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General Session

Through Recognition, Rewards Employers Address Workforce Issues

Participants at the opening general session of what WorldatWork President Anne Ruddy called the largest gathering this year of professionals in total rewards were told that this week the organization is celebrating Total Rewards Professionals Week.

Participants also were offered insight by featured speakers on how to address issues in the multigenerational workplace.

The special week was designated by WorldatWork to honor those who oversee an employer’s “biggest organizational expense,” that also is “the most difficult to manage,” Ruddy said. About $6.8 trillion is spent in the United States on wages and salary, she said, adding that more than $6 trillion is spent overseas on health care.

More than 900 professionals with various WorldatWork certifications are attending the conference, Ruddy said.

Context Is King

For talent management, outstanding performers not only know the subject matter but also can explain solutions, translating the language of rewards into the language of business, said David Smith, a member of the organization’s board of directors who joined Ruddy during the session. Such individuals understand that context is king, Smith said.

Context also is important when certain reward programs do not provide the intended result, said Nathalie Parent, who serves on the WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals board. Parent related that a colleague in Swaziland began using cows as a reward when other more seemingly straightforward rewards were not having the desired impact, and the program is a success.

Resolving Generational Ambiguities

In many workplaces today, representatives of four generations show up to work, wanting to be contributors and waiting to be rewarded, said speaker Lynne Lancaster of Bridgeworks in Minneapolis. Lancaster, along with colleague Seth Mattison, reviewed what they know of how and why these four sets of workers, separated by age, approach work differently and expect different rewards.

The four basic generational groups in the United States are about 75 million traditionalists, who were born before 1946; 80 million baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964; about 60 million in Generation X, born from 1965 to 1981; and the 82 million Millennials, born from 1982 to 2000. The workforce is starting to see the effects of the Millennial generation, Mattison said. The Millennial Generation also is known as Generation Y.

In common among all the generations is the need to stay engaged at work, do something that has meaning, and to be rewarded for doing well, Lancaster said.

The uncommon attributes, excluding age, are not necessarily negative, Lancaster said. Understanding the differences and how they permeate the work life habits and drives helps organizations deliver more appropriate rewards and incentives, Mattison said.

Traditionalists have a strong sense of loyalty to institutions and collective action and results, while baby boomers are retaining their youthful idealism and continue to strive to make an impact, Mattison said.

Those in Generation X witnessed institutions such as marriage breaking down, and tend to be more independent, entrepreneurial, and skeptical of the future, Lancaster said.

Finally, the Millennials have been influenced by tremendous changes in technology and big events have defined their life experiences, Mattison said.

Traditionalists can have a lot to offer employers, and the younger workers, but they struggle with staying relevant, Mattison said. Employers can mine the wisdom of these experienced workers through mentor programs, Lancaster said. Baby boomers are becoming exhausted from trying to keep up with all the changes in the workplace, and most appear to want more time as a reward, Lancaster said.

The Generation X group wants quality time and quantity time, Mattison said, while Millennials are searching for more meaning in their work. The ability to have some fun at work appears to be a growing theme, not just among Millennials, but for all, Lancaster said.

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