The First Word: How to appreciate increasingly diverse workforces

THE FIRST WORD: Shane Mun, founder and CEO of Vimigo, discusses ways to make a diverse team of employees feel appreciated.


Workplace motivation has traditionally thrived on a conducive environment, personal progress, and the all-important rewards system of incentives and bonuses. However, this one-size-fits-all approach lacks nuance, because it assumes that all employees feel equally rewarded by the same form of rewards.

Over the course of the past decade, the workforce has seen fundamental changes in its composition. The increase in gender diversity and amended requirements for employees are merely the tip of the iceberg. As employers, there is a need to cater to a multi-generational workforce that is conjuring increasingly diverse needs and wants.

With that, our current reward systems no longer meet the standards and requirements of employees today, and an overhaul is sorely needed.

Existing problems with current reward systems

One of the most common issues with current reward systems is the delay in delivery — such as when a successful campaign is only rewarded at an end-of-year appraisal. This is deeply out of touch with our current generation of employees, who (due to the smartphone era) now seek instant gratification. Current systems do not cater to this shift in employee expectations. In trying to streamline their finances, employers end up leaving their most deserving employees waiting to be appreciated for their good work.

This delay in disbursing reward creates a disconnect, which is further exacerbated with ‘templated’ rewards like monetary compensation or additional time off. While receiving chunks of cash can be a delightful experience for many, it doesn’t truly feel any different from the regular compensation, be it a salary or commission. Sometimes, it may not even be the biggest motivating factor for employees!

Although tried and tested over decades of work, these perks are part of a blanket system that clearly has yet to be optimised to fit with evolving times. The growing diversity in the workforce — in terms of age, gender, socioeconomic status, and even health and disabilities — means that employers need to look beyond the employee as a contributing worker, to the employee as an individual person with varying needs.

For instance, while higher medical benefits might be more beneficial to more aged staff, younger career people might prefer a rental subsidy to kickstart their lives in the city. Parents may choose to opt for more paid days off to be with their children, in contrast to lifestyle-centric benefits that could entice Gen Z employees.

These examples tell a very real story: in our increasingly diverse world of work, personalised rewards are more likely to help employees feel more fulfilled.

Developing Effective Reward Systems

In a way, to navigate the workforce with more nuance, companies need to view themselves as a friend to each and every employee. An effective reward system gives employees the freedom to select the benefit that best suits their needs, preferences, and current phase of life — just like choosing a gift for a dear friend.

Beyond the option to choose rewards, we can also look into providing greater variety in terms of the benefits offered. More creative rewards options like gift cards or discount codes for lifestyle upgrades allow employees to indulge outside of their immediate work and personal needs as well. This can go a long way towards increasing satisfaction and morale levels, as well as retention rates for any workplace!

While not exactly rocket science, coming up with rewards programmes that do not compromise either employer or employee is an endeavour that requires careful planning and thought, lest we run the risk of alienating either party.

Transparency is absolutely key when implementing a revamped rewards system. Tools that allow both employer and employee to keep the lines of communication open in terms of choice of rewards and how rewards will be distributed will help all parties manage expectations, fostering a greater sense of trust between all parties.

Furthermore, increased oversight and touchpoints will help enhance the appraisal process. Through regular check-ins, managers will have the chance to more accurately appraise employees and reward them appropriately, which will then lead to higher productivity from all parties.

In our experience supporting workforces across Malaysia, the modern employee is spurred on by much more than monetary compensation. They value the balance between their personal and professional happiness. So, moving forward, employers should look into creating sustainable practices that can assure employees that they are seen as people first with other needs and interests. A varied, customisable reward system is a significant step in that direction.

About the Author

An entrepreneur since he was 16 years old, Shane Mun has worked in and with SMEs from the get-go.  He graduated from the Asia-Pacific University of Technology and Innovation, and gained a scholarship to study at Northumbria University, in the UK. He founded Vimigo, a HR platform for SMEs that centres on performance tracking and rewards, in 2018. Prior to that, he developed his family’s business into Big Bath, one of Malaysia’s leading bathroom and kitchen supply retailers.

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Chief of Staff Asia