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Developing motivation

Section image for Confidence and Motivation - woman walking along an arrow pointing up, implying she will go on a positive journey forward

This section has been designed to help you recognise, understand and deal with some of the wide-ranging issues relating to motivation often experienced by jobseekers aged 50+.

Motivation is a characteristic that varies from person to person. Invariably, you will come across customers who are extremely motivated and others who have very little motivation. For the latter, it is important for you to understand the reasons driving the lack of motivation and adopt an approach that helps to re-motivate and re-invigorate your customer. You may also wish to refer to the section on Developing confidence, as confidence and motivation can often be closely linked.

Lack of motivation

Negative work experiences are often a factor in shaping an individual’s motivation to re-enter the labour market. Often, 50+ jobseekers who have been victims of poor management or ruthless employers can become disillusioned to the point where they think all employers are the same.

Poor educational experiences early on in life, as well as a lack of support and encouragement to learn, can also play a significant part in 50+ jobseekers being less motivated to learn and develop new skills.

Underlying health issues can severely affect motivation for re-entering the labour market among 50+ customers. Depression, in particular, can be a major barrier that can often go undetected and the thought of becoming older can affect people emotionally.

A lack of structure can also be a cause of poor motivation. When in employment, people have a clear structure to their day; however, unemployment can change this radically to the point where getting up in the morning becomes a challenge.

Dealing with personal family issues may also affect motivation to work among the over-50s, who are increasingly likely to inherit caring responsibilities for elderly parents or grandchildren. Bereavement of a spouse / partner can also severely affect motivation.

There may also be a poor perception of their own skill-base. Often, 50+ jobseekers believe they are ‘too old’ to learn new skills and find it difficult to see that the range of life skills and experience acquired can be potentially valuable in searching for a new job.

One way of deciding which approach or style to adopt with your customer is to use a simple Skill / will matrix. This tool helps you to assess your customer’s level of motivation and tailor your style accordingly.

Skill / will matrix

Low will / low skill: The customer does not have the motivation to do anything and, in addition, has a relatively limited skill-base. A Direct approach may help in dealing with this type of jobseeker, where you have the hard conversation about where they are currently and what they need to do to move forward.

Low skill / high will: This type of customer will be keen and motivated to move forward but may not necessarily have the skill-base to achieve their aspirations. Providing Guidance on organisations or institutions who offer training and development that will help raise the customer’s skill level will help here.

High skill / low will: Here, the customer will be well skilled, but along the way has lost their motivation. It is important to try to re-ignite that passion and drive that the customer once had. Using techniques or practices that Excite the customer can often be successful. One way of achieving this could be to meet away from the office environment. For example, arranging to meet in a museum, an art gallery or even a park may help to engage the client’s imagination and begin the process of re-stimulating and re-motivating.

High skill / high will: With this type of customer, your role should simply be to Delegate responsibility for job searching and sourcing training opportunities to the customer. For this to work effectively, it is important that you communicate clearly, set / agree clear objectives with the customer and regularly monitor and review progress.

Further areas you may wish to consider to help improve the motivation of 50+ customers can be found here.

Improving motivation

Understanding preferred learning styles: helping customers to understand how they prefer to learn can be an extremely effective way of improving motivation for learning. Many older adults prefer to learn by traditional means and find online learning a challenge. Through understanding their preferred way of learning, individuals are more likely to have a positive experience, thereby increasing the likelihood of them re-engaging with learning.

Exploring areas of interest: encouraging customers to think about subjects or topics that they gain personal enjoyment and satisfaction from can be a good starting point in building motivation, both for learning new skills as well as for identifying areas of employment.

Peer support: meeting and mixing with individuals who are of a similar generation and who have similar life experiences can help raise motivation. Encouraging customers to talk about and share experiences can lead to greater confidence and motivation.

Employer visits: arranging visits to employers for groups of customers can help raise motivation, particularly if it is an industry sector that the customer has always wanted to work in but never had the opportunity. This can be done in a non-threatening way where the customer is in control, particularly if it is arranged as part of a larger group of customers.

