What Your Employees Look For In Their Work

May 20, 2016 | Roger and Susie Engelau

An experience common to most small business owners and most companies of any size is knowing how to keep employees engaged, happy, and on-board.[p]

You could chalk it up to the old generation gap, as business leaders have for decades. But I think it’s more about simply understanding what people want out of their work, no matter their generation.[p]

When it comes to work, both Boomers and Millennials want similar, core things that cross generational lines.
We reviewed several articles on the subject and uncovered the most important things that people want from their work. Here are six takeaways and datapoints to back them up.[p]

1. Challenging, engaging, and meaningful work.

In other words, work that makes a difference in other’s lives. We found that people want a job that gives them opportunities to influence. One note about Millennials: most all of our resources point to the fact that Millennials want to have leadership roles, and in fact, expect to be leaders.[p]

2. Discretion and control over what we do.

This means input into when, where, and how the work is done. For example, think about work hours and schedules, working at home or remotely, and input into work process and ideas for process improvement.[p]

3. Managers and colleagues who respect us and appreciate our contributions.

This one is about encouraging and listening to the contributions of employees. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged. (source)[p]

4. Growth and development.

90% of respondents in a 2015 SHRM study said that their company’s commitment to professional development was important to their job satisfaction. Only 54% of those respondents said that their company’s commitment to professional development was satisfactory. In this article from the Harvard Business Review, Millennials’ top two fears were “getting stuck with no career development opportunities” and “not being able to realize their career goals.”[p]

5. Work-life balance.

We looked up the definition of work-life balance, and what we found is that everyone has a different definition. No two people will define it the same way – even when they’re alike on other elements such as gender, position, or generation.[p]

The lesson here is this: the successful business owner will instruct leaders to find out what work-life balance means to each person on their team, and strive to help them achieve it. It could be lots of flexibility for kids’ doctor appointments and extra-curricular activities, the chance to work at home on some days, or extra vacation to pursue leisure or hobbies.[p]

6. Ability to renew and recharge regularly.

This article from the New York Times cites a study that showed that employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day.[p]

The study also reports a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.[p]

As you consider the culture at your company, you might list the ways it does and doesn’t support this type of work environment. You might also involve some key employees and engage a team to do this. The resulting list could give you an actionable roadmap of things to start, stop, or continue.