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5 min read

Years ago, millennials copped a lot of bad press. This generation of employees, born anywhere between 1977 to 2000, was often described as “entitled” or “unmanageable.” But the tide is turning, and it may simply be because the oldest members of this generation are now doing the leading and managing. In fact, millennials now make up more of the workforce than any other generation. And we’re motivated by significantly different things compared to employees of other generations. (Yes, I fall in the “millennial” camp, too!)

By understanding what motivates millennials and adapting our employee engagement strategies – and our reward and recognition programmes in particular – to align and support these motivators, we have an opportunity to attract and retain exceptional talent.

And before you clock out and think these motivators only apply to millennials, take a look. Many of the elements on the list below include things employees of any generation can benefit from.

Six millennial motivators

1. Purpose and meaning (not just pay)
2. Transparency and ownership
3. Frequent feedback
4. Social
5. Work/life balance enabled by technology
6. Mobility

1. Millennial employees want purpose over pay

While fair compensation is critical, the biggest salary package or fancy job title isn’t necessarily going to attract the best and brightest employees. Millennial employees want an employer-employee relationship that isn’t merely transactional.

Effective and impactful recognition and reward strategies connect employees to purpose, mission and values. It is designed to help them recognise that the day-to-day work they do contributes to achieving the company mission, and connects recognition to values that make your company culture unique.

2. Millennials are motivated by transparency

Transparency gives employees a sense of ownership and agency. Just as our physical ways of working have evolved to minimise closed or corner offices and now include more communal work spaces, our employees have evolved other ways of working to increase transparency and collaboration.

Employee expectations around information sharing have changed – commercial conversations are expected to go beyond the boardroom. Millennials, in particular, want regular business updates to ensure they feel informed and involved in the direction of the company.

This means recognition and reward programmes with too much red tape or convoluted rules that disguise who is getting recognised and why, or points that mask the true value of a reward will often be met with defiance from employees, or simply be dismissed as untrustworthy or irrelevant.

I've certainly been on the receiving end of disingenuous recognition in past employment, as I'm sure many of us have, and it had the completely opposite effect on my level of engagement and trust in the company. 

Choosing a reward and recognition platform (or, as I prefer to say "recognition and reward") that provides transparency around the “who” is being recognised, as well as “when” and “why,” the more participation and take-up you will experience.

Download our highlight for a step-by-step guide to building an employee  recognition program for millenials (and others!)»


3. Millennials crave frequent feedback

Today, thanks to the internet, our people are accustomed to a hyper-feedback culture – we’re used to people giving us regular feedback about our actions in real time. And not only do we want to receive feedback, we also expect opportunities to give it.

So instead of recognition and reward being something that happens one to four times a year (as is the case with annual or quarterly awards!), impactful recognition and reward programmes have an element that is always-on and provides an opportunity for honest, in-the-moment feedback.

Making recognition and communication a two-way street can open doors for a more engaged workforce. Consider the benefits of peer-to-peer or social recognition instead of only top-down – this provides employees with agency and ownership.

mobile recognition app

4. Using social media is normal – and necessary

This is a generation of employees who grew up and came of age when social media hit its peak; they use it to build and sustain connections, as well as present a better version of themselves. I joined Facebook back in 2006, my very first year of university, and social media has been a part of my life ever since.

I know that employers who leverage this expectation are a step ahead. They add a social component to employee recognition by publishing an online recognition wall where people can like or comment when someone receives an eCard. Their programme can also include elements like leaderboards, videos, blogs - anything that enables communication and connection.

Why? According to a study published in Harvard Business Review, using social media for work increases engagement and makes people less likely to leave their jobs. Employees who engage with coworkers online via social media platforms tend to be more motivated and come up with innovative ideas. Your recognition and reward programme can encourage this by providing a digital space that allows employees to connect with each other.


5. Supporting flexible work is a must

A recent study found that 89% of British workers believe that flexible working would boost employee productivity. One often-seen effect of having more flexible working arrangements is that the line between work and personal lives is frequently blurred. On one hand people are accustomed to being "always on" but on the other hand expect to be able to set their own parameters around how and when they work. 

What does this mean for recognition and reward? First, it means what we recognise and reward today has evolved. Instead of focussing on tenure or who has spent the longest time in the office or the warehouse or the shop floor, we’re recognising people based on their impact and contribution.

It also shows us that getting the technology right is crucial to enabling flexible and remote working and employers must provide an easy-to-access and exciting recognition experience.

Recognition should happen when and where employees want it - whether it’s on their work computer, during their commute, or when they’re on their mobile phone at home.

I spend a lot of my time on the road meeting employers, but with social recognition technology I can still interact with the great work my team is doing back in the office which really keeps us connected.

6. Millennials want physical and professional mobility

Today, employees want the opportunity to move around and work in different physical locations as well as work in different roles during their career journey within your organisation.

What this means is our recognition and reward experience connects a geographically dispersed workforce, but can also provide powerful insight into where talent is growing within your organisation and the individuals and teams who are collaborating, improving and innovating every day.


The most successful R&R strategies keep millennial motivators in mind

Instead of looking at the downsides of managing millennials, looking at what motivates and engages them and aligning our reward and recognition strategies to support these motivators provides an opportunity to create a competitive and attractive company culture. Now is a perfect time to think creatively and look at ways you can be intentional about designing your employee recognition and reward strategy.

Interested in how Reward Gateway can support you in this journey? Talk to us today.

Talk to an Engagement Consultant

Adam Williams

Adam is one of our Employee Engagement Consultants. When he's not looking for ways to make the world a better to work, you'll find him strumming on his guitar or in the crowd at a concert.

Employee Engagement Consultant

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