WorldatWork releases today the results of its study "Rewarding a Multigenerational Workforce", which broadly finds that generational differences in the workplace are not currently top of mind for compensation and benefits practitioners.
From the study's summary of findings:
According to the results of this survey, 56 percent of organizations do not even consider generational differences when designing total rewards programs. This implies that organizations may not realize the importance of evaluating the needs of each generation uniquely and rewarding them accordingly. (See Figure 2 on page 6.) Findings also show that 80 percent of surveyed organizations do not have an organizationwide formal or informal strategy in place. (See Figure 3 on page 6.) Considering today’s workforce blend and its accompanying challenges, this likely will change in the near future as companies encounter the need to establish a strategy that meets the diverse needs of a multigenerational workforce. But for now, these figures reflect a general lack of concern among employers, as well as reveal that generational differences are not at the top of practitioners’ minds — and perhaps are not even on their radar screens.
My response? I admit that it falls somewhere along the lines of: You say that like its a bad thing...
Should rewards be tailored to generational differences?
Part of my struggle with responding to this question is the increasingly broad nature of the term rewards, which we now find to mean not only compensation and benefits but also professional development, work/life initiatives, work organization/flexibility and an increasing list of other things. That's a pretty heterogenous mix. And the different elements of this mix each exist to serve very different objectives. So my answer to the question above is: It depends.
If you ask me the question relative to the programs and offerings I traditionally think of as benefits, then ... maybe. Benefits, to my mind, serve a distinct purpose in the overal reward portfolio. They exist, mostly, to support and strengthen the health, welfare and financial security of employees (along with their dependents). And since many of an individual's health, welfare and financial security needs do track with age and life stage, I see the possible wisdom of tailoring benefits to generational differences. I also think we've already taken steps in that direction, though, by offering cafeteria or flexible (Section 125) plans that allow employees to spend benefit dollars in line with their particular needs and preferences.
Direct compensation is another matter. Cash compensation - particularly salaries and bonus/incentives, even recognition - serves a very different purpose than benefits (or any other reward element), and that is to recognize and provide fair exchange for the experience, skills, commitment, productivity, performance and desired behaviors that an individual brings to their role with the employer. Here I struggle to see a legitimate place for generational tailoring. And with pay for performance playing an increasingly prominent role in all manner of direct compensation, I question the wisdom (and ultimately the good business sense) of pushing generational differences as a legitimate pay criteria.
Full disclosure: I am a Boomer and admittedly prone to thinking that we get a little carried away with all this generational difference business. My life experience suggests to me that we're all different ... and similar, and that we all share characteristics with many peer groups - not just generational, but gender, religious, geographic, occupational, recreational/hobby/dining preference, etc.
Am I all wet on this? Readers, what say you?
For more information on "Rewarding a Multigenerational Workforce", contact WorldatWork.