Generational Praise

Generational Praise


Morgan Henry

We’ve all heard it, some of us may even agree with it.  “Millennials need participation trophies”. 

The truth of course is that every generation wants to be recognized when they do their job well, although there may be some small differences in how a member of a given generation wants to be recognized. 

So how can you effectively reward your employees for their good work? 

Obvious answers out of the way first, every generation is going to respond well to a pay raise.  Of course this isn’t always a viable option, but no generation we know if dislikes being paid more money.

Baby Boomers are the closest generation to retirement, and as such have been in their current employment positions longer than members of the workforce from younger generations. 

Baby Boomers are well known for awareness of when they are doing their jobs well, and don’t necessarily need regular pats on the back.  When Baby Boomers are being recognized, many of them prefer recognition away from the public eye.  If your Baby Boomer employee is performing particularly well, tell them in private, or write them a commendation if your organization is set up for something like that.

Generation X is not mentioned as frequently as Baby Boomers or Millennial’s in our daily dialogue anymore, but they still make up a bulk of the work force.  While the last of the Millennial’s are just starting to emerge in the workforce, Gen X has been in their field for a while now, and are generally more stable and comfortable in their positions.  Many Gen X members very much value autonomy, and want to be able to perform without micromanaging, or even showy congratulations.  If your Gen X members are performing well, give them space to keep performing well.

So, do millennial’s need “participation trophies”? Of course not.  Millennial’s do value clear direction and expectations, but you would be hard pressed to find a Millennial who needs to be rewarded just for showing up to work.  It may be true that some Millennial’s would prefer to have their accomplishments shared with their coworkers, although nearly as many would rather keep their good work to themselves.

The biggest takeaway should be that while there are overall trends, every person is unique, and if you really want to know how an individual employee prefers to be recognized, ask them.  One way to do this is to send out surveys to your employees with different recognition options, and see which ones appeal to them most.

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