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Top employee desires

What Rewards Do Employees Want Most?

The balance of power between employee and employer has shifted in recent years, especially in tech-related fields. As a human resources professional or manager, you’re probably all-too familiar with the job-hopping ways of highly skilled employees who feel they can pick and choose the job they want. And that’s reflected in the fact that more than half of all business owners feel that competition for talent is stronger than it’s ever been. But there are a number of ways to attract and keep top talent, and to keep them happy and engaged while they’re with you. Offering an employee recognition and rewards program has proven to be one of the most effective ways to retain highly skilled workers and to build your company’s financial strength at the same time. Here’s a look at why a rewards and recognition system is important, and how to choose the kinds of rewards that your workers really want.

Employee happiness is essential

Even if your business is centered on sophisticated equipment or software, human beings are still the essential engine that makes everything run – and a sense of emotional well-being is the primary fuel that keeps those human beings working at their peak performance level. Research shows that workers who are recognized and rewarded for their efforts feel happier in general, have better relationships with co-workers and are more open to constructive feedback. Financially, you’ll see measurable returns as well: According to an Aberdeen Group study, companies with some type of formal employee engagement program see a 25-percent increase in year-over-year revenue, along with nearly triple the sales team success. And the difference in annual customer service cost was equally eye-popping: companies with formal methods for employee appreciation saw a 12.7-percent savings in customer service expenditures, whereas companies that don’t have any employee recognition system in place spent 1.2 percent more for their customer service.

Why employee incentives have become more important

It’s always been true that recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions results in better performance and less employee churn, but now that millennials are flooding the workplace thee levers have become more important than ever. Younger workers are often the ones with the most desirable skill-set, but in return for their services they expect employers to be appreciative of their efforts. Investopedia lays out the basic facts for managers: One-third of every U.S. worker belongs to this generation, along with half of all new immigrants who come here. The article goes on to advise, “This drastic shift in the workforce requires companies to change how they manage and reward talent. The policies and incentives that worked for past generations are no longer effective, and companies that fail to adapt may find themselves facing a shortage of talented and motivated workers.”

What kind of rewards should you offer?

Once you’ve made the decision to establish a formal system for recognizing and rewarding your workers, the next step is to figure out what kind of rewards will most effectively motivate and delight your employees. Here’s a quick review of the benefits and perks that are recommended by employee recognition best practices:

Social recognition

Especially for the growing population of millennial employees, a social recognition platform should be your first focus. This popular type of HR technology is perfectly suited for workers who have come of age in the era of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and so on. They’re accustomed to immediate feedback, “likes,” status updates and more, and if they’re praised, they want to be able to share the event with friends. You’ll build loyalty among this group of workers with shareable social acknowledgements because these rewards are magnified when posted on personal and professional networks.

Career coaching and professional development

Your employees work for many reasons besides merely earning a paycheck, and the best way to nurture their non-monetary motivations is to offer them a chance to advance in their careers. By providing the opportunity to learn new skills and embrace new challenges, you are fueling each worker’s passion for their job and helping them feel more engaged in your organization’s overall business success.

Additional flexibility

Everyone who works for you is also balancing a wide array of outside commitments and obligations. A study of employee wants found that 35 percent of workers say they would benefit from more flexible work schedules, and 46 percent say that having more control over their time is one of the most important factors when they’re looking for a new job. Rewarding your top performers with greater control over when and where they work is a cost-effective method of increasing employee happiness and building loyalty.

Gift cards and trendy items

Although pay and compensation must be competitive in order to ensure a sense of well-being among your workforce, employees today often expect more than just their baseline pay to feel truly appreciated. That’s why being able to offer a wide array of rewards in the form of gift cards, travel and leisure, and other hot items like tablet computers or VR goggles is complimentary to any fully-fledged social recognition program. The unique benefit of offering gift cards and a full selection of items from a catalog is that each employee can choose his or her own uniquely meaningful reward, and which will make them feel more satisfied than if they just received an insignia coffee mug, plaque, or some standardized gift that you purchased for them.

Your company’s financial strength depends on making sure that your employees stay engaged. Understanding some basics in human motivation can help you to be creative in finding ways to recognize your workers. New developments in HR tech also offer holistic systems for boosting worker happiness, increasing engagement and improving overall performance.

We all want to make our employees happy, so why not start by giving them what they want: an unbeatable rewards and recognition program in place. Learn how to kick off the right rewards and recognition program for your business by downloading The Ultimate Guide to Recognition.

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Reasons to welcome the millennial influence

The Demands of Millennials Make Our Workplaces Better

By: Anna Peters
Content Manager at College Recruiter

For all the complaining about Millennials and their approach to the modern workplace, they are actually responsible for much of the change happening in the modern workforce. Their entry into the workforce, was accompanied by a slew of stereotypes, followed recently by a round of myth-busting, with statistics and all, aimed at debunking those stereotypes. As an “ancient Millennial” myself (a term I borrow from journalist Jessica Grose), I can attest that at least some of the stereotypes come from kernels of truth, but like most stereotypes , they must be taken with a grain of salt. More importantly, many of the changes Millennials bring to the workplace are actually good for everyone. Change is always hard, so it’s natural to initially oppose or question the forces of change. However, most of the changes that Millennials have brought about have actually made for a better workplace.

