Everyone’s incentivised differently. Does your workplace reward and recognition reflect today’s multigenerational workforce?

When it comes to reward, today’s businesses face a number of unique challenges. Jobs are changing so fast that companies often don’t know how to compensate for them appropriately. Meanwhile workers who once had no choice but to defer to the wisdom of their employer, now come to salary discussions armed with their own research about what they think they’re worth. Yet perhaps the biggest challenge of all is creating a competitive remuneration package to attract and retain a multigenerational workforce.

The reality is that today’s organisations often employ workers from as many as four distinct generations, each with its own unique set of expectations. And while the need to cater to millennials in all sorts of ways has been widely reported elsewhere, it’s important to note that when it comes to reward, they’re not the only ones clamouring for your attention.

Everyone’s incentivised differently

Let’s be honest. Most workers share a common desire to learn, grow, achieve, and be recognised and rewarded regardless of their age. Nevertheless their priorities will differ considerably depending on the stage of life that they’re in. Someone who’s young and just starting out their career, for example, will likely be looking for something different than the person who’s supporting a family or who’s just a few years away from retirement.

Whether or not those differences stem from what generation they belong to or their own unique circumstances, the result is the same: To attract and retain top talent you need a flexible approach to reward. Recognising this, a growing number of companies have taken a cafeteria-style approach to benefits. They offer a menu of diverse options and allow employees to select the ones that most appeal to them.

And it’s an approach that really works. Employees who value free time can purchase additional leave while those who are motivated by career advancement can seek out additional training and development opportunities. If cash is an employee’s biggest concern, there are options for that too.

“That’s how we do things,” says Andrew White, the Head of Sales & Service Incentives at Telstra. “Rather than differentiate our rewards to suit different groups of employees, we let our employees chose the benefits that work best for them and their unique needs. So long as you’re offering an attractive array of benefits that employees can pick from, you will draw in top talent. On the other hand, if you’re constantly just tailoring your rewards program for one particular group or another, you’ll just wind up chasing your own tail.”

Beyond benefits: a look at the bigger picture 

It’s time to turn business leaders’ thinking about reward on its head. The way to do that is to stop asking yourself why an employee might leave your organisation and instead focus on what reasons you’re giving them to stay. Reward in its many forms is obviously one critical component of that. You have to give employees the financial incentives and career development opportunities they’re looking for to both attract and retain them.

But that’s not the only thing that matters when it comes to retention. An employee’s relationship with their boss is just, if not more, important. The time that a manager spends coaching, developing, mentoring, acknowledging, and promoting employees has a huge role to play in the daily decision employees make about whether they’re going to stay or go.

Bridging the gap

For anyone in rewards, the old adage bears repeating: People leave bosses, not companies. While financial incentives and other tangible benefits are an important part of the equation, the intangibles are too. Employees want to be a part of a community and culture that they believe in and where they feel that they’re supported and able to maximise their potential. That’s true regardless of what generation they belong to or what stage of life that they’re in.

The bottom line is that if you want to get reward right in your organisation, it needs to not only be flexible enough to meet diverse needs, but also looked at as part of a bigger discussion of what attracts talent and motivates it to stay with you.

For more insights on how to motivate and reward employees of all generations, check the recording of our recent webinar: The future of employee motivation and retention

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About the contributor

Trevor Warden is the Co-Lead APAC Rewards & Benefits and Work Measurement at Korn Ferry. Trevor helps organisations and people become more effective through finding job clarity, enabling them to be the best they can be and building a motivating environment for high performance. During his consulting career, which spans two continents and two decades, Trevor has worked with a wide variety of organisations. He brings with him enormous experience to help organisations review their structures, create doable jobs and develop wide ranging Employee Value Propositions.

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