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The Modern Workforce & What it Means for Employee Recognition

Rachel Reed
8/23/17 10:50 AM

New-age perks like the omnipresent beer fridge, ping pong tables, and flexible hours of tech startups have begun to bleed into the workplaces of seasoned, traditional corporations as a result of evolving talent demands. But perks aren’t the only difference between then and now.

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends research indicates organizational restructure has been a top priority for respondents for the last two years. Many organizations operate on dated hierarchal business models–namely those created for the Industrial Revolution–which were developed for a predictable supply and demand and designed to maximize efficiency. With today’s rapidly evolving advancement of technology comes a new generation of young talent with new demands, new communication methods, and a need for new organizational strategy. This rapid advancement requires agility and adaptability.

Companies Adopting Agility 

Many leading companies are adapting structure to allow for flexibility between employees with different sets of skills in order to collaborate and complete projects. They are providing them with the tools and time required to quickly move between teams and tasks, eliminating hierarchical, compartmentalized thinking altogether. Organizations have also embraced new employee demands by incorporating learning, coaching, and development with a culture of recognition: 83% of business leaders surveyed say they are shifting culture to welcome development through offerings like dynamic projects and experiences rather than providing the traditional, static career path.


Along with these, businesses have begun to strip down company values and apply them to culture. They have shifted focus from the end user (the customer) to the employee. For example, Ford Motor Co. is currently undergoing a massive business transformation to focus on customer experience while simultaneously applying the same research and strategy to transform the employee experience. IBM recently created an intelligence platform geared toward career growth that recommends challenges and new jobs within the organization based on performance data. General Electric recently created new positions dedicated to the employee experience.  

The more employees feel their employers’ values align with their own, the more likely they are to be engaged–that is, more productive, feel valued, believe in the mission, enjoy working with their teams, and are more likely to put in extra effort. The more employees feel that they are valued, the more dedicated they are to their work for the benefit of themselves and for the good of the company.

Why Traditional Recognition Fails in Today’s Landscape

Millennials will not likely stick around for 20 years to receive a gold watch, and being employee of the month pales in comparison to being individually recognized by the CEO for valuable contribution to a project. Traditional recognition can often come across as disingenuous or impersonal when delivered as a one-size-fits-all approach. Think of cookie-cutter recognition given to one achiever once a month at the same boring meeting–this structured, systematic, predictable type of recognition provides little value to this group whose self worth is driven by professional growth and contribution to society.

Young workers look for more than health insurance and a 401(k) in potential employers. They seek meaning and purpose, things that impact society for the better, and work lives that foster learning and professional growth.


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