6 reasons why old school employee recognition programmes demotivate millennials


emoloyee recognition programmes millennials

If your plan for welcoming millennials into your company includes plugging them into tired processes and systems that have been around for years you may want to think again. That’s definitely the case when it comes to making sure your employee recognition programme is up to the job of attracting and retaining them. Here are some reasons why…

1. Millennials are digital natives

Millennials have grown up in a world of instant responses and constant online conversation. It’s become the norm and it’s one of the main ways they communicate. Consider then the impact of squeezing them into existing employee recognition systems that provide antiquated hierarchy-led recognition that in all honesty completely failed to engage the previous generations of employees.

The solution? Social recognition.

Think about why gamification is taking off in the workplace. It may be the opposite of social recognition in terms of it being task and outcome driven. But the use of familiar technology and appealing user interfaces means they both have high adoption levels. Add to that the fact that they boast instant and engaging mobile-based experiences and you have a winning combination.  This is the stuff that makes millennials tick.

2. Millennials value regular feedback

Instant messaging and social media has created an expectation of constant and timely feedback in all aspects of life. When it comes to employee recognition programmes, that regularity matters. If those expectations aren’t met, and if your employee recognition process means the thanks comes days, weeks or even months after the moment, you’ll fail to engage millennials.

3. Millennials need good quality feedback

It’s not only about frequency of course. Feedback needs to be meaningful. Manager feedback is still an important part of an employee recognition programme but it shouldn’t be the only aspect. Managers cannot be aware of everything an employee’s doing. But create an employee recognition programme that incorporates feedback and appreciation from all stakeholders, particularly peers, and it’ll have a far greater impact.

4. Millennials need to feel valued

Everyone needs to feel valued but previous generations have, to some extent, been conditioned to not expect to feel it. But millennials have grown up in environments where support and praise have become the norm. So it’s not surprising they expect this within the workplace context too.

The fact that millennials have a greater need for this is not a bad thing. It’s not only millennials who benefit from a sense of being valued; companies with a high recognition culture have a 31 per cent lower turnover rate. But while the benefits are not unique to millennials, the expectation for recognition and appreciation is greater. And if they don’t think your company will give it to them you could struggle to recruit them in the first place.

5. Millennials want to work for companies with innovative cultures

Millennials value innovation. According to this report by Deloitte, more than three-quarters are strongly influenced by how innovative a company is when considering their future employer. Their measure of innovation includes how progressive they believe operational structures, day to day procedures and management attitudes will be. You may not have appreciated this fact, but the way your employee recognition programme operates tells an employee much of what they need to know about your organisation. Multiple sign-off process’s,  zero transparency and manager led strategies are not signs of an innovative culture.

6. Millennials want to work for a transparent organisation

The same Deloitte report highlights that millennials seek to work for transparent, ethical companies who work with integrity. They want to work for a company they can trust in and communicate openly with. One way companies can facilitate that is by providing employees with the right tools to hold open conversations at all levels across the company.  As the only area of a business that is 100% dedicated to the positive, social employee recognition programmes have a significant part to play in achieving this.


Jason Harney

Founder, also Director of Product and Marketing at Workstars. Jason has been instrumental in progressing social recognition software to the forefront of HR, against a backdrop of the traditional reward industry. As HR strategy begins to shift and innovate to meet the people and social challenges of the day. Trust, culture, values and engagement, matter more than ever. This is where Jason spends his time.