What Employees Want

millennials employees leadership leadersThere was an interesting section in the Wall Street Journal this weekend about the Top Employers in the US. The section was paid advertising, so I don’t give the rankings much credence as it’s one of those pay to play “awards.” However, there was a good section about Millennials and what they want from an employer. As leaders of companies who will be employing them, we might want to take note.

The article entitled, “Work/Life Balance” by Katherine Lynn discusses the “spoiled, lack of focus, entitled” beliefs we seem to have about this group. In fact, what she found according to a research project is that they really want five things:

  • To have work/life balance
  • To be secure/stable in my job
  • To be dedicated to a cause
  • To be competitively or intellectually challenged
  • To be entrepreneurial or creative/innovative

Now I have to say that when I read this list my first thought was, “well who doesn’t?” We all want these things. The problem is they don’t always come together in a nice neat package. Entrepreneurs can’t, and don’t, always offer stability or work/life balance. All jobs cannot be intellectually stimulating or the toilets would never be cleaned. Most companies have causes, they just might not always line up with what an individual’s beliefs are.

As a leader, what can you offer this generation? It’s really what you should be offering all employees. First, you can be clear about what working for your company means – what the responsibilities are, the growth opportunities, what you stand for, (the “why” of your company), and how much independence they will have or not in any given role. As much as many would like to go back to the old days of employment for life today is more about fit and performance vs. guarantees of lifetime employment. So it is what is. Let’s embrace it, realize it and be clear that you will not have employees forever. They will come, learn some things, hopefully move you and your company along in their mission while with you and then they will leave to the next opportunity.

We need to look at this through a new lens. Instead of viewing this as disloyal or costly, look at it as an opportunity to continually be upgrading your talent. Provide an excellent experience for them while they are with you that is mutually beneficial and when the end comes, because it will, part with grace. Wish them well and thank them for their contribution.

Lastly, you can provide all of the “desires” listed above to the right individual. This is the person whose value set is a match for your company. In addition, they come with the skills and experience that make it worth your while to invest in them. A good employee fit is ALWAYS mutual, so don’t forget to ask what’s important to them and share what’s important to you and your company. Expectations clearly defined at the start lead to a much longer and more profitable tenure for both parties.