Managing millennials: Why HR needs to rethink employee recognition.

The arrival of millennials in the workplace is causing quite a stir. Why? Because they’re forcing employers to look very carefully at the conventional HR thinking.  It is now clear that the practices that came into being during the industrial era no longer meet the challenges of managing millennials.

For example, as this HR Grapevine article explains, they need a very different reward structure to the previous generation. They need a work environment that makes them happy. The millennials are a generation who like the idea of having the big house and fabulous holidays but they aren’t prepared to make the same compromises as other generations in order to get them. You may have views about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing but that’s missing the point. Good or bad, it’s reality and if HR practices aren’t set up to cope with it – and, in fact, embrace it – those organisations are going to find it difficult to attract employees with grit, determination and talent.

The post-industrial era workplace

And it’s a tough battle. Numerous research reports are highlighting the problems that organisations are having in attracting and keeping the right people. Some of this is down to the fact that the fundamental nature of the ‘worker/employer’ relationship keeps shifting as more millennials enter the workplace. Increasing proportions of today’s workforce are simply not prepared to work in a company with a traditional top-down management approach and all that comes with it – like an outdated approach to employee recognition.

As digital strategist and author Ade McCormack points out, all this is contributing to the crumbling of the industrial era model. There’s a shift going on from economic dependence to professional mastery. And what is one critical piece of the mastery jigsaw? Feedback. Ongoing, timely, relevant feedback is the secret to managing millennials.

Managing millennials and social recognition

The majority of millennials are digital natives. They’ve grown up in a world of instant responses and an ongoing commentary about themselves and their peers. Which is why the case for social recognition is so compelling. It meets those expectations of constant feedback. And peer to peer recognition meets the expectations of feedback from each other. Managers haven’t been removed from the equation; their input is important. But peer to peer recognition acknowledges the fact that you don’t just work for your manager. You work for your team, for your department and for your company and all those stakeholders will inevitably see more than a single manager can.

Some people may be tempted to suggest all this smacks of pandering to a generation. Not so. Millennials are simply bringing in the skills that will be far more economically relevant in the future. In fact, previous generations are every bit as capable of taking these skills on board. And, if they want their career to advance, it’s likely they’ll have to take these skills on board whether they like it or not.

Social recognition = HR opportunity

Organisations and HR practitioners need to quickly work out what all this means for their people strategies. This is not something to be afraid of because it actually presents some huge opportunities.

And when it comes to the very heart of why companies have employee recognition programs in place, isn’t it all about motivating people? Remember that for years HR practitioners have wrestled with how to sustain motivation. They haven’t found a consistent effective way to do it – until now. Social recognition software has provided part of the answer, helping you take ownership of your own motivation. Delivered in a way that fits seamlessly with how people live today.

It’s time to welcome the millennials

Research is providing encouraging insights into the ‘millennial mind’; of course it often paints an over simplified and negative  picture of the 80-100 million workers that sit in the millennial bracket. However it’s also painting a picture of a generation with ambitions and expectations, high ethical standards and a strong emphasis on values. And let’s face it: the traditional hierarchical model, once held up as the pinnacle of work practices, hasn’t fared well in many instances once the surface has been scratched and people have seen the sometimes appalling reality underneath.

In his preface to his book ‘Beyond Nine to Five – Your Career Guide for the Digital Age’ McCormack says ‘The world is changing. In turn the world of work is changing. Consequently what it means to be a worker is changing too.’ I would add to that so has what it means to be an employer. Embrace the arrival of the millennials because they are both inspiring and bringing with them answers that previous generations couldn’t find.

To book a demonstration to see how managing millennials with social recognition software can help your business – click here.