A common challenge for employers is figuring out how millennials want to be recognised at work. Indeed, we cannot talk about employee recognition in a monolithic way. How an employee wants to be recognised can be affected by factors such as the generation the employee belongs to, as this can entail important differences in values.
In this article, we will examine the unique ways in which millennials want to be recognised for their work and describe how employers can align their business with these values. Doing so will promote a greater degree of satisfaction among millennial employees which, in turn, will translate into a more loyal and impactful workforce.
According to a survey carried out by Colloquy, 40% of millennials say they joined a loyalty programme because it provided them with access to members-only sales, products, and services. This is versus 33% of the general population. The same survey found that 25% of millennials reported joining a loyalty programme in the last year because it gave them access to members-only events. This contrasts with 16% of the general population.
Millennials respond best when they are recognised at work in a way that is personal to them. This means it’s time to ditch a one-size-fits-all approach to rewards and take an approach that is likely to be relevant to each individual. Consider letting employees choose their rewards, and make sure to offer a wide range of options that focus on unique experiences. For one employee, the ultimate reward would be the chance to do skydiving, whereas for someone else it could be a hiking trip in a far-flung destination.
The Colloquy survey revealed that 63% of millennials said it’s important that their loyalty programme supports their lifestyle preferences. This would include wellness programmes, such as free or discounted gym membership and yoga classes. In contrast, 53% of Gen Xers and 46% of Baby Boomers said this aspect of loyalty programmes was important to them.
A 2016 Aon Hewitt survey found that companies with effective rewards programmes for millennials offer three types of rewards: handwritten notes, experiential rewards (such as tickets for events), and “thank yous” from peers, managers, or other leaders in the organisation. This shows that the millennial workforce places a high value on personal, human connections and meaningful gestures related to their work performance.
Recognise Outstanding Performance
While it’s important to reinforce behaviours and activities that acknowledge good performance in general, for millennials, it’s also vital to be recognised for outstanding performance. This includes exceptional respect for time and punctuality. The 2015 Blackhawk Engagement Solutions Employee Research discovered that 85% of millennials surveyed want to be rewarded for exceeding individual performance levels, as well as have their outstanding performance lead to a promotion.
Training and Career Development
For millennial workers, it’s important to have plenty of opportunities to grow in their role and as individuals. According to Docebo, 35% of the millennials surveyed believe that excellent career training and development programmes are what makes an employer attractive. Millennials want to be rewarded for their work with avenues for self-improvement, such as learning new skills or refining existing ones.
Recognising Purposeful Work
One of the key characteristics of a millennial workforce is the prioritisation of meaningful work. This is work with a purpose that can make a positive impact. Barbara Galante, director of human resources at Ascensus, a US-based retirement and university savings company, said:
"Working in HR for over 30 years, I’ve seen various generations come on board and move around throughout our organization. When I step back and look at the millennial generation, I can definitely see how they crave recognition and praise in the workplace, but this stems from their desire to make sure they are doing things right or wrong. I often tell the leaders I work with that a millennial would be willing to scrape gum off a chair, as long as they knew what they are doing has a purpose. They are extremely hard workers."
Millennials want to feel that they are part of a network, not a hierarchy. Some refer to this as holacracy, a novel way of structuring and organising a company that allows all voices to be heard and valued. Holacracy encourages a flatter power structure, where all employees can expect inclusion in the organisation’s decision-making process. This inclusive approach can help millennials feel truly recognised and appreciated at work.
Frequent and Spontaneous Recognition
Millennials want to be recognised at work frequently. This doesn’t mean that they need praise for every task they successfully carry out or every result they achieve. But it does mean giving millennials regular feedback and appreciation for their work, perhaps once a week. Younger workers also value spontaneous recognition for their work, rather than just celebrations for certain milestones (e.g. reaching the one-year mark). Frequent and spontaneous recognition can take place in all kinds of contexts, in daily team huddles, leadership meetings, company gatherings, as well as through emails, ecards, and handwritten notes. It’s crucial to understand that this desire for frequent and spontaneous recognition helps to promote a positive work culture, which will lead to a greater degree of motivation and idea generation.
Millennials wanting to be recognised for their work – and the particular way they want to be recognised – is not a sign of narcissism or needing undeserved praise. We all want to be recognised, praised, and thanked for a job done well. But we should also pay attention to what kind of employee recognition schemes matters the most to millennials, as this will help companies keep younger workers engaged and happy at work.
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