Why South African millennials need recognition at work

Millennials are often mislabeled as ‘lazy’ or ‘entitled’ when the reality is, they see that the world is changing.
Why South African millennials need recognition at work
Khalipha Ntloko

It’s an interesting time to be a fresh graduate and young working professional in South Africa. By the time 2020 arrives, it’s estimated that almost half of the South African workforce will consist of millennials. As exciting as that may seem, the other side of this coin is that, according to a survey on Jobvite, 32% of new employees don’t like the company culture and 30% leave before their first 90 days of work.

Sadly, millennials are often mislabeled as ‘lazy’ or ‘entitled’ when the reality is, they see that the world is changing (especially now that the 4th Industrial Revolution has arrived in South Africa) and that these changes are not merely disruptions but expectations that they need to be a part of. With that said, South African millennials are beginning to understand that a paycheque on the 25th of every month isn’t the only constant to consider — it’s also about being valued and recognised for their contribution at work.


I’m sure we’ve all been asked that all important question during a job interview: “Why do you want to work for us?” There are different ways to give your answer but the importance of asking this question is to understand how millennials see their purpose within a company and whether they see a genuine connection between themselves and who they hope to work for.

I remember being asked, “Where do you see yourself working — big corporates or smaller start-ups?” My answer was the latter because I’d be better seen and heard with the work I do, a feeling that only 14% of millennial employees resonate with. The desire to be recognised for the work that we do is not a sentiment only shared among millennials — we all want to be acknowledged, but it carries much more importance for millennials in particular.

Contrary to popular belief, millennials are hard workers and once we understand and take hold of our purpose within companies, taking pride in what we do and delivering consistent & quality output is almost always the path that millennials will take.


Millennials did not invent loyalty, but this is a concept that South African millennials are paying more attention to. As a consumer, you have your reasons for staying loyal to certain brands like Nike, BMW or McDonald's. As a millennial employee, however, those reasons may not be the same.

Whilst salary is a huge factor in how loyal a millennial employee will be (because student loans and adult living expenses need to be covered), recognition has been found to be another key component in whether or not a millennial employee will stay within a company or move onto something else.

Like I said, millennials work hard and we want to know that our work is being seen by our managers. Our loyalty lies not in the fact that we signed an employee contract, but that you actually recognise the contribution and value we bring to your company. The grass may be greener on the other side but millennials are willing to help with your grass, too — if you will recognise and appreciate their garden work.


Millennials have grown up in an age where gratification happens instantly — a Like, Retweet or New Subscriber notification is all recognition and feedback that can happen just moments after posting online. But what about getting that same instant feedback at work?

“The annual and biannual performance appraisal is long dead.” —Deborah Hartung, Leadership and Culture Consultant & Hi5 Partner

The new digital age requires recognition and feedback to happen just as quickly as the click of a Like button. In our 2019 State of Happiness Whitepaper, we found that 70% of employees and managers give recognition at least once a month, whilst 24% of employees and managers only do so a few times a year.

Increasing real-time recognition and feedback is important to South African millennials, as this creates a better work culture. Daily quick ‘huddles’ in the morning, company meetings, emails, or technological tools like Hi5 fuel millennials to feel motivated, valued and appreciated.


  1. Listen and learn from what millennials bring to your company.
  2. Create moments to not only ‘Like’ their efforts, but to also guide them in their career development.
  3. Cultivate a company culture that they can stay loyal to, and appreciate their place and purpose in your organisation.

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Want to learn how you can give recognition to your millennial employees? Click here to see how you can do just that in 70 seconds!