Millennials are different, but not as different as companies think

Executives are concerned about Millennials entering the workforce, yet they aren’t making any special plans for managing them. Although 51% of executives say Millennials entering the workforce significantly affects workforce strategy, fewer than one-third of executives say they are giving special attention to their particular wants and needs.

And perhaps they don’t need to: There are many myths about what Millennials want most from work—which is not so different from what non-Millennials want.

Millennial myths Oct 6

But while Millennials have many of the same wants and needs at work as their older coworkers, they do need be managed differently, in terms of feedback and development. Nearly one-third of Millennials say they expect more feedback on their performance than they currently receive—and they want it more often than non-Millennials.

You can read more about Millennials in our research report, and this article from the Wall Street Journal.

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What matters most at work?

Executives say they value loyalty and long-term commitment ahead of employee attributes like leadership ability and even job performance. Yet they are not doing what they should to foster loyalty among employees, particularly in regards to the benefits and incentives that are most important to their workforce.

When it comes to satisfied employees, cash is king. Competitive compensation and bonuses/merit-based rewards rank highest among employees—other benefits are far less important. But only 39% of executives say their company offers competitive compensation.

What Matters Most at Work - Sept 22

Some companies may be focusing their efforts incorrectly. Headline-grabbing amenities like recreational facilities and laundry services are not highly important to employees—only 39% say these amenities are important, and companies may want to rethink spending money on them to better focus their engagement efforts.

If executives want employees to demonstrate commitment to the company, they should make an effort to determine which benefits are most important to them. The loyalty that they will engender as a result will likely have sweeping effects on talent development and succession planning, ultimately leaving companies better-prepared for the future workforce.

2020 Workforce news roundup

Working Anything but 9 to 5 (The New York Times): For hourly employees, the uncertainty of the next week’s schedule can create chaos at home—especially for those with families.

7 Ways to Become Your Boss’ Dream Employee (Time): A relationship with a manager can be the key to success at work—and cultivating a good one starts with working to make your boss successful.

5 Simple Office Policies That Make Danish Workers Way More Happy Than Americans (FastCompany): Danish employees may be more likely to be satisfied and engaged with their jobs because of better working hours, more autonomy, and constant training, among other factors.

Would You Hire Your Hacker? (Wired): After a college student hacked into a popular messaging app, the co-founder of the company hired him on a freelance basis, recognizing that a good hacker has security expertise. Companies should consider creative hiring methods like this one—but be wary of potential consequences.

Companies may not be investing enough in developing talent

Our survey results show that firms are not doing enough to identify and develop talent. Although nearly half say finding employees with base-level skills has an impact on their workforce strategy, fewer than one-quarter say their company offers education widely to employees.

Yet training and development initiatives would not just improve employee skills—they would also make the company a more attractive place to work. When asked what their ideal, but realistic, goal for their career in five years is, many employees focused on learning and development, both for personal satisfaction and advancement opportunities.

As the workforce becomes increasingly global, diverse, and flexible, companies will need to focus on developing, rather than recruiting, talent to be competitive—in the process, they’ll likely find their employees are more engaged and loyal, too.

Regular communication fosters employee development, satisfaction, loyalty

Leadership and management are hot topics in the news as companies realize that talent is a strategic asset.

We’ve been talking on this blog about the preliminary results of our huge global survey—one of which is the lackluster leadership at many of the companies we surveyed. This recent article by Monique Valcour on the Harvard Business Review blog argues that great management requires a thorough understanding of what drives each member of the team—which includes regular, timely communication around development .

Our 2020 Workforce research points to a similar conclusion. Communication is essential to employee satisfaction and training—regular feedback and conversations around development not only close communication gaps between employees and executives, but also engender loyalty to the business.

According to Valcour, coaching employees will “build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform and their peak.” Beyond the benefits for the business and its employees, Valcour notes that the benefits of coaching extend to managers, who are likely to be more satisfied with and energized by the management process.

Paternity leave lacking in the UK

The preliminary results from our survey point to a gap between what employees want and what executives say their companies provide. In addition to competitive compensation, benefits like the opportunity to work on a flexible schedule or flexible location is a big priorities for employees.

One aspect of flexible work is paid parental leave. This recent article from The Guardian discusses the UK’s national approach to paternity leave. Unlike countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where paternity leave is encouraged (or even mandated), companies in the UK are less likely to provide any substantial paid leave to new fathers, putting a strain on male employees and impeding gender equality in the workplace.

Ultimately, this kind of gap in what companies are offering employees and what employees expect could hinder successful workforce development. When our surveys close in a few weeks, we’ll have more insight into how these gaps in understanding vary country-by-country–stay tuned.

It’s up to senior leaders to boost employee engagement

We’ve been talking a lot about the relationship between employee happiness and productivity and the factors that contribute to engagement—topics that are in the news more and more as companies realize the value of cultivating a positive corporate culture.

Last Sunday, The New York Times published an article (“Why You Hate Work,” Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath) from the leaders at The Energy Project, a consulting firm built on the idea that “the way we’re working isn’t working.” The company recently teamed up with the Harvard Business Review to survey 12,000 employees about their engagement and productivity levels.

Their study found that employees whose physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs are met at work report higher job satisfaction and levels of focus. The researchers also found that, while senior executives are typically aware of the correlation between engagement and performance, most are not investing in meeting the needs of their employers or promoting work/life balance as much as they probably should.

 The energy of leaders is, for better or worse, contagious. When leaders explicitly encourage employees to work in more sustainable ways — and especially when they themselves model a sustainable way of working — their employees are 55 percent more engaged, 53 percent more focused, and more likely to stay at the company, [The Energy Project’s] research with the Harvard Business Review found.

As evidence that engagement leads to productivity grows, senior leaders should plan to in the wants and needs of their employees in the years ahead—to ignore worker satisfaction any longer may be detrimental to the overall health of the business.