I recently read that only 47% of 18-34 year olds “really care about the fate” of the enterprise for which they work – compared with 64% of those 55 and older. Although statistics like these make it easy to criticize the M generation, bear in mind that more than one-third of workers 55 and older feel the same way. So what are employees most concerned about? I won’t take you through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. However, I encourage you to read the White Paper I wrote on it on HR That Works. Maslow talks in terms of survival, security, belonging, ego, and self-actualization needs. When it comes down to it, this is what most employees care about:
- A fair day’s pay. 99% of the population goes to work because they have to earn money. Depending on the employee’s needs and environment, pay can either be a major or minor motivating factor.
- An opportunity to grow at the company. Growth means job security, as well as more pay. Do your employees have a roadmap for this growth? How are you managing a situation in which there are few growth opportunities? Remember, people might know their present circumstances, but be uncertain their future. Don’t leave them guessing.
- A positive work experience. Work is innate to our souls. It’s a great source of meaning to us. Ultimately, people want to enjoy the work experience. As Joseph Campbell so famously stated, “Work can be a life-draining affair.” I hope this isn’t the case at your company, especially if you tend to retain your best people.
- A good relationship with their boss. This is perhaps the most critical part of the work experience. Do your managers empower employees or try to control them? Do they have a good bedside manner and do they encourage employees to take on new tasks and to grow in their jobs? Many a good company has lost many a good employee due to mediocre or poor managers.
Ultimately, employers must acknowledge that today’s loyalty is not to a company, but to project, career, and work relationships. Although addressing those needs might not produce the most loyal employees, it can certainly produce highly productive ones.
Remember, today’s best and brightest employees don’t have to work for you – or anyone else. What type of career and financial opportunities can you offer that they can’t get on their own or with someone else? As Daniel Pink notes, “This is a free-agent nation.” Businesses that recognize this reality will be the ones that succeed.