The Millennials (a.k.a. Generation Y, Digital Natives and Echo Boomers) have arrived with a very different work agenda than preceding generations. Prepared to stay with their employer for 2-5 years, their average tenure is only 1.5 years according to the Department of Labor. With 75 million Millenials entering the workforce, employers must understand this disconnect and close the gap if they want to attract, retain and encourage better performance from Gen Y employees.
A few key facts about Gen Y and their expectations:
- They are the most educated generation in American History
- They are social media communicators
- 75% have a profile on a social networking site
- 44% read blogs
- 76% use instant messaging
- They are the most child-centric generation and grew up with excessive positive reinforcement from Baby Boomer parents (which they now expect from employers)
- They seek real-time communication
Are you getting the picture? This generation is characterized by the here-and-now and other differences that are game-changers for supporting a people-centric culture. Companies with people-centric practices and a culture of engagement report revenue growth at a rate 2.5 times greater than others in like industries according to the 2010 Hay Group Employee Engagement Survey.
Since recognition is an important piece of this high-growth environment, organizations need to understand how changes in the makeup of the workforce are impacting the “who, what, when, why and how of recognition.” It’s now about total recognition, and the rules have changed.
New total recognition rules
1. Why? The focus of recognition has shifted from tenure to results that are aligned with company objectives.
The days are gone when years of service were rewarded with the symbolic gold watch. Total recognition acknowledges the employee’s initiative, creativity, willingness to go above and beyond, and the role these actions have played in an achievement that is critical to meeting or exceeding company objectives.
2. When? The timing of recognition has accelerated, with meaningful recognition occurring on the spot, in step with when contributions are made.
Employees can no longer wait until the next quarterly meeting or the employee’s annual review, which could be months later and diminish the impact. The real “now” generation are Gen Yers despite Pepsi’s moniker for Boomers. In an instant world, delayed recognition loses its fizz. Think of ways to develop a consistent rhythm of recognition to fully integrate it into your culture.
3. How? The availability of social and corporate networks supports accelerated, in-the-moment recognition and provides additional outlets to more formal methods of recognition.
Facebook, LinkedIn, corporate blogs and intranets also enhance recognition by broadening its reach, so those who matter to the recipient can share the pride. From a pat on the back (electronic or in person) to a note or email to a formal piece in a newsletter, today there are more ways than ever to convey recognition.
4. Who? Recognition solely bestowed by executive leaders has been replaced by peer-to-peer recognition.
Additionally, in a more democratic workplace where teamwork is emphasized, this is a natural shift. The flow of recognition has expanded across the organization to include other functions and departments, bottom-up, peer-to-peer and colleague. Although recognition in general is valuable in creating employee engagement and inspiring team effort, managers must take the lead in recognizing their reports to support their coaching and development efforts.
5. What? The individual is king in a people-centric culture.
Total recognition chucks the one-size-fits-all approach and takes into consideration how to make it meaningful to the recipient. For starters, managers should acknowledge what the employee specifically did and its importance to the big picture and the manager, as well as its contribution to the organization’s values and culture. Consider whether the reward should be public or private, whether it should be sent to the home to share with family, and whether it should be presented to individuals or a team. A choice of awards conveys a respect for the individual’s preferences. Today’s most popular rewards are often experiential in nature, interactive (including travel, cooking classes, go-carting, spas, etc.), a product of choice, or a product that reflects the accomplishment, the task and is aligned with the company identity.
So you can see that meaningful recognition doesn’t need to be expensive or flow through rigid corporate channels. Everyone can participate in making employees feel like what they’ve done really does matter. Remember, what gets recognized gets repeated.