IRF’s new study, Generational Expectations of Incentives, explores the differences—and similarities—among three distinct age groups.
What kind of incentives motivate an increasingly younger workforce, raised on digital and often working in remote or hybrid environments? Interestingly, according to the results of The Incentive Research Foundation’s (IRF) newly released study, Generational Expectations of Incentives, different age groups have more in common than we might think when it comes to motivation. The biggest takeaway: travel holds steady as a motivator across all age groups and income levels.
The IRF study surveyed 939 North American workers representing a variety of industries and over 25 occupational categories such as administrative, professional and blue collar. It examined what motivates employees in three age groups: early career 18-30 year olds, mid-career 31-50 year olds, and 51+ year olds. Ninety one percent of respondents had received at least one cash or non-cash tangible reward at work in their career, including cash bonuses, gift cards, merchandise, travel and time off.
• When asked what form of a reward worth $500 they would most prefer, respondents of all age groups and income levels chose gift cards and cash.
• Gift cards for fun, enjoyable purchases and gift cards for everyday utilitarian purchases were among the top reward preferences. Combined, they were more preferred than cash by respondents in all career stages.
• When cash and gift cards were removed as reward options, travel rewards were the most preferred incentives, even above time off and flexible work. This was true across all age groups and income levels.
• Younger respondents in the 18-30 age group and those with higher incomes were the most likely to prefer group reward travel.
• Those who have experienced incentive group travel in the past were significantly more likely to prefer it as a reward choice.
• Late-stage career workers (51+) expressed a much stronger preference for drivable domestic reward travel locations over those requiring flights.
• Younger workers were significantly more drawn to merchandise, such as electronics, and to experiences, such as concerts, than mid-career and late-career workers.
• Across all age groups, more than 90 percent of workers preferred a $500 bonus over giving $750 to a charity in their name. They also preferred a day off with pay over a day off with pay to volunteer in the community with their team members.