Employee Recognition for a Multigenerational Workforce

Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Business Management [ 0 Comments ]

multigenerational workforceBusinesses with multigenerational workforces have a distinct advantage over their competitors. But when it comes to implementing employee recognition and rewards programs, many companies fall short, failing to take multigenerational differences into account.

To help companies create customized recognition and rewards programs that are relevant and meaningful for all employees, here are some insights as to the makeup, mindset, and expectations of each generation found in today’s workforce.


Born between 1925 and 1945, the Traditionalists are distinguished for being brought up during challenging times such as the Great Depression and WW II. They can be characterized as hard working, loyal, respectful of authority, and averse to risk and change. This is the “gold watch” generation—planning to work for one company until retirement.

  • Rewards and Recognition—Traditionalists tend to respond to “Old School” incentive programs. They want to be reassured that their vast experience, work ethic, loyalty, and perseverance are respected and valued. Tangible tributes such as plaques, trophies and other mementos are generally well received.

Related: Recruit top talent of all generations with a recruiting agency


Born 1946 -1964 into families basking in the abundance of a strong post-war economy, the Boomer generation became somewhat self-centered. They gave birth to entire industries (fast food) and grew up in a world eager to cater to their every whim. Work is what defines them—giving them status and allowing them to enjoy the finer things in life.                                            

  • Rewards and Recognition—Boomers expect to be rewarded for their dedication and service. They want to be recognized for a job well done and respond well to bonuses and cash awards. Status symbols that set them apart from their peers— such as a nicer office or participation in corporate presentations—also work well as rewards.

Related: Thanking Your Employees This Thanksgiving (And All Year ‘Round!)

Generation X

Born between 1965 and 1980, the Gen Xers were brought up during a time when the Boomer generation was exerting much of its power and influence. Gen Xers grew up as latchkey kids, living in an era of two-income families and rising divorce rates. They became more independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient than members of previous generations. They welcome new technologies and are early adapters, preferring a less structured and authoritative work environment than their workaholic parents. Their ability to be flexible makes them more willing to change jobs in order to advance their careers.

  • Rewards and Recognition—Gen Xers respond best to rewards and incentives  based on performance and results. They prefer tech-based rewards such as the latest and greatest smartphone or computer—instead of bonuses and cash.   Honest feedback and personal acknowledgements from upper level management are well received and help to create greater loyalty.

Related: Are you using HR software to manage employee paperwork?

Generation Y (the Millenials)

By their sheer numbers alone, Generation Y—born 1981- 2000—stand to exert a powerful force for change in the workplace. Brought up during an era of empowerment, where no one lost and everyone got a trophy just for showing up, this group is ambitious, achievement oriented, and highly confident. They prefer to communicate via email, texting or FaceTime, rather than face-to-face. They bring to the workplace new technical skills and abilities that far surpass those of any generation before them.

  • Rewards and Recognition—Flexible schedules that allow for better work/life balance are very attractive to Gen Y employees. They also crave constant feedback and have been shown to respond favorably to spot bonuses. Creative, non-financial incentives such as Justin Bieber tickets, free food, unlimited beverages and gym memberships are also important to Gen Y’s. And when it comes to being recognized in front of their peers, a “shout out” on FaceBook or Twitter is the only way to go.

Bio: Jacob Kache is a freelance writer and expert in business and finances. He has received many accolades for his work in implementing programs that focus on employee appreciation.


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