Millennials in the Workforce

A 2014 study showed that a stunning 79% of employees surveyed felt undervalued, mainly due to a lack of recognition. We praise our friends, family, and children when they do something well. Why don’t we do the same thing in the workplace? A survey by Glassdoor confirmed the enormous power of recognition: more than 80% of employees said they were motivated to work harder and stay at their jobs longer when they received appreciation for their work. By now you’ve discovered that millennials hold different values and are motivated for different reasons than some of your other employees. What millennials want in the workplace matters.

Here are a few tips on how to tailor your recognition program to your millennial employees.

1. Recognize Often

Millennials really, really (really) want feedback and acknowledgment. In fact, 42% want to get feedback every week — or twice as often as other generations — and 80% would prefer to receive feedback in real-time. Although recognizing achievements in real time is often unrealistic, try to schedule it as close to the actions you’re rewarding as possible, so it reinforces the behaviors you want to encourage. Just keep in mind that 41% of millennials prefer to be rewarded or recognized at least every month, if not more frequently.

2. Make It Unexpected

Traditional “milestone” recognition that’s tied to big events or tenure does very little to increase millennial motivation and engagement. In fact, 51% of employees in one study said receiving a milestone award had no impact on their view of their jobs. Personalizing such awards by adding career details would make milestone recognition more meaningful, according to 68% of those surveyed. Instead of basing recognition on milestones, however, today’s high-performance programs focus on achievements and peer-to-peer recognition, letting anyone in the company recognize anyone else.

3. Be Specific

One of the best ways to ensure your company’s recognition program truly motivates employees is to recognize specific behaviors or actions. When you reward a customer service rep for helping a marquee customer solve a particular systems problem, for example, you not only reinforce good behavior but also help build a culture where doing the right thing becomes the norm. That approach will engage employees more effectively than just rewarding someone for being the employee of the month. Specificity helps you drill down to exactly what millennials want in the workplace.

4. Personalize Recognition

Generic recognition will be meaningless to millennials, who are notoriously more introspective and self-aware, unless you find a way to personalize your rewards. One company that’s done a great job of creating a flexible, personalized recognition program is Intuit. There, outstanding employees can choose from thousands of gift card options for popular, local stores, restaurants, entertainment or travel outlets, and even charitable organizations. And because most employees prefer gift cards over cash and want the freedom to choose an award that’s relevant to their personal lives, this type of program shows your company values individuality and freedom of choice as well as the recipients themselves.

Fond Rewards also allows managers to send reward credits using customized email templates with room for a personalized congratulatory message. Rewards credit can be used by the employee to redeem gift cards for diverse brands and organizations like GlobalGiving, Apple and Amazon, delivering exactly what millennials want in the workplace: creative and personalized recognition. Fond Rewards makes every recognition — from a meaningful ad-hoc achievement and congratulations for a major milestone — easy to give.

5. Make It a Learning Experience

Although recognizing a job well done is important to millennials it’s equally important to offer ongoing feedback on how to do even better. Millennials respond well to mentoring from more experienced employees and like to think of their manager as a coach who supports their professional development. Keep in mind that millennials prefer to learn by application than by being told what to do (see how Deloitte does it, below).

What millennials want in the workplace is growth, so they also expect ongoing learning in the workplace. In fact, 35% said they were attracted to employers who offer excellent training and development programs for exactly that reason. Companies that emphasize learning why things work — or sometimes don’t work, in the case of failures — are definitely more attractive to millennials who aren’t used to doing things a certain way. Millennials may need training in fundamental workplace behavior and culture, too. They are especially accustomed to instant responses when they chat with friends via text, for example, and may not realize other workers don’t treat messages with the same urgency.

6. Start on the First Day

Deloitte, where millennials make up 50% of the client-facing workforce, has created a comprehensive onboarding program specifically for these recruits, beginning with a year-long Welcome to Deloitte (W2D) program. The program introduces each new hire to the organization, instills the company’s core beliefs, simulates the feel of working on a client team, teaches network-building skills, and eventually, focuses on professional development in the specific business unit the millennial joined. Based mainly on interactive experiences – including simulations, role-plays, small group teams, and even video games – the W2D program seems to be working: 96% of participants surveyed said they had an understanding of Deloitte’s culture and were satisfied with their decisions to join the organization.

Millennial Recognition in Today’s Workplace

With millennials comprising the majority of today’s workforce, what millennials want in the workplace matters now more than ever. Doing so can help other employees improve their performance and ultimately strengthen your company’s culture as well.