Alright…..you’ve made it round 4. You’ve duked out the divide between managers and employees, you’ve combatted the communication conflict and you’ve fought the feedback feud. Take a deep breath, it’s been a hell of a match and the end is in sight. Like any good boxer, it’s important that you take what you’ve learned in the last three rounds and apply it to your upcoming fight.
This time it’s going to be a little different. Today we have a battle of perception. Standing in one corner is team “Managers” holding fast to what they know motivates employees…. And in the other corner team “Employees” with evolved views of what they need from their employers.
From a manager’s perspective, It’s a pretty standard concept. An employee does work and then gets a paycheck. If we want our employees to go above and beyond, money is an appropriate and effective incentive. This could be in the form of a raise, a bonus, or other compensation for outstanding performance. While money is meant to a lifestyle, the myth is that it should be obvious, go to an incentive for employers.
While monetary compensation will always be the foundational purpose of working, its role as the prime motivator has fallen towards the bottom of the list. This generation of employees has an evolved desire to not only work as means to support their lives but to incorporate their work as part of their lives. Modern employees want flexibility, support, purpose, and opportunity.
Employees value work-life balance, this is why they want the ability to set their own schedules. They want a job that will allow them to start and end their day at a time that works best for them. They want the opportunity to work from home, or the library or the coffee shop if it suits them. With the growing desire for this kind of work-life balance, many companies are moving towards a flexible work style. In fact, globally 2/3 of millennials say their employers have adopted flexible arrangements.
Accommodating the employees want for a flexible work schedule is not a loss for team “Management”. In my work setting, we are allowed the flexibility of arriving at work and leaving work when it best suits us. More often than not, the start time we pick is based on our desire to beat traffic or wait until traffic has cleared. Further flexibility our company allows us, is an opportunity to work from home on Friday (or any day(s) decided by the team). This is not a privilege that we employees are entitled to or that we take advantage of. This is a flexibility our managers allow us based on fulfillment of commitments and responsibility of workload. This flexibility is an incentive for us to carefully manage our calendars, prioritize our workloads and demonstrate productivity in an offsite workspace.
A boxer can’t just jump into the ring and expect to walk out a champion. There is a lot of practice, training, and investment of time and resources that go into being a winner. Just like a boxer, employees want to be given the tools needed to succeed, this means being sufficiently trained. They want to be given a foundation and understanding of exactly what is expected of them as they step into the ring. Once they are in the ring employees want the autonomy to act using their best skills and judgment.
Fortunately for team “Managers”, we’ve reached a point in the match where you have the ability to draw on past experience to get the upper hand. In Rounds 1, 2 and 3 we learned the value of effective ways to implement transparency, regular check-ins, open communication, and regular feedback. These things are exactly what employees are looking for. So managers, take the time to really understand and implement these practices. By doing this you become a mentor, you influence growth and help guide employees towards winning matches in the future. Suddenly, you and your employees are fighting for the same corner.
In my company, each of these entities is effectively implemented and encouraged. On a weekly basis, I have the opportunity to meet with my boss a number of times. We have a one on one meeting as well as a weekly team planning meeting. These regular conversations allow us to discuss anything and everything. We discuss what is going well, where my focus is this week, areas I could use some help and how to facilitate that help. We discuss team goals and priorities for the upcoming week. We celebrate successes and gage stress levels, and sometimes we even discuss the silly thing my dog did that morning or the latest high school or college debacle that her son or daughter might be experiencing. Facilitating open communication and regular check-ins have enabled me to reach a level of comfort where I can not only be myself but not feel the need to hide weakness but rather confront it knowing my boss and my team are on my side.
Employees want to feel there are a purpose and deeper fulfillment in the work they do. Managers might think “There is a purpose to this work, the purpose is to get a job done and take home a paycheck” But this is NOT how the employees see it. Employees want to be doing work that has a positive impact and makes a difference in the community. In fact, it is not uncommon for a millennial employee to take a pay cut to work at a company that matches their ideals. Employees are stepping into this ring to make a difference, not just to go through the motions.
The other day I was taking a survey about my workplace. I was asked questions about my overall satisfaction, quality of leadership, understanding of what’s expected of me…the whole nine yards. It was easy; Agree, Strongly Agree, Strongly Agree, Agree…. There is no doubt, I work for a great company. I started to realize though that as I come across questions regarding involvement in the community, or giving back I couldn’t as easily “Strongly Agree”. On one hand, I know that there are contributions my company makes to funds and charities, but on the other hand, how do I personally take part in that? In the spirit of open communication, I voiced my concern and ideas to my manager and team members. They responded with eager excitement and new ideas, paving the way for us to create a more meaningful work experience by building stronger connections with our community moving forward. This reinforced the alignment of my ideas and priorities with that of my company.
Growth, knowledge, and advancement opportunities are among the most attractive incentives an employer can offer. We no longer live in a society where the major we commit to in college leaves us sitting pretty for 35 years in an industry. The idea of “climbing the ladder” means to move up position by position until you reach the top, for millennials, it’s more like climbing a jungle gym ropes course where you climb up, to the side, across and over. Employees want to work for a company where they have the opportunity to develop and move forward. In fact, Gallup tells us that 87% of millennials say development is important in a job. Employees want co-workers and leaders they can learn from, they want the chance to dive into new projects, learn new skills and grow into a variety of positions through their career. To put it simply, employees want to work for accompany that allows them to be dynamic, evolving contributors.
I recently read an article titled “The Courage to be Uncomfortable” this article resonated strongly with me for a number of reasons. This article focuses on the value of change and how change can be uncomfortable, but without change there is no growth, stating “If I am comfortable, I am part of the problem” This is a concept that any boxer who has trained for a fight is familiar with. Apply appropriate stress on a muscle and as a result, it gains strength. This is also a concept that has been applied in my current workplace. Less than two months after starting this company as an Operations Coordinator I was given the opportunity to learn the role of Business Analyst. With VERY little previous exposure you can bet I was UNCOMFORTABLE. But like the stress applied to the muscle I adapted, I learned, and I succeeded. This is not the only time in my six months here that myself or my co-workers have tackled a new, out of our comfort zone, endeavor head first. By putting us in these new roles, with more than adequate support from our team and leaders, we are exposed to potential avenues for the future and our employer lets us know that our growth and development is their priority.
So who wins this round? It was a close match and each corner put up a good fight, but neither could pull ahead in this battle and our end result is a draw. Monetary compensation will always be the foundational purpose of having a job. But because millennials are the largest generation in the modern workforce, a critical adjustment for managers will be creating a work environment to attract and retain them as employees. When it comes to the final countdown, it will be a matter of understanding and flexibility from both sides.