Highlighting transferable skills: The result of a skills analysis can help highlight skills that may be transferred from one job to another, regardless of industry sector, and build motivation for customers to explore new roles and opportunities.

Goal setting and action planning: Helps to provide the 50+ jobseeker with a purpose and structure, which can lead to a greater sense of achievement, thus enhancing motivation.

Recognising achievements: a highly effective way of increasing the motivational levels of 50+ customers is by acknowledging what the individual has achieved throughout his / her work life and personal life. The current generation of 50+ adults are considerably less likely to have achieved formal qualifications compared with the younger generations of today.

Case study: developing motivation (Seetec)


John, 55, had been unemployed for six years when he joined stage 3 of Flexible New Deal (FND) in Manchester. John displayed very low self esteem and confidence. Initially he was unable to maintain good timekeeping when asked to attend appointments with his adviser, Danny. At first John also needed encouragement when in conversation, preferring to give one word answers.

As John's motivation was very low, Danny had to work hard with him in the early stages of the programme. Danny took a tough but sympathetic approach with John, letting him talk when he was in a ‘chatty' mood, but also refusing to see him if he was more than 20 minutes late and re-booking the appointment for the next day.

Danny made it clear that being on FND was a stepping stone to work and John needed to see the link between preparing for work and employment itself. This meant John demonstrating that he could meet the needs of an employer, including arriving on time.

John soon started arriving for appointments on time. He also began wearing smarter attire to reflect his new commitment to finding work. Danny helped John to overhaul his CV completely; this allowed Danny to chat with John about his skills, abilities and desired job goals.

As Danny showed John more and more job possibilities, based on John's transferable skills, John's motivation really took off. Soon he saw each job that he applied for as a possible chance to practise his interview skills, develop confidence and become well versed in handling competency-based questions, as well as a job opportunity.

Danny believed that John made such early progress because he was treated as an individual and worked better in a one to one setting than as part of a group. Danny worked on making sure John felt as though he was the only customer on his caseload and that someone believed in him and his skills. Soon John was applying for at least 10 job opportunities a week, rather than one or two.

John had previously worked for a local youth and community centre, helping people from underprivileged backgrounds. He had given this work up to look after his brother who had become ill. John decided that as he had looked after his brother, care could be a new career for him. It soon became apparent however that despite his personal experiences he was not being selected for interviews as he had no qualifications in care and was without a driving licence.

This setback hampered John's motivation as he couldn't understand why his enthusiasm and experience obtained through looking after his brother wasn't good enough. Danny again worked closely with John to understand what it was about a job in care that interested him. After breaking down elements of the role it became clear that John was keen to apply himself to helping others, something that he found very rewarding.

Once he understood this, John started to look at many different types of work and Danny helped emphasise the community and environmental nature of John's hobbies. The next time Danny saw John, he had been offered an interview as a Neighbourhood Assistant, helping to patrol local car parks and pick up litter, etc. John was very excited about this role as he wanted to demonstrate his ‘community conscience'; he was subsequently successful at interview. John has been working for five months now and is also doing overtime. His supervisor is keen for John to progress in work.

John is convinced that it was Danny taking the time to treat him as an individual that made all the difference as he had previously attended other programmes where he had been left sitting in a room doing job search on a computer or with the local paper. "I never thought I'd work again but Danny helped me see the different things I could do and really made the time to get to know me and find out what I wanted to do. All the other courses I went on made me feel I just had to go through the motions - Danny made me see I still had something to offer employers, this made me confident enough to go to interview and tell employers what I could do."

Flexible New Deal (FND) is delivered in partnership with Jobcentre Plus and the European Social Fund.

Key learning points:

• Adviser can use techniques to instil good work practices such as time keeping
• Treating customers as individuals can increase their motivation
• Customers can become de-motivated by attending multiple programmes
• Helping the customer identify transferable skills



This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.