Recognizing Millennials

Recognizing Millennials in the Workplace

What comes to mind when you hear the word “Millennial”? Entitled? Confident? Arrogant? Flexible? No matter what comes to mind, the truth is that this generation is growing and is here to stay.

There is a differing of opinion as to who is considered Millennial’s, but most studies indicate it refers to those born between 1982 and 2000. According to employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-24, total employment is forecasted to reach 163.8 million jobs by 2024, which means the Millennial generation will represent the most significant proportion of the workforce. As a result, generational differences will increasingly become an added component of diversity relations in the workplace, and employers will have to learn what drives this generation and keeps them engaged while at work.

Studies and surveys indicate that Millennial’s tend to be more motivated to work harder and stay at their jobs longer when they receive recognition and appreciation for their work. Here are some tips and suggestions for employers when developing, modifying, and implementing employee recognition programs to incorporate Millennial’s needs:

Continuous and Ongoing Recognition of Millenials

The bottom line, you cannot recognize Millennials too much. Real-time recognition is significant. Millennials want constant and instant feedback and acknowledgment. It’s studied that they prefer feedback and recognition twice as often as other generations. Although recognizing achievements in real-time is often unrealistic, try to schedule it as close to the actions you are as rewarding as possible. Hence, it reinforces the behaviors you want to encourage. Many millennials prefer to be paid or recognized at least every month, if not more frequently.

Unexpected and Meaningful Recognition

The traditional “milestone” recognition tied to a big project or anniversary does very little to increase Millennial motivation and engagement. Many of these employees feel that receiving a milestone award has little or no impact on their view of their jobs. However, personalizing such awards by adding career details and work highlights would make milestone recognition more meaningful. Instead of basing acceptance on standard milestones, today’s high-performance programs focus on achievements and results. They tend to be more social by letting anyone in the company recognize anyone else. When no other meaningful recognition is given, Millennials may have already checked out by the time he or she receives a “1st-anniversary” reward and be looking for the next opportunity — one that will offer meaningful recognition!

Make it Specific

One of the best ways to ensure your company’s recognition program truly motivates your employees is to identify and recognize specific behaviors or actions. For example, when you publicly reward and understand a customer service rep for helping a key customer solve a systems problem, you not only reinforce good behavior but also help build a company culture where doing the right thing becomes the standard. This approach will help engage employees more effectively than just rewarding someone for being deemed the “employee of the month.”

Personalize Recognition

Millennial’s have been called the “Me Me Me Generation” and is often more focused on themselves. This means generic recognition will be meaningless to Millennial’s unless you find a way to personalize your rewards. Many companies are getting on board with creating flexible, personalized recognition programs where outstanding employees can choose from many gift card options for popular local stores, restaurants, entertainment or travel sites, and even charitable organizations. Many employees prefer the flexibility of gift cards and like the freedom to choose an award that is relevant to their personal lives. This type of program shows that your company values individuality and freedom of choice as well as the recipients themselves. These employees also tend to prefer time off and flexibility, so recognition programs that offer additional PTO, breaks, or flexible schedules may be enticing to a deserving employee.

Make it a Learning Experience

Keep in mind some Millennial’s prefer to learn more by on-the-job application rather than by being told what to do. So although recognizing a job well done is essential, it’s equally important to offer ongoing feedback on how to do even better. Millennial’s respond well to mentoring and coaching from more experienced employees and prefer to think of their manager more as a coach who supports their professional development. Millennial’s greatly value opportunities for growth and challenge, so they also expect ongoing, continual learning in the workplace. Many Millennials are attracted to employers who offer excellent training and development programs, as well as those who put a value on continuing education and career pathing. Companies that emphasize learning why things work – or don’t work – are more attractive to Millennial’s who are not used to doing things a certain way. Millennial’s may not realize it, but they still need training in fundamental workplace performance, behavior, and culture. These employees are mainly accustomed to instant responses when they text with friends and co-workers and may not realize that other co-workers don’t treat messages with the same sense of urgency.

Grab Their Attention Early!

Companies need to be aware and understand what drives and motivate this generation during the job search process, and what keeps them engaged through the onboarding process. This alone can determine the longevity of employment. Recruiting and onboarding programs should help to introduce new hires to the organization, instill the company’s core beliefs, simulate the feeling of working on a team, teach network-building skills, and focus on professional career development. It’s essential to use some creative, interactive experiences such as job simulations, role-plays, small-group teams, and even video games. Millennial’s tend to be more socially and environmentally aware and may be interested to know what your stance is on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They may want to know what causes your company supports and how they can get involved and give back (e.g., Habitat for Humanity, green initiatives, local non-profits, etc.).

With the increase of Millennial’s entering the workforce every day, employers will need to get on board and be prepared to understand better how these employees are motivated and engaged in the workplace. Many of these suggestions are easy, no-cost ideas to help employers create and modify their recognition programs to be better more impactful and ultimately help keep talented employees at your company.

For assistance with recognition programs or other Human Resource questions, call: (855) 447-3375 or visit us online at

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