I love puzzles – I get a real kick out of seeing the pieces and patterns come together. My recent experience (aka obsession) with the game Two Dots TM has helped show me how different generations respond so differently to the same reward. Me, I like to prove that I’ve mastered each level by achieving the goal level three times before moving to the next level. My millennial thinks I’m crazy “that’s not the way it works mom, you just do it once and then move up to the next level.”


That comment really reinforced the key messages in the recent press around the millennials (Jacob Morgan’s feature in the Fuffington Post and Bob Moritz was profiled in Harvard Business Review on PWC’s) strategy for attracting and retaining millennials, (to name a few). It’s got me thinking about how organizations are engaging millennials and the importance of reviewing your reward strategy to make sure its compelling to this burgeoning group in your workforce.

If you haven’t done a full review of your reward strategy to plan for the changing dynamic of your workforce, there’s no better time than now. Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y, will be the largest group in your workforce in the next couple of years – with an expectation that they’ll form 75% of your workforce by 2025 – just 10 years from now.

There are several elements in any comprehensive reward program, but focusing on three essential pillars, is where you need to start:

Role Design

Although routinely challenged by baby boomers as being idealistic, millennials continue to report that meaningful work and the opportunity to work on projects and/or as part of teams where there is true opportunity for developing skills and working collaboratively significantly out ranks pay and benefits in importance. Equally important is technology – have you looked at ways to redefine roles in your teams and to invest in up to date technology at a micro level? Your millennial employees will look for ways to automate as much of their work as possible to leave time for work that really showcases their capabilities and interests, to advance their career.


The PWC study offered some interesting insights on millennials’ preferences. This is a group who places a high value on flexibility and choice. They won’t always choose the cash reward – some equally value time off, leadership training, or a matched charitable donation. It’s worth asking your team members what they value most – rewards and recognition that doesn’t mean much to the employee is a missed opportunity to build employee engagement. Also, if your incentive plan is not connected to the customer experience, it’s another missed opportunity – millennials would prefer to deliver for the customer than the shareholder.

Performance Management:

Some of the more traditional aspects of performance management programs just don’t work for millennials – the forms, the annual or semi annual ‘event’, the formality does not motivate them – even when they are the leader managing the process. What’s important is regular, open feedback about performance on projects, and honest discussions about potential within the organization. Being effective at providing this level of mentoring requires real skill that many leaders need support in developing. These engaging conversations about career paths and providing meaningful opportunities are an essential pillar in your reward strategy, so it’s important to develop these leadership skills in your first level managers, not just your senior leadership team.

The role of the leader continues to evolve – and its increasingly becoming about maximizing individual capabilities to deliver organization goals, and truly mentoring employees to help them achieve their full potential. If you succeed in this, you can help retain their skills for longer than the average two year millennial retention rate.

My Two Dots TM revelation brought home the truth about the importance of immediacy and progression in millennial mindset. What’s your experience been?

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