06 Apr, 2023

Mind the (Generational) Gap: What Drives Employees According to Their Age

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Ad Hoc Gifts
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Gifted Team
If you thought TikTok was just the digital kingdom of short-lived dance trends and weird life hacks set to viral, looping soundbites, think again! As younger millennials and Gen Zers start to comprise the majority of the entry- and mid-level workforce, TikTok has also become a trusted guidebook for appropriate workplace conduct.

Amassed under the hashtag #corporate are loads of humorous reenactments of office scenes which equip young employees with the language they need to set boundaries and manage interoffice conflicts. These videos also give us valuable insight into the different motivators for different generations in the workplace.

TikTok: your employees’ new work bestie

Here’s a fun example. TikTok user Loe Whaley records conversations with her anonymousWork Bestie in a popular series called, “How Do You Professionally Say?” The camera is trained on Whaley at her WFH station cradling a cup of coffee as she asks drolly, “[How do you professionally say] I am not staying late to deal with this?”

In calm and measured tones, the invisible, remote Work Bestie translates this question into amore moderate enquiry: “My work day ends at five, but I will prioritize this first thing tomorrow.”Each video typically ends with Whaley shoe-horning the word “moist” into the conversation to the disgust of her Bestie.

A touch of silliness and humor is key to these videos. It gives the viewers permission to connect over common workplace struggles. Creators like Whaley also equip young employees with the right language, tone, and delivery style required to communicate their workplace needs clearly and professionally.

More importantly, the explosion of WorkTok and HRTok (we made those terms up - we’restumped for anything better than TechTok, which was not - sadly - our invention) points to clear workplace trends. More than their Baby Boomer and Generation X co-workers, millennials and Gen Z employees prioritize a firmly-enforced work-life balance. So, how does this translate intoeffective gifting and recognition strategies?

What motivates different generations of employees?

Okay, we’ve made it pretty clear by now that different generations are motivated by differentrecognition strategies. Now, here’s the part you came here for - we’ll tell you what factors bestmotivate each generation of employees and what kinds of gifts you can send to capitalize ontheir preferences. And we’ve made it fun!

We’re big fans of healthy gamification as a way to foster employee engagement. In the spirit ofthe game, we’ve drawn up each generation as a playable character with their own motivatorsand recognition preferences, as well as special tricks you can apply to get them to level up.

Baby Boomers

Energy: 75/100

Experience: 100/100

Primary motivator: Loyalty

Recognition Preferences:

  • Tenure-based recognition and gifting strategies which acknowledge their loyalty to thecompany
  • Recognition in the form of donations in their name to charitable organizations which alignwith their values
  • Tangible, offline recognition - because Baby Boomers aren’t digital natives, a physical giftmight do better than an online gift card

Level up Baby Boomer employees with a physical token of recognition, the likes of which canbe shopped on Gifted’s expansive catalog of Swag products. Ship Gloria a company-brandedbeach towel especially for her upcoming Florida cruise to celebrate her 10th work anniversary.Better yet, ship it for free anywhere in the States. You can also buy her a contribution toUNICEF, for example, as a show of support for a personal cause.

Generation X

Energy: 85/100

Experience: 75/100

Primary motivator: Work-life balance

Recognition preferences:

  • Gen X practically invented the idea of work-life balance, so they respond well torecognition strategies which help them maintain that
  • They also appreciate recognition for their commitment and loyalty to the workplace Level up Generation X employees with a Home Depot voucher that they can put to use in theirhome DIY projects with Gifted HR. Maybe throw in a Delta Airlines voucher so that they canbring the whole family along on the vacation they’ve been planning to take a break from work.


Energy: 90/100 (with enough caffeine applied)

Experience: 65/100

Primary motivator: Affirmation

Recognition preferences:

  • Financial rewards which help with living expenses
  • Recognition efforts which align with their values and causes Level up Millenial employees with a Kroger gift voucher that will cover a week’s worth ofgroceries for their home-cooking experiments. Are they parents to fur children? Consider a giftcard from Petco to help out with the kibble bill. If travel is important to them, give ‘em an Airbnbvoucher and, heck, an Uber gift card that will help them get there. The possibilities are endless(and endlessly easy) with Gifted.

Gen Zers

Energy: 1000/100 (too much caffeine applied)

Experience: 10/100 (and gaining steadily)

Primary motivator: Equitable recognition structures

Recognition preferences:

  • Gen Z employees respond well to consistent and frequent recognition, which ties into theirpreference for caring and supportive work environments
  • Like their elder Millennial co-workers, Gen Zers appreciate financial rewards which helpsupport the cost of living

Level up Gen Z employees with a flexible work environment and frequent doses of caffeine (getthem a bi-monthly Starbucks coffee!). Demonstrate a caring work environment by gifting them asubscription to Calm or Spotify, where they can listen to their favorite self-help podcasts enroute to the home office.

The bottom line: recognized employees = engaged employees = retainedemployees

With the current state of the job market, the pressure is on team leaders and HR professionalsto retain hardworking and qualified employees. At the moment, these can also prove to be themost difficult to hang onto. Millennials and Gen Z workers are naturally inclined to job hop and,against the imposing backdrop of the Great Resignation, the job market is still laid out in theirfavor

That’s why generation-appropriate appreciation has never been more important. Fortunately, it’salso never been easier than it is with Gifted.

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