This article Why You Hate Work by Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project came out last week and I feel compelled to write about this because it is such a powerful, yet simple, piece with insights and suggestions based on data and research.
For anyone who has responsibility for managing or leading others, this is a critical read, especially while asking, “What kind of environment do I and our company create for our employees?”
Here is what I found to be one of the most striking parts of the article. From a 2013 survey done by The Energy Project and Harvard Business Review, 70% of employees cited that they do not have regular time for creative or strategic thinking. 70% makes for a lot of employees who can only operate on the tactical level, perhaps like the proverbial hamster in the wheel. On one hand, this figure did not surprise me because I have certainly experienced this myself and often seen it in others. But the impact of this intrigues me. What are we missing if so few of our employees have this time? If more employees had more creative or strategic time, what problems might they solve? What new ideas might they generate? How might we outperform our competition?
Mr. Schwarz’s presentation of the 4 needs of employees is a powerful, accessible means to looking at what we provide to them.
Renewal – Taking breaks and keeping to 40 hours or so. What do you do that supports this or that works against it?
Value – Feeling like one’s supervisor cares. How well do your managers convey this?
Focus – One can focus on one thing at a time. Per Mr. Schwarz, those who reported that they could focus were 50% more engaged with work. As with Renewal, what do you do that supports this or works against it? Does your company culture demand otherwise right now? Is that necessary?
Purpose – “Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey.” Much of this goes back simply to understand how one’s efforts impact others and company performance. Could all of your employees explain their purpose? Their contribution?
I’m preparing for a discussion with women business presidents about Millennials, and I find it striking that the 4 needs offered by Mr. Schwarz are what are commonly cited as what Millennials seek. Perhaps they’re not so different from the rest of us, but rather a bit more outspoken about what they need (and open to finding it elsewhere if necessary).
Exactly how do these 4 needs align with the interests of Millennials? Millennials want to have a life beyond work. They recognize their need for renewal. Millennials want their supervisor to connect with them as a person. They recognize their need for value.
Millennials want to have successes and be recognized for such, and this does demand focus. When the purpose is present and recognition is ahead, they have the motivation to focus. Is that terribly different than the rest of us? Finally, Millennials crave purpose. They have great disdain for being the cog in the wheel. After all, that’s what many of their parents were and where did that get them? Lost jobs, lost pensions, etc. It’s not that every work task has to relate to saving the world, but Millennials (and many others) want to know that their work really matters.
Consider taking this information and having some conversations with your colleagues at work. See what observations about your environment crop up, as well as ideas for tweaks that can greatly impact employee engagement and company productivity. I’d love to hear where this leads you!