What Workers Want in 2012!


Employee engagement is a pretty hot topic these days among HR professionals.  It should be.   More and more young people (Gen Y workers) are aware of how some of the more innovative companies like Google, Zappos, Netflix, IDEO and others treat their employees, not only with perks, but more flexibility, more empowerment, more trust, and more of a chance to have an impact on something big.

Even if the job seekers you are recruiting to your business know your company isn’t Google, when the gap between your organizational environment and the ones millennials idolize becomes too large, you are at a disadvantage when seeking to attract the best possible talent.

More and more companies are starting to realize this.  Studies have tied employee engagement to both satisfaction and productivity and companies realize that keeping employees satisfied is a key to high performance.  Employers eagerly pursue making one of the coveted “100 best places to work” lists, and today, more than 25 percent of Fortune 200 companies have dedicated budget to maintain their rank on such lists.  (See other related references below).

If you aren’t already working on this, you may be falling farther behind.

I came across this report from an organization called netimpact, called What Workers Want in 2012.    The study reveals a number of important factors that Boomers (or even many Gen X-ers) may not be too aware of or focused on.   What is interesting about this study is that they interviewed two groups – people who were already employed, and students just leaving college entering the workforce.   When you see significant differences between these two groups, then one might conclude there is a generational shift about to occur.   As employers shouldn’t we be designing our organizations around these emerging workers?  In just the blink of an eye, they will be swelling our employee ranks – and also becoming our customers.

Anyway, here are some interesting points you may not have on your radar screen:

  •  People Want Their Job to Make a Difference Many people are saying now that having a job that makes an impact on the world is an important life goal. In fact, graduating students say it is more important than having children, a prestigious career, wealth, or a leadership position — ranking only below financial security and marriage!

Interestingly, in spite of the current weak economy, students remain somewhat idealistic and optimistic.  When asked the question “Do you believe you will be able to make a difference through your job? 38 percent said emphatically YES within 5 years, and another 28 percent said YES in 6 years or longer.  (Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t disappoint them?)

It might be time to look at your company brand and mission statement.  Do they evoke a call to action around some noble purpose?   Wal-mart’s mission talks about “helping people save money – SO THEY CAN LIVE BETTER LIVES.”   Disney calls upon its people to “Design and deliver the Disney experience CREATING HAPPINESS FOR FAMILIES EVERYWHERE,” and Pharma company AMGEN says they are in the business of “CURING CANCER.”   How does yours stack-up?

And What’s More . . .

  •  Money is far less important for this emerging group of workers.   When asked the question “All other things being equal, I would take a 15% pay cut . . .”   45% said they would…for a job that makes a social or environmental impact; and 58% said they would…to work for an organization with values like my own.   It is interesting to reflect on how we might help prospective employees understand our own company values, and it may make a big impact if they felt you were asking them during interviews about THEIR values.   (If this were done with sincerity, it just might give you an advantage. . .)
  • There is a gender difference in how people see the importance of having job with high impact.  Women consistently express a stronger desire for jobs with impact than men:  Sixty percent of employed women say that working for a company that prioritizes social and environmental responsibility is very important to them, compared to 38 percent of men.  Thirty percent of working women say they would take a pay cut for a job that makes an impact, compared to 19 percent of men. Female students are more likely to want a job with a company that prioritizes corporate responsibility than male students (60 percent and 40 percent, respectively).

There are clearly other factors that define millennials, and the kind of workplace they seek to have.  (See The Millennials Speak Up, and  The Millennials are Coming.)  But, today’s discussion about connecting work to life purpose is an interesting one worth careful consideration.

So where do you start?  Well, one suggestion is that you KNOW your company values (not just the ones on the website, but the ones your people feel really characterize how we behave at work).   Think about how to communicate, celebrate and reinforce them.   Incorporate this into your interview process.   Next, think about how to re-frame your corporate mission (sense of purpose) in a way that more positively makes a connection between what you do and why it matters.   How do you communicate this and connect people’s day jobs to it?

Here is an example of a short video clip that tries to do this for employees of Google.

Other Related References

Towers Watson, “The Power of Three: Taking Engagement to New Heights.”

John Sullivan, “Assess Your Employment Brand Using an Audit Checklist.”

Corporate Leadership Council, “Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee Engagement.”

KPMG International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2011.

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1 Comment

Filed under Leading, Personal Leadership

One response to “What Workers Want in 2012!

  1. Pingback: Building Your 21st Century Workplace | lenbrzozowski

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