What to Do When You Can't Financially Reward Young Employees



I’ve spoken with business leaders over the last few months about their ambitious (and yes, young) employees who tend to expect a promotion after a year (or earlier)! Or more money for simply doing a good job.

I LOVE (truly love), these young, ambitious employees. So, here’s the conundrum: How can you keep young employees engaged while also setting expectations on the realities of running a business and budgets? While I don’t think employers should reward employees for fulfilling basic job expectations, I do think it’s important to pay attention to the values these employees bring and look for creative ways to incentivize them. This will not only increase engagement but also build a culture of trust and respect.

Nonmonetary Incentives That Young Employees Actually Want

Salary may be top-of-mind during the job negotiation, but studies show this doesn’t carry through. The number one reason people leave a company isn’t compensation, it’s lack of opportunity to learn or develop skills (21 percent). LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report reports that, “94 percent of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.”

So, how can you reward young employees with creative professional development opportunities without breaking the bank? Here are three non-monetary ideas.

  1. Gift a professional development fund. If an annual 3 percent raise is out of the question, set aside a smaller amount of money for professional development. If an employee crushes a project after six months, give them dollars to spend on a class they’ve always wanted to take or send them to a conference where they can learn a new skill or build their network.
  2. Assign a stretch assignment. Assigning a stretch assignment requires you to have faith in your young employee’s capabilities, while also empowering them. But don’t kick them off the ledge without anything to catch them. Be direct and let them know this is a stretch opportunity—you realize it’s going to be a challenge and could lead to a failure, which in turn, lets them know it’s okay. It’s a learning opportunity for you both and a growth moment for them.
  3. Offer a short-term, flexible working arrangement. The younger workforce loves to shake up ‘the traditional way’ of doing things. According to EY, more than 63 percent of the next-gen workforce want flexible working hours. Flexible work can make more of an impact than extra money in their bank account. Now, it can’t just be about working from anywhere—a growth opportunity exists. Ask them to share one thing they learned that will make them a better manager, more productive, or [insert great thing for the company] during this time.

Nonmonetary rewards like professional development opportunities positively impact employee engagement and loyalty. Invest in your employees and they will invest in you.



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