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Ann - I am not a boomer and I think you are definitely NOT all wet in your thinking. A well-thought out, broad cafeteria-style benefit plan that is includes professional development funds, the opportunity to buy extra vacation, etc. that provide each individual the chance to buy what s/he needs more effectively address generational, cultural and other individual differences/preferences without locking people into demographic categories they they may not personally identify with. Cash compensation on the other hand should be driven by the business and the market. The growth opportunity for business leaders - as always - is to educate their employees on how the market is impacting the company, and how salaries/bonuses are derived. Far from being a tedious managment task, these types of educational converstaions are actually critical employee development/engagement activities. Employees who understand that business aren't just entitites with huge cash coffers that are being hidden from them, but that businesses are living, growing entities with expenses and profit margins that shrink and grow based on numerous factors (that inclcude employee behaviors) are much better employees AND they tend to have more career satisfaction too - a win-win!


Thanks for the affirmation, and for doing a better job of articulating my point than I was able to!

Annual incentive pay is partly a way to communicate what is important to the organization, what it requires of its employees to ensure success. Altering the incentives for various groups or introducing choice into the types and delivery methods of key rewards only serves to confuse the message and dilute focus.


Great point - I couldn't agree more.

I agree with offering choice in benefits plans so that each person can make choices that best suit them and since there may be differing choices within the same generation, to avoid coloring the issue it should just be about 'benefits by (individual & not generational) choice". Organizations like Nokia offer such plans. However, when it comes to compensation, what one is paid needs to be defined by the role one is playing and not by the number of grey hair they have.I find it increasingly frustrating particularly in Asia where the number of years of experience sometimes comes before competence and actual experience when deciding compensation for the job. As a Gen X holding a job that would be envied by boomers as well, to me, this kind of differentiation dilutes the concept of "accelerated career paths" resulting in competent younger professionals hitting a glass ceiling which tends to be worse if you are a woman. Pay for Performance and Competence is the key to raising the game for the individuals and organizations.

Q: Should rewards be tailored to generational differences?

A: NO.

What a ridiculous idea. Should rewards be tailored differently for men and women, Asians and Caucasians, too? Good heavens, how silly we all get, sometimes.

And how infuriated I would be to know I had (first) been assigned to some such category whether I asked to be or not, and (second) was being treated differently because of it. (I can see getting my little "reward:" an adorable flowered satchel containing nail polish and a spa certificate. While my male colleagues get football tickets, beer, and pizza....)

Better is to keep abreast of the most important and applicable trends (as any business should be doing, about every trend that touches their business, anyway) and grow/adapt the entire company to account for those trends. In an intelligent, and humanly-respectful way. (Need help? HIRE ANN. End of story.)

I find the research on generations very helpful, but it's helpful in understanding some social trends, which is exactly what the original research set out to do. But when we try to shape individual rewards based on the group the individual belongs to, we have a name for it. The name is "prejudice."


Great points and I appreciate hearing about the issue from the perspective of a Gen X'er. Thanks for the comment!


I love your response - "how silly we all, sometimes"! I have the same reaction you do to being categorized in this way. Thanks for weighing in from your ever-wise perspective!


You have hit the nail on the head - no wonder this feels so bad to me. None of like being treated differently - or "pre-judged" simply because we belong to a narrowly defined group. Why is there an overwhelming sense that this is OK to do with generational differences when we have all (supposedly) learned how not OK it is to do with other differences (like gender, race, etc.)?

Thanks for bringing the question into such sharp focus for all of us!

cheers. This can be used as a ready reckoner anytime.

I also follow a blog on Importance of Human Resources:


Ann - great post and great insight on this topic!

I pointed my readers to your post in my weekly Rainmaker 'Fab Five' blog picks of the week which can be found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2008/09/the-rainmaker-4.html

Be well!


Thanks for the comment and for sharing your blog with us.


I appreciate the recognition - thanks much! Readers, see Chris' link for a great round-up of his top picks in the HR/Talent/Leadership blogosphere!

Awesome article. It really made me think!

Thank you for your detailed answer. Let me state that I do not work in HR, but I read several HR blogs. I loved your response to the article "You say that like it's a bad thing" I completely agree!
I would be completely outraged if my company tried to tailor compensation according to generations. I am stuck as a Gen X'er, (BTW, who, pray tell came up with THAT name? I sure didn't and I wouldn't have voted for it!) and as such can only feel the middle child syndrome as companies seem to kowtow to attract all this great talent from Gen Y/Millenials. Give me a break. My perception is that many already have an overly developed entitlement attitude. At the same time, I agree with you that there are many more similarities than differences among us. The era in which a person was born does not mean that we are all the same. It may have some influence on what our values are, but it doesn't dictate them.
I like your (and CE's) comment about cafeteria plans that allow individuals to select the benefits that are important to them. I would rather be allowed to make choices for myself in regards to 'benefits' than have them proscribed to me because the time frame in which I was born. As if I had a choice in that one!

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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