Workplace Trends • Forbes

Incentive Programs That Motivate Millennial Employees

By Sarah Landrum | 4-min read

As millennials enter their 30s, they’re focusing more on career development, and securing their loyalty is important at this vital junction. However, 87% of recognition programs at work focus on tenure, per research firm Bersin by Deloitte, and while 75% of companies have recognition programs, only 58% of workers know about them. For employees ages 65 and up, median tenure at a company was 10.3 years — three times longer than millennial workers.

Many recognition programs just consist of a selection of gift cards or small appliances an employee can pick from a catalog, like a student earning from a rewards system for selling candy. While a blender may be useful to some, there are more effective incentive programs to motivate millennial employees.

Developing Effective Incentive Programs For Millennials

Millennials are now the largest age group at work — one in every three employees — and employers must begin thinking about securing the tenure of these employees. This age group is diverse in its interests and talents, especially as tech-savvy individuals.

Millennials now dominate the workforce, and retention is in everyone’s best interest. The most effective incentive programs for millennials will focus on improving work-life balance, enabling flexible schedules, offering timely promotions and giving back to the community, as well as small gestures.

Working Outside The 9-to-5 Box

Traditional work schedules have always locked employees into the clock and often send them home well past dinner time. Work-life balance feels like wishful thinking for most employees.

With the growth of technology, the traditional 9-to-5 workday doesn’t have to box employees in any longer. Meeting deadlines during traditional business hours is important, but that doesn’t mean employees can’t come in earlier or later — as long as the work is getting done.

Millennials were the first generation to grow up fully immersed in the technological age. With flexibility at their fingertips, they understand that the rigid scheduling that so often stressed out their parents is outdated and unnecessary in the modern age.

Millennials are demanding greater flexibility at work to achieve a better work-life balance, along with equal numbers of other generations. The driving force of retention for millennial employees is support, appreciation , nd community, and when it comes to satisfaction, flexibility is king.

Employers may build flexibility into the traditional workday by adding a flextime policy that maintains the total number of working hours per week, but allows for approved scheduling variations. Employers must be more realistic about the times employees physically have to be at their desks.

When a night owl strolls into work perpetually late, yet puts in stellar work, smart companies consider offering flextime as a healthy alternative. Late risers and early birds alike will arrive at work in their most refreshed state of mind and ready to perform their work at optimal levels.

Aside from tradition, there’s no real reason for an employee to stay at their desk for a defined time frame Monday through Friday. An employee who likes to kick off the day with an energizing workout should be able to head into the gym first thing in the morning and arrive pumped for their 10 a.m. meeting. Employers can let parents pick up their kids from school, get them started on homework and arrive home in time for supper.

If an employee’s child is sick, why not let them work from home and complete duties that don’t require them to be in the office physically? The employee can still meet all their deadlines, while still being there to take care of their child. Employers will encourage and develop a true community where everyone pitches in and still get to have a life after work.

Employers Should Offer Millennials Timely Promotions

Millennials are not interested in slaving away for a decade, only to finally receive their well-earned promotion, and they certainly don’t want a blender for their efforts. Millennials thrive on recognition and support, and they want to see their efforts appreciated in a timely manner before they become disgruntled and decide to move on to a more grateful company.

Employers must not tell their millennial employees that promotions come with time. While traditional promotions are built into the system and cost money to implement and support, millennial employees need that support now, but in a more effective manner.

Employers can show millennials their climb up the career ladder is happening in real time through timely promotions that involve a slight change in title and pay to reflect their growth. Don’t assume the work is its own reward — celebrate the little advancements, special projects and success milestones that happen along the way.

Millennials Employees Want To Support Their Communities

For millennials, supporting their communities comes naturally as they focus fiercely on equality, outreach and service — they’ve even outpaced seniors when it comes to doing good in their communities.

As the world focuses on sustainability, more companies are incorporating eco-consciousness and community development into their mission statements. That’s good, because millennials expect employers to give back to the community. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, 87% of millennials have participated in a company service day. The report also revealed:

  • A whopping 94% of millennials want to use their professional skills to benefit a cause.
  • On company-sponsored service projects, 77% would rather work as a team with co-workers than go solo, and 57% would like more company service days.
  • When it comes to volunteering on their own time, 47% volunteered in the last 30 days for a nonprofit or cause, and the same percentage had also volunteered with their department or team.

Incentive programs for millennials shouldn’t come as a promotion or salary increase years down the road. Millennial employees want more flexibility, timely promotions and to give back to their community, and a pat on the back or handwritten note doesn’t hurt either.

Millennials are the future of the workforce, and they’re not going away, especially when their employers show millennials their contributions are vital and recognized.


This article was written by Sarah Landrum from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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