Purpose Beyond the Paycheck: How to Incentivize the Millennial Workforce

The life of the tribal-minded, fulfillment-seeking millennial has had huge implications on how they search for their next job, which aspects of their job keep them engaged at work and most importantly, whether they stay at their job.

Vidar Haaland

Regional Director Singapore - October 22, 2019

Research conducted by professional services network KPMG tells us that millennials want to enjoy what they do at work, to be able to connect with their colleagues both during and outside of work, and that they want their successes to be celebrated. This puts a lot of pressure on recruiters to adapt and evolve in order to be relevant to this group and to retain and optimize their workforce.

In the past, employees sought the security and stability in simply receiving a steady monthly paycheck. The expectation of rewards and benefits beyond remuneration was typically non-existent. But not the new millennial workforce, which seeks fulfillment, purpose and tribal belonging in their work – often even at the expense of higher income.

With approximately 56% of Singaporean employers reporting difficulty in filling open jobs, it is clear that companies, in all industries, will need to take measures to attract millennial talent to their ranks over other employers and to retain these younger employees for as long as possible.

Loyalty is rare these days, and is not as attached to the paycheck as it used to be, so HR departments need to start relooking the programs, benefits and incentives they use to engage their millennial employees. Looking at how Singapore’s employee turnover rates are the highest in Asia and the ease with which millennials jump jobs, these measures clearly need to be drastic and they need to be taken now.

But with old processes and structures so deeply embedded in many organizations, and fear of change a common trait amongst the older C-suites – how can this really be done?

New Work Needs and Expectations

As mentioned, for millennial employees to feel that their work is meaningful, they need to be recognized for the work that they do. It is no longer enough to expect them to simply do the work for which they are paid and be happy with the paycheck; this entitled new group wants constant affirmation, encouragement and validation to feel that their work has meaning.

This affects how long they stay with one employer, or whether they join an employer in the first place. In a Singapore Graduate Barometer survey conducted in 2018, Singapore university graduates listed “being appreciated at work” as one of their top five considerations when choosing an employer.

Then there is the competitive streak of millennials, especially of those born in Asia. These individuals were raised in pressure-cooker environments that prioritize achievements and results, leading them to grow up with a “kiasu” mentality, or the mindset that failure is not an option.

This means that the millennial workforce embraces competition, seeks to outdo their peers, and wants to be seen and rewarded for doing so. Layer this with the universal millennial attitude towards work and play and the need for self-realization, and you find yourselves looking for ways to introduce gaming, entertainment and a sense of tribal community to your processes and structures to attract and retain your millennial employees.

Building Culture by Gamifying Performance

To some extent, your organization may already be gamifying the workplace by handing out “Employee of the Month” awards, or pegging the size of bonuses to annual performances. But such incentives have been around for a long time, and with Singapore’s high turnover rates, it’s apparent that these incentives have limited effectiveness now.

Instead, it’s time to look for new gamification tools that offer more sophisticated means of optimizing work performance by stirring up friendly competition between colleagues and heaping upon millennial employees the recognition that they crave.

SalesScreen provides a dynamic, interactive and effective solution to these new challenges employers face. It allows companies to set up individual, team and company-wide competitions towards hitting performance targets. And when there are competitions, there are prizes: winning employees bag virtual coins that are exchangeable for real-life rewards, be it a shiny new Nintendo Switch console or making a sporting colleague perform 10 push-ups before a meeting.

To take things up a notch, SalesScreen blasts each employee’s progress within the competition on leaderboards in real-time, down to the very second. These leaderboards are displayable on desktops, mobiles and even office-wide TV screens, so anyone in the office who cares to—and you can bet that this will probably be everyone—can keep an eye on who’s leading the pack, who’s in super-close second and who really needs to pick up the pace.

But this doesn’t mean work will become a full-on rivalrous, colleague-versus-colleague affair: built within SalesScreen is also a social media-style news feed where employees can celebrate each other’s achievements by “liking” and commenting on them—an activity that millennials are already highly familiar with.

With this avenue to freely dish out and receive recognition comes the fostering of a supportive work culture that instills a sense of friendship, loyalty and belonging among colleagues. After all, everyone likes to be praised, and not the least millennials! Leaving the job may also become a harder decision as that will mean leaving friends behind, something that a 10% pay raise at the new job may not make up for.

Purpose Over Paycheck

When it comes to the aspirations of the millennial workforce, “purpose over paycheck” appears to be the name of the game. Employers must feed the desire of these individuals for meaningful work by showing them how their contributions are making a difference to the company and also rewarding them for their achievements.

Old and ineffective ways of incentivizing performance must make way for new tools that better optimize employee performance tracking and recognition for employers. By allowing individual performances to be compared between employees and recognized, these tools will drive up the levels of competition and supportiveness at the workplace, and keep tribal-spirited millennials motivated and engaged at work for longer.

Employers must embrace new ways of attracting, engaging and retaining their workforce, lest they lose talent to more enlightened competitors.

If you want to understand how to sign the best talent, optimize performance and build a culture that benefits both the bottom line and the employer brand, it’s time to get gamified and it’s time to get digitally dynamic.

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