Rewarding and recognising graduates and apprentices within the workforce

There are 3.7 million young people in work in the UK and last year 196,450 graduates entered employment.

More than a fifth of businesses (21 per cent) have hired apprentices and the government plans to boost the number of apprenticeships in England to three million. 

These figures represents a significant driver for HR professionals to not only support this entry-level workforce, but also to recognise and retain these workers.

More Features

Is pregnancy discrimination putting women off having children?

Why are businesses failing at change management? 

Does the UK need a complete cultural change to combat workplace inequality?

Generation Z (those born after 1996) are less motivated by money than previous generations. They are looking for work-life balance, education and development, as well as meaningful work that is recognised.

As a group they want instant gratification and respond well to constant feedback on their work. These digital natives expect communication support tools that are as good as the social networking platforms they live on – and they expect to have instant communication with top level people. Gone is the expectation of working their way up an old school hierarchy.

Automatic loyalty to employers is a thing of the past. A massive 91 per cent of Generation Z expect to stay in a job for fewer than three years, according to the Future Workplace ‘Multiple Generations @ Work’ survey. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives.

Employers need to offer flexible working and a chance for new graduates and apprentices to develop their career into areas that excite them – 68 per cent of recent graduates responding to an Adecco survey identified the opportunity for growth and development as one of their top professional priorities.

An effective onboarding programme has a big impact on staff retention within a transient generation. Recent research from the Wynhurst Group shows that new employees are 58 per cent more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they experience a structured programme when joining an organisation.

Graduates and apprentices value choice

While new graduates who tend to be office-based and apprentices, a little younger and have more practical roles hail from the same Millennial generation, there may be a need to approach the reward and recognition of the two groups differently. Experience has shown that graduates and apprentices both value choice in any rewards they are offered. Gift cards and pre-pay cards are welcome, as well as experience days that will build memories and enable Generation Z to share the experience with their social networks.

Tailoring the delivery mechanism of rewards to each group is crucial. Office-based workers will respond well to an online bespoke portal that delivers recognition. In comparison, employees who are out and about might value a mobile-app linking to the rewards portal, paper vouchers and certificates or even just an old-fashioned face-to-face ‘thank you.’

Many HR specialists are still of the opinion that recognition falls to the line manager, but line managers need a structured means of issuing regular ‘thankyous’ and other recognition vital to show Generation Z that the work they are doing is having a genuine impact on the company.

These employees crave a sense of purpose and so feedback should not be an annual thing – organisations could have lost a Millennial if they wait a year to show their appreciation. HR professionals must also provide the tools to encourage peers to recognise each other – younger employees place greater value on peer recognition than they do to line manager recognition.

As HR puts in place a formal recognition programme it will be possible to measure its effectiveness. There are plenty of analytical tools on the market that will help HR be proactive in measuring the number of rewards and recognition issued, segmented by generation, by team or by job title.

There are a number of top tips for rewarding and recognising graduates and apprentices within the workforce:

  1. Start by getting the on-boarding process right. In the first few months make sure new employees understand the business and how they can make an impact. The reward and recognition scheme could incorporate recognition for completing induction training and further education.
  2. Segment your staff turnover measurement by different generations, to provide a baseline against which to see improvement.
  3. Communicate benefits for new graduates and apprentices clearly as this contributes to the rewards and recognition package. For immediate impact focus on the flexible working offer, discount schemes and vouchers rather than pensions and share schemes.
  4. Manage expectations. Graduates may expect a higher salary or faster career progression than is possible. Mitigate this with meaningful recognition and the ability to shape their career path.
  5. Don’t underestimate face-to-face communications. All generations appreciate personal recognition.

There is a misconception that Generation Z are not motivated, whereas in fact they simply have a higher expectation that work will fit around their lives. They don’t live to work, but a ‘work hard, play hard culture’ will suit them if suitable rewards and recognition for the job are in place.

If you are able to offer flexible working, regular positive feedback and rewards that engender a sense of self-worth you will succeed in engaging and retaining these workers.



National Statistics Office, “UK Labour Market, January 2015” –

Higher Education Statistics Agency –

Nurturing Talent: building the workforce of the future’. learndirect and Cranfield School of Management –

Job Hopping Is the ‘New Normal’ for Millennials –

Adecco Graduation Survey 2012 –

Tips for keeping your new employees –



Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *