Why millennials want recognition more than freebies

This recent article on HR Grapevine suggests many millennials prize job recognition over all other incentives.

It states that employee benefits might help with initially attracting millennials, but once they’ve got their feet under the desk, it’s appreciation and job satisfaction they’re after. Not so different from other generations then? Or are they?

Where it does differ is their expectation about how that recognition’s delivered. Given that millennials have grown up with greater personalisation being the norm, it’s not much of a shock that this is the way they’d prefer their recognition delivered too. Old school generic recognition efforts will be pretty meaningless to millennials.

The same is true of feedback. Other generations of employees mostly subscribed to the view that ‘no news is good news’. If you didn’t hear anything, you were doing a good job and more of the same please.

But for millennials, it’s different. Feedback’s a positive thing and they want ongoing feedback on how to do even better. In their eyes, it’s not something to fear; it’s coaching. And they want it quickly – not an unreasonable expectation when you consider they’ve grown up in a world of instant responses.

Recognition’s just one of the ways employees receive performance feedback in a modern workplace, along with activities like coaching and mentoring. Employees never liked performance reviews; more often than not that was because they were a complete waste of time or usually concentrated on the negative. So waiting 12 months to get one was no issue. However in an era where the positive plays a much greater role, employees of all ages want to hear more.

This report from PwC more or less echoes the HR Grapevine article. The giant multinational professional services organisation has been taking a very close look at what motivates its younger people and what it needs to do to create an environment that appeals to all generations.

PwC realises millennials are far more driven by the social needs of flexibility, appreciation and team collaboration. So it’s been focusing on creating more flexible environments. It’s nurturing a greater sense of community. There’s been a lot of emphasis on listening and being effectively connected with people.

And a big part of the strategy is to find innovative approaches to recognition that meet the specific needs of millennials. It’s a generation that’s putting greater emphasis on enjoying work and finding meaning and purpose in it. In fact, that’s more important than rapid career progression. So the emphasis has shifted to how PwC rewards the quality and value of work and how it can recognise the individualism of every person. It’s all about real-time appreciation, feedback and development and face-to-face coaching conversations.

The big players are adapting their approaches to millennial expectations but the great news is the millennials are asking for something that can be provided by any sized company. The kind of recognition millennials seek isn’t something that requires massive corporate budgets. This is something that’s achievable for companies big and small across the globe.

Wouldn’t it be ironic, considering they’re the first digitally native generation, if their desire for recognition means millennials turn out to be the generation who re-humanise the workplace more than any other?