The job market is strong for the current crop of new workers.
Unemployment is dropping, and the stock market is improving enough to allow the baby boomer generation to finally retire. It’s a job seeker’s market, and organizations will have to be more adept at using smart techniques to source, recruit, hire, engage and retain a young generation of workers.
Successful engagement strategies are enhanced by using effective recognition programs. But what is really effective? It may not be what you think.
How do Gen Y and Gen Z workers want to be recognized?
Each semester, I ask current seniors in my business class to fill out a survey on a variety of management-related topics. I’ve garnered a number of insights from this survey, many of which center around recognition.
Some questions included in the survey:
- What type of recognition or praise do you like best? Do you like public, private, written, verbal or other kinds of recognition?
- From whom do you most like to receive recognition or praise?
- What form of recognition motivates you the most? Do you like gift certificates, a title for winning a competition, a meaningful note or email, or something else?
- What is the greatest recognition you have ever received?
Insight No. 1: A significant majority of students want to be recognized privately.
Many students indicated they preferred private recognition, whether it be kind words from a colleague or boss or a particular note directed toward them. They do want praise, but these future employees did not mention public recognition or a trophy.
Some selected student comments:
- “I prefer private or written feedback. Too much public praise can create conflict.”
- “I’m not a fan of public recognition. I’m more of a team player and don’t like being singled out.”
- “I like to receive praise privately rather than publicly because I like to fly under the radar.”
Insight No. 2: Recognition from various constituencies is important.
Students indicated that they want recognition from multiple sources, including parents or other family members, professors, peers, mentors, co-workers, bosses, and customers.
Insight No. 3: Many students also prefer a meaningful note from someone near to them rather than money or a gift card.
Whether it’s a kind word from a boss or praise from a mentor, leaders can play a critical role in giving quality feedback to a new employee by simply having a conversation.
Some selected student comments:
- “I like a personal or meaningful message the most. It makes it more memorable and meaningful to me to receive the message like that.”
- “A simple email of ‘good work’ or ‘great job’ goes a long way for me.”
- “A note would probably mean the most because they would tell you what they are recognizing rather than just throwing you a gift card.”
How can talent advisors use this information to manage their new employees?
Be prepared to provide feedback.
Don’t be surprised if your new hires approach you for confirmation of how they are performing instead of waiting for a cue from you. Performance management needs to be ongoing, rather than simply an annual event.
Manage employees as individuals.
Applying broad recognition programs, particularly public ones, may serve to deter retention of new hires. You may think that awarding everyone a trophy seems an appropriate response, but reactions may vary. Not surprisingly, this advice applies regardless of generation.
Don’t break the bank.
Spending a significant amount of money on rewards may not be the best solution when few see it as truly “rewarding.” No one will turn down a gift certificate or bonus, but taking the time to recognize the performance of a fellow employee will have a more motivational effect.
With companies continuing to look for the best and brightest workers — and struggling to retain them — the key to recognition may simply be a few direct words on a piece of paper, regardless of generation.