You Call THAT a Reward?

I read an article last month extolling the virtues of pens, watches, and other desk trinkets as the ideal “reward” to incent employees. I was particularly flabbergasted by the comment that “today’s young workers demand constant affirmation that they are valued” (true) and then suggesting trinkets such as pens, paperweights, paperclips, business card holders or perpetual motion machines are what the “younger generation” want for rewards (false).

Desk tchotckes such as these may have played well in the past when people were committed to their “work families,” but Generations X and Y especially value time with their family and friends outside of work far more. When given the choice of reward, Generation X members, who are sandwiched between caring for their aging parents and their young families, tend to choose reward items they can share with family members – playsets, BBQ grills, televisions, and the like. Generation Y often chooses more lifestyle-based reward items such as travel and adventure, dinners with friends, or entertainment packages. High-end writing instruments, such as those touted by the article, are of little interest to these younger generations who rely more on their texting thumbs or a PDA stylus than on an old-fashioned pen.

Regardless of what they ultimately choose, having a preselected “reward” forced on you is no more valued by the recipient than an ugly sweater/jumper from Great Aunt Myrtle. If you want to show your employees – of all generations – that you value them and their contributions to the team and the company, then give them the gift of choice. Give them the ability to choose from millions of reward options in their own backyard, online or anywhere in the world. Don’t saddle them with silly clacking-ball perpetual motion desk accessories.

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