Showing appreciation to a multi-generational workforce

As Employee Appreciation Day approaches, Paul Matthews, Stella Collins and Vladimir Polo offer practical advice for how employers can acknowledge the hard work of employees of all ages

Credit: 10'000 Hours/Getty Images

In any workplace you can find employees from multiple generations, with different lifestyles, religions and other varying characteristics to consider, too. Bridging a difference gap like that can be daunting, but it’s also a chance for employers to choose an approach that will suit everyone in the company.

We live in a multi-national and multi-generational world. So, when you only show the employees' appreciation in a way that’s recognised by a single generation, culture, or gender, the others don't feel the appreciation for their contribution to the company. What’s more, with the rise in remote work, research shows that across the globe, workers are becoming less productive and feel less connected to their coworkers and workplace, so now is as good a time as ever to prioritise recognition and appreciation.

However, cultivating a multinational, multigenerational, and multi-gendered workplace is easier said than done, with minor differences bringing their strengths and weaknesses to the table.

Here are four pieces of advice to empower the workplace with understanding and to show appreciation to every employee. 

What employees expect

According to a Blackhawk survey, about 60 per cent of respondents claimed they would enjoy receiving a reward from the companies they work for. The researchers stated that almost 90 per cent of participants would like prepaid gift cards from their employers. 40 per cent of respondents prefer additional days off, the other 29 per cent wouldn't mind receiving food, and only 28 per cent expect physical gifts.

People prefer to have a choice in what they buy. That's why 70 per cent of respondents find the prepaid flexible card the best and the most valued holiday gift.

Red flags  

The red flags for showing appreciation to the employees are congrats that could be easily misunderstood and mistaken as a sign of manipulation, bribery, favouritism, or discrimination. For example, offering large sums of money or a lavish gift are confusing ways to congratulate a worker.

Congratulating employees for personal successes, such as a promotion or reward without providing performance feedback, or rewards for employer's assignments that are not part of the job description are marked by the experts as a red flag, as it could be persuaded as a sign of favouritism.

People need to feel valued. So any appreciation, congratulations, or well-wishing needs to express gratitude for what people have done. It needs to be a genuine, personal message.

Sending an impersonal email causing zero impact is so easy. What is worse, it may even trigger a negative response. When a gift is given, a lot of its value is based on the perception the receiver has about the effort that was put into creating the gift. A unique handwritten card by the chief executive will have far more value than one copied via a machine and likely would carry more weight than a physical gift.

Trying to save on employees will only anger and negatively affect the company's brand. It is better to present a handwritten card or arrange an evening with games. It is crucial to devote special attention to quality, as the lack of it will spoil everything.

“Don’t give people gifts made from leftovers after marketing or sales – they aren’t personal. And that will have no impact, or it may even trigger a negative response. A gift should be made to please the receiver and not the sender.”

Holiday congratulations

On holidays, we mostly think about others. What could we give them? How can we make this time unique for them? Who else could we invite, and how? Green flags for showing employees appreciation will always be acceptance and flexibility in handling everyone's needs and concerns. Regardless of age, people love to be treated as individuals and to feel appreciated for their hard work. An employer must respect the beliefs of every person on their team. Such an attitude makes every occasion a "goodwill holiday."

Unexpected gifts would be a welcome surprise that many employees would be grateful for.

Including remote employees

Today’s workers have gained a reputation for wanting more out of the workplace. 

To engage remote workers in an act of appreciation, consider online meetings with games, activities, and things where they can behave like normal human beings.

This kind of activity will help people to better get to know each other, which absolutely shouldn’t be underestimated.

Paul Matthews is an L&D expert and architect of the People Alchemy Learning Workflow Platform, Stella Collins is co-founder and chief learning officer at Stellar Labs and Vladimir Polo is CEO and founder of AcademyOcean