Pleasing both millennials and baby boomers through recognition

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If you believe what you read, you’d be under the impression that millennials are a tough bunch to please. According to research from MTV, for example, 88% want their co-workers to be their friends. Yet LinkedIn has also suggested that 68% would sacrifice a friendship with a colleague if it meant getting a promotion. Confusing? What about the survey (by Ultimate Survey) that suggested 34% would quit a job on the spot if their employer asked them to delete their Facebook page! 

It's been said that baby boomers, on the other hand, are more loyal to their employer, but less likely to adapt to changes, particularly with the impact that technology is having on many workplaces. 

So what does this mean from a recognition point of view and what can employers do to ensure their reward and recognition strategy is working for everyone? From millennials pushing forward a change in attitudes towards flexible working and work-life balance, to older generations that are working for longer than ever, HR professionals must tailor their employee recognition strategies to an increasingly diverse set of priorities and motivations. Here are our top tips:

Think about what you are recognising 
It’s important to recognise behaviours that support your organisation’s values and culture, yet these are often displayed differently by different generations. Workplace anniversaries, for example, are a great way of recognising employee loyalty, however though the traditional ‘long service award’ may be suitable for older generations, it may no longer be applicable for many millennials for whom moving jobs every few years has become the norm. For younger generations think about recognising their 1-year anniversary, it’s still an important contribution and will help them feel valued. 

Give appropriate awards
The best employee rewards are tailored to the interests and motivations of an individual, so age should be a consideration. Evidence suggests that lifestyle and work-life balance are major motivators for millennials, so make sure your rewards reflect these. Some employers are even offering home working opportunities as an award – a savvy use of recognition and recognition budgets and good for motivation as there is evidence to suggest that homeworkers and partial homeworkers are happier and more likely to work in excess of their contracted hours. Learning and development opportunities can be used in a similar way. It’s worth noting that older generations will value many of the same things, so don’t overlook the fact that working from home, or having an extra hour in bed would be a valued reward for them as well!

Delivery matters 
The way employee rewards are delivered can have a major impact on engagement levels. For millennials, as digital natives, recognition must be instant, be integrated with social media and allow for celebration via ‘chat’ platforms such as Yamma and Facebook. Baby boomers, on the other hand, may be more engaged with different platforms (LinkedIn, firm intranet) or face-to-face delivery. 

Use recognition tactically 
Employee recognition can also be used to directly address some of the challenges that arise from the modern workforce. For example, homeworkers can be more difficult to manage and are less likely to feel part of a team given their remoteness. Recognition can go some way towards dealing with this issue. 

Technology can also make a big difference here. By using an online portal as the hub for all recognition-focused activity, organisations can make it easy for remote and flexible workers to get and feel involved with nominating and receiving recognition awards wherever they are. 

Read more about recognition for the future workplace in our forthcoming e-book, which includes a case study from Grant Thornton.