Maritz Inc., Fenton, Mo., has a new study out that analyzes employees based on the way they like to be recognized. After talking to 1,003 adults employed full time, researches arrived at six categories—Freedom Yearners, Nesters, Award Seekers, Bottom Liners, Praise Cravers, and Upward Movers—to define employees with specific traits in the hopes of helping companies better motivate their winners.

"We decided to do this study because of the changing demographics of the workplace," says Rodger Stotz, vice president, managing consultant for Maritz Inc. "There are mature winners who enjoy the traditional trip, and younger winners who might want to go for the more adventurous, like mountain climbing or biking. Then there's the fact that the winners, or earners, are not all men anymore. We didn't want to be surprised by the impact these changes will have on awards.

"Generally, companies that have been doing incentive trips for years keep to the same formula, which is a mistake, Stotz says. "It's important to do the due diligence before planning a trip to understand the population you're trying to motivate--and not assume what they want. It's all about learning what they yearn for."

Here’s a rundown of the categories from the Maritz study:

  • Freedom Yearners make up 17 percent of the general population, according the study. They're less materially motivated than other employee types and are best rewarded with flexibility in their hours, work projects, and conferences. They would probably not enjoy a trip where every minute is scheduled.
  • A significant group, the Nesters (20 percent of the workforce), don't like to be too far away from their spouses and children. Work/life balance is especially important. Travel rewards are least appealing to Nesters, but if they are going to travel, Stotz says they would prefer a regional trip or a trip to Disney with the family. Being rewarded with flexible schedules and dinners out with their families appeals to this group.
  • Award Seekers (22 percent) want rewards with both a monetary and a trophy value. They tend to be younger than other segments and like to travel.
  • For the 19 percent of respondents characterized as Bottom Liners it’s all about the monetary value of the reward. They care far less than other groups about praise from their employers or the trophy value of a reward. They want cash bonuses or cumulative award points that they can save up to obtain rewards.
  • Another segment of employees seek recognition for their work from managers and peers above all other rewards. Praise Cravers, as the study dubs them, make up 16 percent of the study respondents.
  • The smallest category, Upward Movers (8 percent) are the least interested in cash rewards or job flexibility. They would be best motivated by status rewards, dining with company executives, or mentoring other employees.
—Jennifer Juergens