Guest Column - September/October 2015

Understanding the Millennial Generation

Engaging Millennials Requires New Approaches to Recognition

By Paul Gordon


College graduations are over, the cap and gowns have been put away, and another wave of young professionals are entering the workforce.

These grads are just a portion of the millennial population, those born from 1980 to 1995. These young professionals will greatly affect labor demographics, which will shift by the end of 2015 with millennials as the dominating group.

As a young generation, millennials are often misunderstood. They are associated with constantly being tied to their phones, tablets and app-driven communities, and are often labeled with a reputation of arrogance.

But according to a study conducted by MTV Insights titled "No Collar Workers," what could be interpreted as self-importance is more accurately the drive to contribute meaningful ideas.

Millennials communicate in 140 characters or less and never knew a world without the Internet. The importance of understanding the dynamics of this group cannot
be understated.

Millennials communicate in 140 characters or less and never knew a world without the Internet. The importance of understanding the dynamics of this group cannot be understated.

The Bentley University Preparedness Study reported that 74 percent of non-millennials agree that millennials offer different but valuable skills and work styles to an organization. As this generation continues to expand in both experience and presence in the workforce, business leaders are striving to understand how to properly manage and retain this demographic. Managers are tasked with not only understanding the motivations of this group, but how they interact with others in the office.

An effective employee recognition program will not only cater to the young demographic, but also appeal to generation X and baby boomer employees. A recognition program opens up lines of communication, provides real-time acknowledgement, allows for peer-to-peer encouragement, inspires employee engagement between departments and fosters a healthy office culture.

This generation is much more plugged in to trends and products than any other group. Recognition needs to be more frequent, and it is equally important to receive recognition from peers as from supervisors.

Millennials are notorious job-hoppers. It isn't uncommon to come across resumes with numerous positions even though their time as professionals has been brief. Some 22 percent of new hires leave their job within 45 days of being hired. However, new hires that undergo a structured on-boarding program are 58 percent more likely to be with the company after three years.

Recruiting and training new employees is a costly undertaking. The average cost to replace a $30,000 a year employee is $4,800, the average cost to replace a $50,000 a year employee is $9,850, and the average cost to replace a $75,000 a year employee is $15,300.

Employee engagement and accountability through the application of an employee loyalty program affects the company's ROI, retains employees and enhances office culture with tangible, high-end rewards.

Every employee, especially millennials, wants to feel like an individual in the workplace. Catering to individual needs shows unique appreciation and inspires loyalty.

The best approach is to give employees, especially millennials, a choice in the reward. Do not assume that you understand what will motivate various demographics. The reward must be a known brand, not a knock-off or an older-generation SKU. Millennials in particular want the latest and greatest, and that is a fast-moving target.

Peer-to-peer recognition through an employee loyalty program encourages members of various departments to acknowledge good work, in addition to department members acting as a cohesive team.

Move away from annual reviews and toward spot recognition. Keep employees engaged and motivated.

When managers reward employees for excellent performance or going the extra mile with a luxury item, like a Furla bag or a new Toshiba product, it creates a strong partnership with the employee.

Tangible brand-name rewards create focus. They create a specific goal. They create teamwork or sometimes a competitive element. It takes the "because it's your job" out of the conversation and creates a sense of belonging.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Gordon is Senior Vice President of Sales at Rymax Marketing Services, a full-service loyalty marketing provider in the incentive industry solely focused on creating programs and events to drive ROI through brand name rewards. For 20 years organizations partnered with Rymax have seen an increase in employee performance and retention, customer loyalty and overall revenue. For more information, visit www.rymaxinc.com.