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Appreciation through the eyes of a Gen Z

Updated: Apr 17

When chatting to my 21-year old son the other day, I asked him how his first proper job was going. Expecting the usual one-word response, he surprised me by telling me all about how his company had given him two appreciation awards, and how much it had meant to him. 

Since many of us are trying our best to understand and support our Gen Z employees, I thought I’d share this conversation with you. It includes his answers to my questions, as well as my thoughts. I hope you find both perspectives helpful.

What recognition awards did you receive?

Him: I received two different awards. The first was for the work we did on completing a project, and the second was for work we did organizing and conducting a PR-related task.

Me: I like that his company recognized different types of work (one was for a project and one was for a task), showing that both are valued. I also liked that they recognized different time frames (one was long-term work and another short-term work), as it shows appreciation for all moments that matter, big and small.

“Recognition should not be one dimensional. It needs to have multiple dimensions to reflect the way your people work, contribute and deserve to be appreciated.”

How did it make you feel when you received these awards?

Him: It made me very happy and very proud of our work and accomplishments. I used the award voucher to buy new clothes, which also made me happy.

Me: I like that his company gave him a voucher as I’m a big believer in recognition awards that provide choice to employees, letting them decide what is right for them. And as a mother, I loved that these awards made him both happy and proud, fantastic!

Some might say that these awards were given for doing your ‘day job,’ what do you think about this?

Him:  I believe that we deserved these awards as we exceeded expectations for the work that we were asked to do. For the first award, the project, we got it done early, which was great for our company and customers. And for the second award, the PR work, it went so much better than it was expected to go, which again was good for our company.

Me: I asked this question as it’s something I’m asked quite often when doing talks on recognition, so I thought it would be interesting to get his perspective on it. I was pleased that he saw the difference between completing his work and doing something that is above and beyond, and thus deserves a recognition award. It’s important that this distinction is understood when programs are designed and awards are given.

By receiving these awards, will it make you expect to be recognized all the time?

Him: No, I wouldn’t expect to receive awards all the time. In fact, I didn’t expect to receive either of these awards. 

Me: I asked this question to make the point that giving recognition doesn’t necessarily set expectations, something that I know many businesses fear. He was surprised and delighted receiving both awards, and as he response shows, it didn’t cause him to think that he’d be recognized each and every time he completed work.

Why is appreciation important for Gen Z’s?

Him: It teaches my generation the meaning and importance of appreciation, something we don’t really know much about as we’re new to the workplace. It also shows us what our company values and thinks is important, and what we should work and focus on.

Me: He made a really good point in that this generation is still learning - learning what their company values and how their company feels about and treats them. Recognition is a great tool to teach them these important lessons, and by making appreciation an integral part of your culture it can not only show these young workers what good and great look like, but that you see and value their contributions. And since they will be our future leaders, it creates leaders who will make appreciation a part of how they lead and support their people. 


Please contact me if you'd like to discuss how you can create innovative and effective recognition programs at your company.


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