Do we really need an adaptable reward and recognition system? (Part 1)

Leadership Memo 2021-10

Reward and recognition systems should be adaptable and agile. They need to take contexts into consideration. Why? Because there are up to five generations in the workplace today. We all want the same thing: to be respected, rewarded and recognised for our work. However, the motivation and the form factor of the rewards differ for the generations. So, you need to be creative, keep the incentives fresh, and tailor them to teams, understanding what they appreciate and want.

Let’s dive deeper into the motivation and the form factors of the rewards.

Baby Boomers and the generation before have lived through many wars: WWII, Vietnam, Korea, and various civil wars around the world. Their mindset and expectations differ from people who have never lived through war times. Given the tribulations they went through, they want to provide stability for their families. So, they want to get more pay, and get promoted.

At the more recent end of the generational spectrum, we have Gen Z, who lives in relative peace. Gen Z talks about their contributions and the impact of their work, and cares more about their experiences. The generations in between (Gen X and Gen Y) are the gradations. The closer to Gen Z, the more the folks lean towards impact, contributions and experiences. E.g. Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z view they are recognised if you give them time. So more time equals more recognition. PTO, flextime, and autonomy are their choice of currency.

Nowadays, people are debating between returning to the office and remote work. When the bosses demand their workers to go back to the office, that is the preceding generations imposing their own expectation of reward and recognition. It creates a clash with the succeeding generation. So, as expected, Gen Z in the US is resigning in masses. Surprisingly, from another study, Gen Y & Z prefer going back to the office more than Gen X and Baby Boomers.

This illustrates my point perfectly. What matters to people changes. It depends on different circumstances. It also depends on the different stages of their lives. It changes even within the same generation, let alone having five generations in the workplace. So, having only one reward and recognition system doesn’t work. It’ll disengage workers. Disengaged workers are less innovative. They are less likely to stay long term. They focus more on output than business value. That decreases the company’s agility.

Next time, we’ll tackle the question of how to keep the incentives fresh, and what it means to tailor to the teams. That surely is not possible for any companies with over 1000 employees, or is it? Drop me a note and let me know what you think

Latest happenings:

1. Did your enterprise agility adoption start with the Finance and HR departments? No? You are not alone. Are they on the roadmap to be next? Maybe they should be… Why? Come join me on 7 Oct when I’ll walk through an example of how I transform the whole organisation by stealth by evolving the Finance and HR departments. By evolving it this way, you achieve the adoption at a fraction of the price of traditional transformation programmes. Hope to see you there! Register here.

2. “Our Agile Tales” podcast, episode 2 of Agile @ Tesla is out! Episode 3 is coming out in a week! We dive deep with Joe Justice, chatting about Elon Musk’s desire and drive to innovate quickly. The result is tangible organizational agility at Tesla. We cover everything about agility, from HR (episodes 1-2) and Finance (episodes 3-4) to applying agile methods to product development and hardware. Take a listen and let me know what you think.

3. It would be remiss of me if I don’t mention that this is a busy season of conferences for me. After giving a keynote at the eXperience Agile Conference (held in Portugal) last week, I’ll be speaking at Agile Tour London, Agile Tour Brussels and Agile Online Summit in Oct. I’ll also be speaking at the Agile Business Conference in early November. You can check out my speaking schedule here. If you’d like a talk or workshop delivered at your organisation or event, please contact me.


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