Zubin Zack on engaging & recognising multigenerational workforce

Zubin Zack on engaging & recognising multigenerational workforce
The components of the strategy to attract Gen Z are not different from the components you have for attracting Gen X or Gen Y.

Conversation with Zubin Zack, Managing Director Middle East, Africa, South Asia, O.C. Tanner on engaging & recognising multigenerational workforce

Currently, Zubin serves as Managing Director – Middle East, Africa & South Asia at O.C. Tanner. He strongly believes that employee empowerment and modern leadership help organizations achieve their goals and foster a good workplace culture.

With a career spanning more than two decades, Zubin has worked with more than thousands of clients, including many multinational corporations, from which 30 are among the top 100 Fortune Best Places to Work.

He was O.C. Tanner’s first employee in South Asia, the Middle East & Africa region. His team now is the 2nd largest home to employees outside the US headquarters and continues to provide the highest CAGR for the past five years across international regions.

He is an Engineering Graduate, Associate Financial Planner, Masters in Business Administration, and holds a Diploma in Public Relations and Advertising.

Q- How do you see the emerging key trends in employee recognition especially when it comes to a multigenerational workforce?

  • Digitization, Hyper-Personalization & Inclusivity are standard trends we see across all technologies and we’ve seen that happen in rewards and recognition too.
  • The other trend that we really see is that organizations are now trying to measure the impact that recognition has. So, frameworks have been developed to see to it that there is a fair impact of recognition across the company, whether it has been able to change the engagement levels, bring down attrition, and so on and so forth.
  • The second trend is the concept of using recognition as a leadership tool – it can be used to communicate the objective, the vision, the key achievements or values. So when you recognize you’re actually giving a message saying that this is important to the company.  This allows impact to the receiver, sender and audience of the appreciation event.
  • The third trend is that we’re seeing a lot of companies trying to educate and train the employees to understand that recognition is not something you should do because it’s an HR initiative but you should do it because that’s the best practice. This way you can create a higher impact by uplifting people.
  • Recognition programs are influenced not only by the presence of multiple generations in the workforce but also by the changing dynamics of the business world. So we see a shift in the expectations for recognition programs. However, the core aspect of recognition, which involves expressing appreciation remains the same, whether done through technology or a handwritten note. While there may be some overlap in how different generations perceive recognition, it is not necessarily unique to specific age groups. The introduction of new generations into the multigenerational workforce has contributed to this trend in recognition practices.

Q- How organizations can attract Gen Z, reduce employee turnover, and help employees thrive?

We need to start by understanding the needs of GenZ and aligning them with the organization’s purpose and value proposition. The components of the strategy to attract Gen Z are not different from the components you have for attracting Gen X or Gen Y.

However, the messaging medium used to communicate these components will decide the effectiveness with which it is received depending on the generation targeted. We hear about employees wanting flexibility, agility, personal growth, and opportunities to learn. So is your company offering that? If so we need to talk about it. We may need to talk about the purpose, the social cause we support or about our care for the environment.

This is of course over and above your competitive compensation benefits and experiences they have while doing their day-to-day job. Maybe those are the things which attract today’s Gen Z. They expect leaders to have modern leadership practices and not traditional practices where they lead by example, uplift people and do participative decision-making.

Considering all of this we then kind of build a plan to get this messaging out there using a different medium of communication to Gen Z versus other generations in the company. To reduce attrition and sustain high levels of employee morale it is important that leaders walk the talk and lead by example.

On an ongoing basis, we should seek enough feedback to make manoeuvres and changes along the way and this should be the best way. This should help you attract GenZ and control attrition while helping your employees thrive at work.

Q- How do you see the accelerated evolution of Digitization of Recognition over the last few years?

There are four components to recognition –

  • One is the technology itself, which aligns the framework of your organization, the awards, the rewards, the type of awards, who recognizes, nominates, approves, budgeting, etc.
  • The second aspect of it is the catalog, through which the selection of rewards and awards is done, from physical items to digital vouchers and e-wallets.
  • Third is education and communication, this component focuses on educating employees on the program’s benefits, how to use it, and how to integrate recognition into the company culture.
  • And the last component is designing the framework which involves collecting feedback and designing of recognition program that fits the organization’s needs.

We have seen digitization with all four components –

  • Starting off with technology, the use of technology in, the early 2000s when it started with the Internet, and then further accelerated by incorporating analytics, nudges, and artificial intelligence the same has accelerated recognition programs’ development, just as it has with other technologies.
  • Then we’ve seen acceleration on the catalog side, where right, from physical award certificates to trophies, we moved to merchandise and now to e-wallets and vouchers.
  • The third is, of course, communication and education. We have seen it going digital, with the use of messaging and communication tools, nudges, and education on using the recognition program and integrating recognition into everyday business operations.
  • The fourth last aspect of it which is yet not digitized to a large extent, is designing the framework. This is because it requires face-to-face interaction. The medium of collecting information, and disseminating information are digitized, but not the actual discussion, brainstorming strategizing of it, which requires leadership involvement and a way to measure it.

Q-How do you see changing recognition needs of employees of different generations at the workplace?

The essence of recognition does not change across generations. That the need of feeling appreciated, feeling valued, feeling a sense of belonging, all of those don’t change across generations.

The need for appreciation is a basic human need and therefore what changes is the way it can get communicated, or what and how it should be said.

Q-Any concluding remarks?

Recognition is the most underleveraged leadership tool, and the impact and the returns that recognition can deliver, not only to run a business but to make the business profitable, to sustain the business, sustain employee experiences, sustain employee excitement, enthusiasm, all of these.

It gives the best ROI (Return on Investment) because it’s cost-effective, and at the same time, its impact on various components like success, well-being, purpose, leadership, and opportunity is multi-fold.

Thank you, Zubin!


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