The influence of the Millennial generation is not to be underestimated, if for no other reason than its size. According to a recent report from SHRM, (“Millennials: Misunderstood in the workplace?”) as  Baby Boomers exit the workforce, an even greater number of Millennials will continue to enter the workforce to take their place. In fact, it is estimated that Millennial workers (those born between 1980 and 2000) will make up more than  half of the workforce by 2020. And, according to Pew, they already make up the largest overall share of workforce, having surpassed Gen X’ers in 2015. With those facts established, here are four reasons to welcome the Millennial influence:

Generalization #1: They need constant feedback: Millennials grew up in a feedback culture. Some say that Millennials are obsessed with getting positive feedback (you’ve likely heard of the “trophy generation”, but put simply, it is the belief that we are doing our youth a disservice by lauding them for mere participation rather than awarding success.). But even if that’s true, it likely contributed to an encouraging new trend – the phasing out of annual performance reviews. An annual performance review simply doesn’t tell us enough in today’s fast-paced business culture. If HR hears a complaint about an employee but their 8-month old performance review shows high marks, that documentation does little to advise any action. In 2017, we will likely see employers implement more regular feedback conversations along with frequent “pulse” surveys to help identify and address employee concerns in a more timely, actionable fashion.

When employers engage employees in regular, smaller-scale conversations, both management and employees are better equipped to deal with issues as they come up. This in turn helps employees to feel more engaged because they know their suggestions and concerns are being listened to. Furthermore, by combining these mini performance management conversations with real-time feedback tools for employees, management can help facilitate a culture of transparency in which both positive and negative business outcomes can be celebrated or addressed openly.

Generalization #2: They demand more work life balance: One of my favorite Millennial trends is that men are beginning to demand more time with their families. They ask for paternity leave more than their fathers did, for example. And because married Millennials overwhelmingly co-lead a dual-income household, they can’t buy into the 80-hour work week like their fathers did before them. As a recent article in The New York Times put it: “Millennial men—ages 18 to early 30s—have much more egalitarian attitudes about family, career and gender roles inside marriage than generations before them, according to a variety of research by social scientists. Yet… workplace policies have not caught up to changing expectations at home.”

Likewise, a Department of Labor report also highlighted the growing importance of paternity leave as men consider whether to accept a job, noting: “Paid paternity leave may be a key workplace benefit for retaining high-skilled workers. In a 2014 study of highly educated professional fathers in the U.S., nine of out ten reported that it would be important when looking for a new job that the employer offered paid parental leave, and six out of ten considered it very or extremely important. These numbers were even higher for millennial workers.”

Millennials came of age watching their parents work long hours and aren’t convinced it translates to a happier existence, or even a fatter nest-egg for themselves. With this in mind, employers would be wise to encourage work-life balance in the name of productivity and worker satisfaction. Even the U.S. Commissioner of Labor Statistics agrees that hours with your butt in a seat does not equate to more productivity, “Only if we increase our efficiency—by producing more goods and services without increasing the number of hours we work—can we be sure to increase our standard of living.”

Generalization #3: They need hand-holding. It’s true that most managers don’t have time for hand-holding. However, research published in the Journal of Workplace Learning shows that companies who have a “culture of learning” rely not just on managers to disseminate information. Not only does their training help them perform their job functions better, but employees who are able to embrace learning and growth opportunities also feel more valued and engaged, doubling the value for the company. Learning can happen anytime, often facilitated by a co-worker (“Contextual factors influencing the facilitation of others’ learning through everyday work experiences” by Andrea D. Ellinger Maria Cseh), so managers don’t have to feel the exclusive burden of teaching their staff everything.

Generalization #4: They feel entitled to career advancement: Climbing the corporate ladder just isn’t as important to Millennials as it was to their parents (see Generalization #2: they value more work-life balance.) When they see their managers put in long hours at the cost of their personal lives, it doesn’t look appealing. In addition, Millennials learned the difference between “management” and “leadership” before they even entered the workforce, and the 80 hour week management job that only serves to maintain the status quo is not their idea of having an impact. Millennials might feel entitled to advancement in a different sense. They want to keep learning and keep contributing. If other generations in the workplace adopted this sense of motivation, you might not see a scramble to fill the senior manager job, but you’d have leaders everywhere.

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About Anna Peters
Anna PetersAnna Peters is Content Manager for College Recruiter. She manages all content, supervises a team of content writers and is part of College Recruiter’s senior management team. Her prior experience at nonprofits has made her an expert in directing volunteer recruitment and a champion for diversity and inclusion efforts. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.