By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Yes, Millennials value being rewarded. And, yes, that can show up as an entitlement attitude. The thing is, Millennials value what they value—not what you value. Your reward system should take that into account.
In thinking about rewarding Millennials, beware of the bias of your experience from how your career developed. Naturally, you compare your own experience favorably to that of others and that comparison leads to expectations or judgment. There’s nothing wrong with having expectations. Applying those expectations without regard for Millennials’ thinking is a recipe for unhappy employees. Put your focus on 1) creating incentives that twentysomethings value, 2) clearly stating expectations and desired outcomes, and 3) providing timely and fair performance assessment.
Rewarding the right way requires an incentive program that incorporates the participation and values of your staff. If you depend solely on your guess of what your employee needs or wants, you’re more likely to go wrong. Want to know what your Millennial staffers value? Ask them! You might be surprised by what you learn.
Even if you get the rewards right, you can still be frustrated because communicating how one gets recognition and reward can be challenging. Like it or not, Millennials interpret incentives as guarantees. You say, “You will have a year-end performance review when you will be considered for a promotion and a pay raise.” The Millennial hears, “At the year-end performance review I’ll get a promotion and a pay raise.” What’s at work is selective perception. We all do it. We unintentionally filter out parts of the intended message that contradict our beliefs or desires.
The antidote is to keep them informed. Millennials hate ambiguity and your best course of action is to tell them about expectations and rewards three or four times more often than you think you need to. This can be summarized in the reminder to “Catch your employees doing something right and congratulate them for it.” Keeping them informed means having an ongoing dialogue about what they want, what you believe the need to do, and their progress.
For more insight on dealing with your Millennial staffers, read “Managing the Millennials” by Chip Espinoza and Mick Ukleja.