Generation, motivation, career progression, innovation.  The rhyming would make for a great chant, but like any lyrical composition, what is the meaning behind it all?

Research conducted by EY in 2016 found that Millennials believed they were more entrepreneurial than other generations and considered working for a start-up business as a sign of success (1).  This trend was made clear when OE Cam was invited to Google Campus to talk to Google’s start up community about how to build thriving, innovative businesses.  Here we were able to speak to young talent itching to get started in business.  This drive for self-growth is a reflection of living in the digital age in which stories of ‘how I had my own business at 24’ drives young people to be a part of the ‘CEO before 40’ club.  The (Mark) ‘Zuckerberg Effect’ (being successful and dominating your field at a young age) is a goal for many Millennials.  As a result, these individuals are less likely to stay committed to one organisation and instead ‘job hop’ in order to develop new skills and make valuable connections.

” ‘The Zuckerberg Effect’… is a goal for many Millennials… these individuals are less likely to stay committed to one organisation and instead ‘job hop’ in order to develop new skills and make valuable connections…”

Generation, motivation, career progression, innovation.  The rhyming would make for a great chant, but like any lyrical composition, what is the meaning behind it all?

Research conducted by EY in 2016 found that Millennials believed they were more entrepreneurial than other generations and considered working for a start-up business as a sign of success (1).  This trend was made clear when OE Cam was invited to Google Campus to talk to Google’s start up community about how to build thriving, innovative businesses.  Here we were able to speak to young talent itching to get started in business.  This drive for self-growth is a reflection of living in the digital age in which stories of ‘how I had my own business at 24’ drives young people to be a part of the ‘CEO before 40’ club.  The (Mark) ‘Zuckerberg Effect’ (being successful and dominating your field at a young age) is a goal for many Millennials.  As a result, these individuals are less likely to stay committed to one organisation and instead ‘job hop’ in order to develop new skills and make valuable connections.

In a study that looked at generational attitudes to work, Colby & Ortmann (2) found that the average tenure for an 18-35 year old in an organisation is 1.8 years.  Here, employers have to decide whether they want to put measures in place in order to effectively utilise these individuals for 1.8 years or try to keep these individuals for longer.

In an extreme example, Harvard Business Review (3) reported that Ctrip, a Chinese travel website, incorporated generational preferences for more flexible working into their day-to-day.  Ctrip found employees had higher rates of satisfaction and productivity after nine months of remote working in comparison to employees who remained office based.  Reasons for these findings included earlier start times as the commute to work wasn’t needed, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with family members.  As nine months of remote working isn’t feasible in most organisations, BT incorporated flexible ‘home working’ into their working policies which allowed employees to choose to work from home if they did not need to be in the office.  As a result of this implementation, BT found that retention rate after maternity leave was at 99% and absentee rate was 20% below the UK average (4).

These examples highlight the importance, as well as the benefits of creating a workplace that satisfies the preferences for all of the generations.

 

Reward and recognition: seeking the dopamine effect

It is no surprise that all generations want their efforts to be recognised.  After all, it is human nature to seek approval from our tribe and we work hard to do so.

Work on the ‘slacker vs go getter’ brain by psychologists at Vanderbilt University (5) has shown that people who were willing to work hard had higher dopamine levels in the striatum and prefrontal cortex — two areas known to impact motivation and reward.  The ‘dopamine effect’ describes a neurological process where dopamine is released when humans take part in an activity that they genuinely enjoy.  Dopamine is a ‘feel-good’ neurochemical and the association between the enjoyable activity and the release of dopamine creates a craving for another dopamine hit.  Naturally, we then make sure we do more of those activities and engage in more rewarding behaviour in order to release feel-good dopamine.

Maslow’s hierarchal needs theory further reinforces this process by highlighting that humans are motivated by physiological needs and ‘if the body lacks a chemical, the individual will tend to develop a hunger for that element’ (6).  Therefore, to maximise that feel-good craving, organisations should ensure that they have a reward and recognition system that accommodates generational preferences.

“Therefore, to maximise that feel-good craving, organisations should ensure that they have a reward and recognition system that accommodates generational preferences.”

Veterans’ wealth of experience and knowledge accumulated over years of working means that this generation anticipate recognition for their loyalty to an organisation.  A recent article by Henry Goldbeck for HR Management highlighted that Baby Boomers prefer to be financially rewarded and recognised by progressing through the ranks (7).  Famously it has been said that ‘money talks’ and in this sense it talks to Veterans, Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers.  As touched upon earlier in this journal, Veterans were brought up in a time where they worked to live.  In a similar sense, Baby Boomer’s and Generations X’ers are likely to work to support their families thus, financial stability and opportunity for progression is important.  However, as a generation that enjoys enhancing their entrepreneurial spirit, Generation X’ers also seek to be rewarded with more autonomy.

On the other hand, in a 2017 survey (8), Deloitte reported that Millennials are less concerned with financial benefits as they prefer to engage with work that has meaning, purpose and wider societal benefits. Millennials’ interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) means that this generation is looking to develop and use their skills for the greater good; striving to uphold principles of altruism.  CSR refers to organisations initiatives towards social and environmental wellbeing.  Essentially, Millennials desire to be part of something bigger and this forms a large portion of their motivation to work.

What are other organisations doing?  What could you be doing?

Talking of working for a greater good, Autodesk, a software company, has acknowledged Millennials’ preferences in working for companies that have strong corporate social responsibility policies, by giving their employees six week sabbatical every four years in addition to paid time off each month to take part in volunteer work.

