The power of praise – for every generation

Recently, a Sydney Morning Herald article spoke about Gen Z’s need for praise at work three times a week. Predictably, the article brought a lot of people out of the woodwork to scoff at the youngest working generation’s ‘demands’ and to stir up all kinds of stereotypes. Whether this claim of tri-weekly praise is true or not, it does raise some important questions surrounding recognition and cohesive cross-generational teams

Does praise at work really matter? 

Regardless of the generation you belong to, we’re all human beings and we all like to receive recognition. We want to know that the work we do matters, that we’re doing a good job and that other people value our contributions. 

According to recent Gallup research, 40% of employees are only receiving recognition a few times a year and when recognition is as low as this, employees are 5x more likely to be actively disengaged in their work, 74% more likely to plan leaving the organisation within a year and 27% more likely to be struggling at work. 

Recognition matters and has a direct correlation to the engagement of your team, employee retention, productivity and the creation of high-performing teams. If you want your organisation to succeed, you must take recognition seriously

The reality for the different generations at work 

It’s no secret that today’s teams are made up of a wide range of age groups. ‘Baby Boomers’ are still in the workforce, Millennials are no longer the new kid on the block as they move into management positions and Gen Z are here, paving the way for the next generation to come along. 

Each generation has its own idea of how much recognition is needed at work, but we grow into our careers with the help of those before us and expectations are moulded early on in our professional careers. 

To play into stereotypes for just a moment, Baby Boomers were largely mentored in their careers by a generation who expected very little and had a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality. Each generation has grown in their understanding of the importance of recognition and praise at work, demanding more of it as time goes by. Gen Z have learnt from the generations who came before them and are now refusing to experience the same levels of burnout and frustration – they’re doing it by setting their expectations high. 

It may be easy to laugh at Gen Z’s need for praise, but just because older generations haven’t vocalised this need for recognition, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there all along. What we’re accustomed to doesn’t necessarily equal what we are satisfied by. 

Leaders need to take recognition seriously

If leaders take retention, engagement and productivity seriously they should also be taking recognition seriously. Only 10% of employees report being asked about their preferences for how and how often they get recognised. This is a huge failing of leadership. 

Each generation has different needs for recognition, but so does each person within each generation. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. Taking the time to learn about your team, know what’s important to them and how they prefer to be recognised, is essential. 

Recognition doesn’t stop at the management level, either. Recognition also has value when it comes from peers, so leaders must be deliberate in their creation of a culture that values recognition. 

Want to know how you can effectively recognise your team? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.