Designing an Incentive Program to Motivate and Recognize Millennials

Despite the stereotype that millennials are lazy and self-entitled, this younger generation born in the ’80s and ’90s are joining the workforce at such a rate that they will make up over 50% of the workforce by 2020. The trend of self-improvement and the growing “hustle culture” in society has shifted the way many Millennials view their employment to one of mutual benefit—it’s no longer just about “what can I do for my company?” but also “what can my company do for me?” Whereas older generations have traditionally been motivated by tangible rewards such as cash and extra vacation time, many millennials are now motivated by rewards in the form of recognition, personal growth and valuable career development opportunities as well.

In fact, 87% of employees in this generation say that career growth and development opportunities are one of the most important parts of their job. However, this doesn’t mean sending them to a run-of-the-mill training seminar will make them feel rewarded. If you want to motivate and energize this growing workforce population, you’re going to have to get creative.

motivate recognize millennials

Designing a successful rewards program

Companies can meet the career needs of this younger generation through a creatively designed rewards program. When establishing such a program, remember the four Ws: who, what, when, and why.

WHO: Create a friendly competition within the company

A great way to energize your team is to create a friendly competition. However, it’s critically important to keep it playful and fun so that the program doesn’t become overly competitive and have an adverse effect. In addition, be clear about WHO is participating so that the rules are fair and don’t favor one group over another. For example, creating a competition about who makes the most outbound calls in a month is fine within a sales department, but unfair if you are pitting sales against the IT department. The key is to make it engaging and friendly.

WHAT: Define performance targets and qualifying criteria

Another important element of a successful rewards program is to be crystal clear about WHAT the participants need to do to earn the reward. If it’s a competition for who can book the most meetings, define what kind of meetings. Is it only in person? Online? Telephone? Meetings with what type of person? The more clear and explicit you are about what people need to do to earn the reward, the fewer problems you’ll have.

WHEN: Pick a timeline for how long the competition lasts

Have you ever played a board game that went on so long that it stopped being fun? The same applies with a rewards program with too long of an eligibility window. Choose how often the competition will run and how long it will last. Set up a schedule and then stick to it with prompt reward fulfillment. You want your employees to look forward to your program regularly.

WHY: Pick the right type of reward

Finally, it’s important to pick the right type of reward. Millennials often have different preferences than traditional rewards, so we’ve listed our top picks below:

motivate recognize millennials

Reward suggestions for Millennials

The kinds of rewards younger workers might like include:

Learning and development experiences

Rewarding your employees with a learning and development experience allows them to hone relevant skills, while also showing them that you are committed to their future success. For example, sending someone to a coding boot camp or an immersive language program.

Job shadowing

If your company has a large employee base with a hierarchical structure, this presents a unique reward opportunity. Having one-on-one networking and shadowing time with someone in an advanced position can be tremendously motivating for younger employees, especially in a large organization.

Paid professional membership dues or conferences

Conferences can be the perfect opportunity for career advancement through networking, but with high entrance fees and travel costs, they are cost-prohibitive for many younger employees. Covering the costs associated with an industry-relevant conference can be both a fun and enriching experience for reward recipients.

This isn’t to say that all rewards need to have some educational or training opportunities. Some other experiential reward options could include:

  • Festival or event tickets
  • Wine tasting or brewery tours
  • Uber or Lyft credit
  • VIP tickets to a popular band
  • Ziplining or kayaking
  • A cruise to an exotic destination
  • Cooking lessons
  • Tickets to a popular comedian

Ultimately, designing and implementing a rewards program for millennials just takes a little bit of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Our team of experts are ready to help you bring your rewards program to life—contact us today to get started!

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