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Award Strategies for Three Generations

Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y think differently, perform differently and work differently. Rewarding them the same way across the board just doesn't make sense.

The Boomers (born 1945-1964) are accustomed to being given an assignment to complete within specified guidelines and do not necessarily expect feedback other than to verify the project was completed as required. For Generation X (born 1965-1981) and Y (born 1981-2001), rewards must be both frequent and timely. These generations are more team-oriented, enjoy change, and need to respect managers in order to follow them. Generation Y in particular needs to understand the value of their work and has a deep-seated desire for it to be meaningful and connected to the bigger picture.

Speed is key for today's strategic recognition. The recognition moment should closely follow the act being recognized to ensure the recipient has that action at the top of their mind. Frequency of recognition is just as important, especially to Generations X and Y, who typically seek more timely feedback, frequent encouragement and recognition. But frequent rewards impact every generation – more awards ensure more exposure to company values and key messages as well as more recognition moments that boost morale.

While old-school public recognition ceremonies have value, especially to Baby Boomers, constraining all recognition moments to such a formal exercise is a practice no longer valued by the online generations. By over-emphasizing this practice, companies vastly reduce the quantity of awards given, hindering the entire act of recognition. Instant recognition is usually more affordable, can be kept on hand, and can be rewarded quickly and spontaneously, satisfying the needs of the online generations.

Developing a culture where recognition happens organically and naturally in the middle 80 percent of the bell curve returns the highest levels of engagement – exactly at the place were the majority of work happens. When strategic recognition principles are made available to all employees, companies can change their very culture to one that is motivational, encouraging and engaging – resulting in improved performance across the organization.

– Adapted from "Personalizing ‘Thank Yous' Energizes Multi-Generational and Culturally Diverse Workforces," Derek Irvine, globoforce.blogspot.com.