Linking reward to the Gen Y workforce

Generation Y (Gen Y) refers to those born between the 1980’s to the early 1990’s and was the term given to this generation following Generation X. There have been many views on the key characteristics that define this group but with so many varied opinions people would say a concrete list is impossible. Of the varied list of characteristics it is repeatedly assumed that Gen Y are: tech-savvy, family centric, achievement focused, communicative, team orientated and that they desire attention. One fact that can be confirmed is that Gen Y is the fastest growing demographic which means that business leaders want to know how to nurture this talent, with responsibility falling on the HR and reward function. The question is, how does reward shape a solution or in many cases evolve to deal with this?

Engagement and enablement (E&E) are constantly focused on with evidence from a number of businesses to show that increased scorecards represent positive impacts on profit - the sole underlying requirement of the vast majority of businesses. In response to the Gen Y workforce we are noticing a plethora of new reward practices emerging. It is however vital to remember the importance of the correct application of reward to avoid a potential negative effect on engagement.

Again a variety of opinions divide the core principles of positive E&E, however transparent communication, leadership and strategic vision tend to lead the way, particularly with Gen Y where the link to reward enforces a company’s recognition of these points.

As previously mentioned Gen Y currently makes up a substantial portion of the workforce with this figure set to increase to 75% by 2025. This unique and self-assured workforce has been nurtured within a society which allows easier access to information - be it through social networks, news reports or access to wider cultural communities. These tend to afford Gen Y workers the ability to challenge their employers for attention, communication and a different style of work - even senior stakeholders who were less accessible to the preceding Gen X group.

A different style of work or flexibility of work is both topical and one of the first requirements of Gen Y. They will want to be trusted and to be in control of how, when and where they work; ensuring achievement but utilizing modern technology and an ever natural global market where business could be transacted at 4am or 11pm. They are just as likely to use a smart device to update Facebook in the office as they are to read business related information during their down time. Equally, flexibility isn’t just part-time employment but also personal goals, such as family time or charity days, of which the latter is supported by many businesses through their CSR policies. Gen Y feel support for further qualifications such as CIPD or World at Work study is still important other personal skills such as learning a language are just as crucial. Languages for example develop the person whilst improving the engagement of that worker in a way to benefit the business.

Revisiting Gen Y characteristics and the relationship to rewarding this demographic, we should ensure we have a business aligned towards reward strategy, one agreed with senior stakeholders and one which is then transparently delivered to employees. Businesses should also reward individuals for their personal achievements and team focused tasks whilst being open to the changing demand in the flexible requirements of staff. In addition, they should embrace technological advances in pushing reward communications forward, perhaps with online personal reward statements. It is imperative to safeguard the future of these highly mobile but equally highly loyal family centric people.

Okay, it is not reinventing the wheel or asking for huge injections of investment but about breaking strategy and pay structures into consistent communications to meet the desires of the employees. Also stopping the tide of transient workers who either feel they are not receiving fair pay or those who simply do not understand the full value of their total reward package and how to use it.