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Rewarding Generation Y: Recognition for the under 35s

As with most business challenges, understanding your audience is key.

As a generation that grew up receiving trophies for showing up at a football game or taking part in a concert, many Gen Y professionals have become anaesthetised to traditional forms of recognition. So helping them feel valued is often about appreciation that goes beyond token rewards.

“It isn’t all about perks,” says Reema Malhotra, a 23-year-old project manager working in London, “but rather the opportunity to progress, take ownership and feel confident, happy and supported by your managers and peers.” She points to a clear training programme, which led to promotion, and opportunities to travel as effective ways in which she’s been rewarded and spurred on in her work.

Tara Daynes, Practitioner for Investors in People South of England, agrees that from her professional experience, “Generation Y employees typically require a different approach to motivation and incentive than previous generations. For example, they expect more involvement, empowerment, variety and opportunity. They tend to value feedback and peer recognition and seek acknowledgement of their expertise and ability.”

The work–life blur

Compared to Generation X or baby boomers, Generation Y’ers usually see their working life as less clearly defined, both in terms of when and how they work and what career path they might take. By the time they started their professional careers, Blackberries, iPhones, tablets and social networking had all made an impact, offering the potential to merge work with play, 24-7. It’s turned this generation into natural networkers – often more likely to look for quick solutions and use their connections to reinvent themselves – rather than stay put in a job that doesn’t tick all the boxes.

The blurring between work and social life has also led to an increased sense that your job can help define who you are. Many under 35s are motivated by wanting to work for an organisation they believe in and whose ethos resonates with their own. Often fiercely loyal to a brand, idea or project they feel a connection with, Gen Y’s enthusiasm is a powerful tool that can be nurtured and harnessed by employers for everyone’s benefit. Cultivating a work environment, and shaping your reward and recognition, around this kind of brand pride could help create a whole workforce of advocates excited about your business and working hard to see it succeed.