Canadian Manufacturing

Recognition programs in Canadian firms ignore millennials, says Conference Board

A new study finds workplace recognition programs that reward long periods of service leave well-performing millennials ineligible; respondents say employees are happier with performance-based recognition


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OTTAWA—Current recognition programs in Canadian workplaces may not be cutting it for millennials.

According to The Conference Board of Canada, long-service recognition is the most prevalent type of rewards and recognition program in place in Canadian organizations. But a new study, The Power of Appreciation: Rewards and Recognition Practices, suggests that these programs may not appeal to younger generations who typically have shorter tenures.

Previous research by the Conference Board has indicated that millennials could have an average of five different employers over a 10-year span.

Given this, the Conference Board says most millennials would not be at an organization long enough to be eligible for most long-service recognition programs, which could explain why only 37 per cent of responding organizations agreed that their rewards programs consider the multiple generations in the workforce.

“The majority of organizations use their rewards and recognition programs to increase employee engagement. If this is the primary objective of the program, it is important to look at what drives engagement,” said Nicole Stewart, principal, Compensation Research Centre, The Conference Board of Canada.

Stewart continued, “There also appears to be a disconnect between where organizations are allocating the bulk of their recognition budgets and what might bring them the best value in terms of employee satisfaction.”

Almost 90 per cent of responding organizations have some type of formal rewards and recognition program in place, and in 2016, Canadian organizations spent, on average, $139 per full-time employee on these programs.

Among these organizations, long-service recognition is the most common type of program at 96 per cent, followed by retirement recognition at 64 per cent.

The Conference Board asserts that one of the major drawbacks of long-service recognition is that it becomes difficult to attach to specific accomplishments or contributions when they occur.

On average, organizations spend over half their recognition budgets on long-service. However, those that have performance-based recognition report that their employees are more satisfied with their programs.

“Recognition of outstanding effort and achievement does not need to be costly and programs can be tailored to suit a changing workforce landscape. In fact, many organizations have found that they receive the most value from their peer-to-peer programs because of both the low cost and reach,” said Stewart.

The study says the most common rewards provided as part of peer-to-peer recognition programs are non-monetary, such as e-cards or handwritten notes, and 37 per cent of organizations report this is the only type of reward given in their peer-to-peer program.


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