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Feature Story

May 2016

Employers Falling Short in Recognizing Millennials

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A new study from Aon Hewitt and O.C. Tanner revealed that many employers are missing the mark when it comes to recognizing and rewarding millennial employees.

Aon Hewitt and O.C. Tanner studied more than 470 employees across five countries to examine the strategy, vehicles and effectiveness of their recognition programs. According to the findings, one in four organizations find their current recognition programs are ineffective for millennial workers—the youngest generation in the workforce. A separate Aon Hewitt report shows millennial workers agree that their employers' recognition programs are unsatisfying. Nearly two in five millennials (38 percent) would like to see the recognition program at their current employer improved.

"With millennials becoming the largest generation in today's workforce, employees need to ensure their recognition programs meet their needs," said Gary Beckstrand, vice president at O.C. Tanner. "Millennials want recognition like any other employee, but appreciate recognition that carries meaning and helps them feel empowered. This perhaps explains why things like 'thank yous from peers and managers' (53 percent) and 'public recognition from senior leadership' (42 percent) were the top used vehicles across organizations at the broad level."

When analyzing what organizations with strong recognition programs were doing differently than those organizations that reported less effective programs for millennials, Aon Hewitt and O.C. Tanner found that organizations with effective programs for millennials include three key reward vehicles:

  1. Handwritten notes
  2. Experiential rewards (e.g., event tickets)
  3. Thank you from peers, managers or next-level manager or senior executives

"Millennials have a greater need to be recognized, and want to be in front of management much sooner than previous generations," said Neil Shastri, leader of Global Insights & Innovation at Aon Hewitt. "Being recognized and thanked by leaders in a meaningful way and on a frequent basis not only gives millennial workers a rewarding experience, but also strengthens their personal connection to the organization and encourages them to continue to be key contributors."