Mind the (Generational) Gap: What Drives Employees According to Their Age
5 min read
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 anonymous Work 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 a more 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’re stumped 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 into effective 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 different recognition strategies. Now, here’s the part you came here for - we’ll tell you what factors best motivate each generation of employees and what kinds of gifts you can send to capitalize on their preferences. And we’ve made it fun!
We’re big fans of healthy gamification as a way to foster employee engagement. In the spirit of the game, we’ve drawn up each generation as a playable character with their own motivators and recognition preferences, as well as special tricks you can apply to get them to level up.
Primary motivator: Loyalty
- Tenure-based recognition and gifting strategies which acknowledge their loyalty to the company
- Recognition in the form of donations in their name to charitable organizations which align with their values
- Tangible, offline recognition - because Baby Boomers aren’t digital natives, a physical gift might do better than an online gift card
Level up Baby Boomer employees with a physical token of recognition, the likes of which can be shopped on Gifted’s expansive catalog of Swag products. Ship Gloria a company-branded beach 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 to UNICEF, for example, as a show of support for a personal cause.
Primary motivator: Work-life balance
- Gen X practically invented the idea of work-life balance, so they respond well to recognition 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 their home DIY projects with Gifted HR. Maybe throw in a Delta Airlines voucher so that they can bring the whole family along on the vacation they’ve been planning to take a break from work.
Energy: 90/100 (with enough caffeine applied)
Primary motivator: Affirmation
- 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 of groceries for their home-cooking experiments. Are they parents to fur children? Consider a gift card from Petco to help out with the kibble bill. If travel is important to them, give ‘em an Airbnb voucher and, heck, an Uber gift card that will help them get there. The possibilities are endless (and endlessly easy) with Gifted.
Energy: 1000/100 (too much caffeine applied)
Experience: 10/100 (and gaining steadily)
Primary motivator: Equitable recognition structures
- Gen Z employees respond well to consistent and frequent recognition, which ties into their preference for caring and supportive work environments
- Like their elder Millennial co-workers, Gen Zers appreciate financial rewards which help support the cost of living
Level up Gen Z employees with a flexible work environment and frequent doses of caffeine (get them a bi-monthly Starbucks coffee!). Demonstrate a caring work environment by gifting them a subscription to Calm or Spotify, where they can listen to their favorite self-help podcasts en route to the home office.
The bottom line: recognized employees = engaged employees = retained employees
With the current state of the job market, the pressure is on team leaders and HR professionals to retain hardworking and qualified employees. At the moment, these can also prove to be the most 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 their favor.
That’s why generation-appropriate appreciation has never been more important. Fortunately, it’s also never been easier than it is with Gifted.