Mastering the Art of Employee Recognition for a Multigenerational Workforce

Employee recognition boosts well-being, motivation, and ultimately, productivity. However, one size does not fit all. Understanding different values and needs across generational groups is vital as you plan how to respond to excellent work.

This blog will look at how you can best provide recognition to staff, using methods that resonate with different generations.


Main generational differences when it comes to how employees want to be recognized in the workplace

From the silent generation, baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z - the generational differences when it comes to how employees expect the employer to deliver recognition and appreciation in the workplace are more prominent than ever before. So let’s dive in.

Silent Generation/Traditionalists 

A generation that are highly experienced and have seen many changes in the workplace. They appreciate both personalized and formal recognition, making a form of public acknowledgment at either an internal or external event ideal for this group. Also consider certificates, or handwritten notes expressing gratitude for their commitment and long-term contributions.  Face-to-face feedback and thanks will be most appropriate for this group.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are happy to receive recognition in formal ways such as titles, promotions,  and competitive compensation. But they also like to be held in esteem for their knowledge and experience, and a good way to show gratitude is to invite them to mentor younger members of staff.  Use team meetings and other traditional internal communication channels, such as newsletters, to acknowledge their achievements. 

Gen X 

This generation requires less ceremony, and would prefer that their achievements are recognized casually.  An email or mention in a smaller meeting will usually be welcomed by this predominantly self-sufficient group. If feasible, confer trust by giving them flexible work arrangements or greater autonomy.  Recognizing their self-sufficiency can be effective, but also ensure that they understand that you are invested in their career by offering training and development opportunities.


Millennials crave recognition more than any other demographic.  Schedule regular feedback and provide recognition for their efforts. They also feel more confident in their impact when they are kept in the loop on company developments and project progress. Acknowledgment can be made through various channels such as team meetings, emails, or even social media. This is an ambitious group - highlight opportunities for learning and career growth to keep them motivated.

Generation Z 

Gen Z are used to instant feedback, so recognize their achievements promptly and publicly - don’t wait for staff meetings or personal progress reviews.  At earlier career stages it’s a good idea to boost confidence by celebrating small individual tasks performed well, rather than waiting to recognize team success.  This demographic will usually respond well to technology-driven rewards.

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5 pillars that will allow you to master the art of recognition for a multigenerational workforce

Personalized recognition should also look at other demographic factors alongside generational culture

The detail you already possess about each employee should help you to determine what is of value to them. Many frontline employees can feel overlooked; it will mean a lot to them that you consider the best approach to make them feel valued.

Fulfilling employees’ recognition expectations

Recognition should be appropriate to a person’s experience and expertise;  consider the level and role of the employee and the contribution a person has made. For example, an action by a frontline staff member may have a smaller overall impact on the wider organization but may be very significant for customers.

Authentic recognition owes a lot to timeliness

Employees must understand which action or achievement has prompted the reward to build on the success further. For busy frontline employees things move fast, so follow up quickly and be clear about the specific incident they handled well, or notable behavior they displayed.

Equitable recognition is fair and objective, taking into account performance only

If the same team members receive recognition continually, ensure that the decisions are unbiased and justifiable. It may not always be apparent - especially where team members are dispersed across locations - that a colleague is performing in a noteworthy manner.  

Embedded in the organization’s culture

Consistent, ongoing recognition is critical to performance and retention.  It reinforces engagement and boosts wellbeing - suitably recognized employees are half as likely to experience burnout.  As the face of the organization, it’s essential that your frontline employees are happy, satisfied, and eager to connect with your customers and stakeholders. The expectation that positive interactions will be recognized provides a powerful motivation to perform.

How employee apps can help with employee recognition for a multigenerational workforce

Recognizing high-performing frontline staff is easy with an employee app. A user-friendly mobile solution like Speakap is your solution - available to everyone, everywhere and without a steep learning curve for the less technology-literate. Different generations may have varying expectations about how their work is recognized, but they are united by a desire for quick, accessible tools to give and receive feedback.

Communication works when it fits in and around your routine. Speakap makes it easy to put together bite-size content that gets the message across and prompts action. Whatever their communication preference, an easy mobile solution can put every generation on an equal footing, whether they are a junior member of staff needing a quick confidence boost or an experienced contributor who you want to remind of their worth.

You can boost your employee recognition strategy by ensuring that when you celebrate the achievements of your frontline staff, senior decision-makers are included and can follow up with further support. A simple ‘well done’ can make a huge difference to confidence and motivation. It’s an easy but powerful way to show the people who interact with and deliver for your customers that they are valued and appreciated at every stage in their career.

Why does employee recognition matter now more than ever?

When employees are recognized for their hard work and contributions, it boosts their self-esteem and motivates them to continue performing at their best. A simple “good job” or a nod of appreciation can go a long way. Sadly,  more than 75% of employees have gone a whole year without any form of recognition in the workplace. And if this statistics doesn’t scream “it’s time to act”, read more about the 4 things signaling that employee recognition matters now more than ever here.