Offering employees the option to work from home for at least part of the work week is becoming a powerful way to draw in Tweeners to an organization.

Education and Professional Development: Tweeners are looking to get just as much out of the company as the company wants to get out of each employee. Some Tweeners demand that the company invests time and money into their own career in order to reach their full potential. What are some ways that a company can invest in their employees?

  • Higher Education: Bachelor’s, Masters, and Doctorate Degrees are all points of negotiation for Tweeners. Many of which would take a decrease in salary to have access to these developmental opportunities.

  • Certifications: A great number of jobs require certifications. Tweeners believe their employers are responsible for providing the necessary resources to obtain these qualifications.

  • Seminars: Some employees want to learn from the best in the field and attend events to gain a broadened perspective or learn a new technical skill. Tweeners grew up in a rapidly changing technological environment and thrive off learning new softwares.

Retirement and Benefits: What are some of the most sought after benefits that Tweeners are looking for in their employers?

  • Health Insurance: It’s no surprise that this expensive cost would want to be worked into one’s benefits package.

  • Tuition Reimbursement: Some Tweeners would rather take a lower salary and have their company pay off student loans and tuition instead of taking the higher salary and paying it off themselves.

  • Retirement Plan: It is comforting to know that a company has taken measures to prepare employee’s for retirement.

Boss is a Mentor not a Manager: Nobody likes working for a micromanager who constantly peers over your shoulder and comments on every little move. What qualities make up a good boss/professional mentor?

  • Passion: Great mentors have a burning drive to become the best in the field and pass their knowledge onto others.

  • Respected: Your mentor should be respected by his or her colleagues and serve as a role model to the community.

  • Experience: There is no amount of knowledge that can replace real world experience. Mentors should also have had some professional success in the industry.

  • Teacher: Mentor must have exceptional communication skills and be able to provide feedback and assistance to his or her mentee.

High Pay: Show me the money! Believe it or not, Tweeners did not rank high pay nearly as high as we anticipated. Their interests were drawn more so towards atmosphere and lifestyle attributes provided by employers. One way to entice Tweeners is to compare their salaries to national averages or similar data.

Autonomy: Describes freedom that employees have in the workplace. This attribute has shown to increase employee satisfaction and enthusiasm. Autonomy is extremely relevant for Tweeners and especially Generation Z people, because every day they have to put on a “personal show.” These shows include selfies for just about every occasion, Facebook status updates about a personal gripe, or even a Twitter poll about a silly question. How do you give your employees more freedom to express themselves while ensuring quality work?

  • Assign Responsibilities: Work quality increases when the employee knows that his or her name will be next to the performance result.

  • Frequent Small Meetings: The boss must set goals for his or her employees and then give them the freedom to achieve those goals in the best method they see fit. If the employee is heading in the wrong direction, a gentle suggestion may be required to get back on track, but most importantly it does not infringe on the employee’s freedom.

  • Encourage Creativity: Set time aside for employees to generate ideas that they would like to accomplish for the company. Intrapreneurial spirits will drive future companies to the next level.

Frequent Small Promotions: Tweeners tend to thrive on reassurance and continuous feedback. When a Tweener feels that they are reaching a dead-end point in their job, that is typically when he or she will look elsewhere for employment. How can an employer effectively maintain a Tweener’s interest in the company without giving constant promotions?

  • Benchmarks: Everyone wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel to their next promotion. If goals are explicitly defined to employees, they will know exactly what is expected of them to get to the next level. It serves as additional motivation to employees to work hard and reach their goal. It also puts the employee’s future in their own hands.

Community Service Opportunities and Philanthropy: The new generation seems to be more easily influenced by emotion. Philanthropy opportunities to a good cause makes Tweeners feel as if they are saving the world by being a part of the movement. Generation Z employees cannot resist taking a selfie to let everyone know that they are working a charity event.

Study completed by: Jim Toth and Jacob Moss


Generation Timeline

Positive Workplace Culture

Flexible Hours

Education and Professional Development

Information acquired from speaking with Ashland University Business students

Retirement and Benefits

Boss is a Mentor not a Manager

High Pay

Results from this survey and conversations with students


Frequent Small Promotions

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