Rewards and Recognition: the Balance Between Automation and Personalization

Millennials are an engaged generation that prioritize different things compared to other generations of the past. As the largest portion of the current workforce, they are helping to shape the future of employment.

Hiring and retaining millennials should be a top priority for your company as the workforce continues to evolve and more millennials enter management positions. Additionally, understanding how millennials want to be rewarded in the workplace should be a high priority, since recognition increases employee retention and workplace morale.

But aside from trendy company initiatives like providing catered lunches and installing a meditation room at the office, how do you really tell which rewards pay off by increasing employee retention and productivity?

We’ve done the work for you and determined six strategies that will help your company retain your millennial employees and help them stay engaged at work.

1. Use a Merit-Based Promotion as an Incentive

85% of millennials say they’re motivated by promotion through outstanding individual achievement. Addressing this is simple: reward your top performers with a promotion.

Many companies will only promote employees based on tenure, but this strategy is not only dated — it’s damaging to your company. If your employee regularly goes above and beyond, why shouldn’t they be able to move up within your company? Arbitrary promotion schedules no longer work for millennials, who have proven to be more equitable than previous generations.

2. Reward Employees with Scheduling Freedom

95% of millennials say that work-life balance is their top priority when looking for a new job. Millennials want to balance family time and hobbies with getting work done, yet some employers still adhere to a rigid 9-to-5 schedule. Employers can help millennials achieve this work-life balance easily by offering flextime for top performers.

Flextime has many benefits. Employees will be motivated to work harder if they know they can earn this option. It also places trust in your employees, which attracts millennials to your company and taps into their independent and self-driven natures.

Providing your employees the option of telecommuting is also an effective way to reward them. Work-from-home policies are becoming increasingly popular as more employees become remote. Working from home provides the flexibility and work-life balance millennials crave without sacrificing productivity.

3. Provide Unique and Customized Workplace Rewards

Employee reward programs can also take the form of giving out things like event tickets or paying for an employee’s Netflix account. Many companies also provide these kinds of experiential perks at work, from yoga classes to free snacks. Additionally, offering employees commuter benefits is a great way to show that you care about their day-to-day existence.

You can also provide professional development like management training programs or tuition assistance for advanced degrees or additional certifications. 35% of millennials cite this as an attractive reason to work even harder.

4. Encourage Camaraderie with Social Events

Holding off-site social events as a reward for a job well done is a great way to build team spirit and keep employees happy. Many millennials cite the workplace as the primary place they form friendships, so this is a key way to offer rewards specific to millennials. This could take the form of something as simple as a happy hour to something as involved as a weekend retreat.

But how does this benefit your company? There are several ways, but as an example, millennials are more likely to share photos from company events on social media, which helps build your brand and enhance recruiting efforts.

5. Focus on Personalized Rewards

A 2016 Aon Hewitt survey of millennials found that they were happiest when recognized in two simple ways: sincere thank you notes and verbal thank-yous from other team members and managers. This is very easy and, best of all, there are many platforms you can use to recognize and reward your employees.

The best rewards platforms will allow managers and senior leaders to personalize the rewards, recognition occasions, and notifications that they send to their employees. You can also tailor your rewards by region, so each of your offices around the world have recognition occasions personalized with content most relevant to your employees. Even better: you can send them out on time with the help of automation. A win-win for employees and for culture growth!

6. Gamify Your Rewards Program

Gamification is a relatively new tech trend that provides an extra layer of fun and competition that millennials find motivating. While I don’t recommend gamifying your recognition program, gamification for employee rewards can be an effective way to motivate teams to meet goals, hit milestones, and drive each other to work harder. This method is especially effective for sales SPIFFs, wellness initiatives, and spot bonuses. Employees can redeem prizes after they achieve specific milestones or complete a big project.

When considering your rewards and recognition strategy, consider these tips to ensure your company is offering unique, meaningful, and relevant workplace rewards for millennials. Offering as many of these options as possible will go a long way with retaining the millennial employees your organization needs to be successful.

Sam Casteris is a Phoenix-based solopreneur interested in helping her readers learn more about business management, travel, and lifestyle topics. Find more of her work at Content by Casteris.