Another example of value-add reward mechanisms can be found at Rolls-Royce. Through a tax scheme employees are supported with the cost of childcare via childcare vouchers.  At Virgin, Richard Branson has implemented a ‘non-policy’ for 170 members of staff as his UK and US family offices. This non-policy means that employees can take leave without seeking permission, as long as their leave of absence does not negatively impact the business.  This reward approach is similar to companies you’d find in trendy Silicon Valley.  For example, let’s look at Google. Google employees are offered  a variety of rewards including free food, gym membership and a free shuttle (including wifi) to and from Google offices (9).

However, we are under no illusion that all organisations are capable of implementing reward schemes at this level.  There are some organisations that take a simpler approach to reward and recognition.  These include creating a staff WhatsApp group where ‘wins’ and recognitions are shared among the team.  This instant reward sharing system feeds humans craving for dopamine; the ‘feel-good’ chemical that is effective for individuals of any generation.

These examples highlight that different rewards speak to different generations but the desire to be appraised and appropriately rewarded is cross-generational.  As a result, OE Cam looks at managing talent in a holistic way; ensuring motivations and rewards are satisfied for every generation.  We work with organisations to develop succession and development management plans to suit the generations and best develop these generations in line with business and personal development.

These have included:

  • Encouraging Millennials to utilise social recognition/organisation community platforms
  • Using technology to drive engagement and recognition – whilst maintaining face-to-face time with all generations.

Employees need to be appraised is an important workplace component.  Here, organisations must be able to create an environment that taps into multi generational preferences when giving feedback.

 

Effective feedback mechanisms for multi-generational workforces

Hackman and Oldham’s (1980) well-known job characteristics model emphasises feedback as a core job dimension that triggers positive psychological states and leads to positive work outcomes (8).  But, what does feedback mean for the different generations?

Veterans are less interested in feedback and Baby Boomers won’t necessarily ask for feedback but they are happy to take it.  Generation X want frequent feedback and Millennials want instant frequent feedback. Annual reviews won’t suffice for the latter two generations. So much so, 60% of Millennials reported to wanting formal feedback at least every 1-3 months.  This constant need for feedback is derived from Millennials desire for instant gratification.  In the digital context, the ping/buzz of a phone/laptop releases dopamine which motivates us to ‘post more statuses, take more pictures, to ensure more likes, retweets and followers which validate I am popular and well-liked cognition. This generation want to know that they are doing well, what they can improve and they want to know this as many times as possible.  This means that they expect at least a ‘pat on the back, ‘thank you for your help’ and ‘how about trying it this way?’ when they work on tasks.

With different preferences, it is important for organisations to have appropriate feedback systems and coaching styles for all the generations rather than one basic feedback mechanism that might work for one generation but is less effective and disinteresting for the rest.

OE Cam takes a holistic approach to designing feedback mechanisms for the generations. The use of 360 feedback is an effective way of stimulating conversations across all the generations. The benefits of 360 appraisal systems include the ability to set the appraisal with a specific focus that is tailored to the different generations.  Veterans may prefer their feedback to focus on how they are doing as a mentor and how they are still adding value.  Baby Boomer, Generation X’ers and Millennials may want the focus of their feedback to highlight what they need to be doing to get to the next level. Conveniently, 360 feedback systems can now be set up online, meaning feedback can be inputted, received and accessed whenever/wherever- meeting Millennials’ need for immediate feedback.  These are some of the conversations OE Cam can help facilitate to ensure they are effective for both parties.

In the age of social media updates, posts, tags and requests, Millennials are not afraid to share information about themselves.  The same applies to their receptiveness to feedback.  Over time we have seen an interest in learning about and practising peer-to-peer objective setting.  Using platforms to share rewards, recognitions as well as reaching out to colleagues for help in specific development areas have  become popular. This community based information sharing encourages individuals to support each other. Posting wins, sharing goals and seeking development all generate ‘likes’, comments and shares. These digital interactions help tap into Millennials preferences , and help them feel more engaged and trigger a release of dopamine.

In a multi-generational workforce, research has allowed us to demonstrate that different generations get their dopamine dose from different sources. With this being said, within your organisation, are you getting your dopamine fix?

“Veterans are less interested in feedback and Baby Boomers won’t necessarily ask for feedback but they are happy to take it. Generation X want frequent feedback and Millennials want instant frequent feedback.”

mariam.mirza@oecam.com

 

1.    “Global Generations: a global study on work-life challenges across generations” by Karyn Twaronite, Ernst & Young (2016)
2.    Colby, S. L. & Ortman, J. M. (2014).  Projections of the size and composition of the U.S. population: 2014 to 2060.  Current Population Reports (pp. 25–1143)
3.    “To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home” by Nicholas Bloom, Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2014)
4.    “Flexible working: can your company compete without it” by Rakesh Mahajan and Nick Foggin (2007)
5.    Dopaminergic Mechanisms of Individual Differences in Human Effort-Based Decision-Making by Michael T. Treadway, Joshua W. Buckholtz, Ronald L. Cowan, Neil D. Woodward, Rui Li, M. Sib Ansari, Ronald M. Baldwin, Ashley N. Schwartzman, Robert M. Kessler and David H. Zald (2012)
6.    “A Theory of Human Motivation” by Abraham Maslow Psychological Review (1943)
7.    “Generational motivation differences at the workplace” by Henry Goldbeck (2017)
8.    “The Deloitte Millennial Survey 271. Apprehensive millennials: seeking stability and opportunities in an uncertain world” by Deloitte (2017)
9.    “13 incredible perks of working at Google according to employees” by Lucy Yang (2017)
10.    “Work redesign”, by Hackman and Oldham (1980)