What People Really Want (And How You Can Help Them Get It)
Corporations are always looking for ways to improve productivity and raise employee engagement levels. Each year we get new software and tools to make us more productive but they usually require more passwords, more training, more processes, etc… Not particularly the kind of stuff that makes us do cartwheels or jump for joy. Meanwhile, engagement building activities often fall flat or fail to deliver sustainable benefits. Think of the last team building exercise, company picnic, corporate newsletter, workshop, etc… All are valuable in their own way but they rarely truly alter or enhance the way an employee feels about their job or workplace.
The Holy Grail, of course, is to raise productivity and engagement simultaneously WHILE doing so at minimal cost. Sounds impossible? Too good to be true? Perhaps, but here are things that can help.
Today’s workers are looking for new things. Here are three key insights:
1. We seek meaning and purpose in our work. A sort of connection to society and the world around us that transcends the commercial and transactional. Activities, programs and tools that tap into our search of meaning and connection are far more likely to create a significant, sustainable and positive reaction. This is especially true for the Millennial generation which has seen their parents struggle through demanding and lucrative but ultimately unsatisfying careers.
- Tap into the real “why” of your business. Connect your staff with the underlying purpose and mission of the organization. Cost: None
- Bring them physically closer to customers. Have them visit and spend time with customers/users. Cost: $$
- Hear live testimonials from end-users/beneficiaries of your product or services. For healthcare companies this could consist of having patients visit the organization to convey what the therapy has done for them. Cost: $
- Connect people across the organization to the impact your solutions have in the real world. Convey the clinical, technical or financial impact they have on the lives of customers. A few years ago I presented the benefits of our products to the people on the manufacturing line who until then had never really had an appreciation for the direct & human impact their efforts supported. They were profoundly moved and I am convinced they never looked at their job the same way thereafter. Cost: $
- If your business is a bit “light” on the meaningful contribution to society side (e.g. you are in the arms business or you sell plain paper products), then adopt a common cause that the organization can rally around (e.g. support victims of land mines, prevent de-forestation, support the local community, etc…). Cost: $$
2. We are hungry for self-realization and self-actualization. We seek to ignite the full potential within us but not purely on a professional level. True self-actualization transcends all facets of our life whether personal or professional. We respond especially well to growth and learning opportunities that can be applied as easily inside as outside the workplace.
- Support flexible hours/schedules. This reduces conflicts and allows people to better fit work around their personal life and activities. Cost: None
- Actively encourage people to take time out to resource themselves. Be it by requiring people to regularly take lunch breaks, mandating that people take their full vacation allotment or discouraging work on the weekends, companies can promote better well-being. Cost: None (just encourage people to take the vacation time they have already earned)
- Support development programs to learn about ourselves and how to live/work better. Every now and then send people to programs that are more developmental vs. training focused. Personal discovery programs are especially effective when the lessons can apply to all facets of our lives. A greater awareness and understanding of ourselves can lead to better team interactions and relationships at home. A few years ago I was lucky to participate in a weeklong leadership development program (CCL: Center for Creative Leadership). The consensus from everyone who participated was that what we discovered about ourselves is directly relevant and applicable across our lives and not just at work. Cost: $$$
- Encourage participation in educational/topical events that may only have an indirect relationship with work. Years ago I attended a full TedMed conference in San Diego. It wasn’t cheap, or directly relevant to my products at the time but it was mind-blowing and gave me ideas & inspiration that I still use today. Cost: $$
3. We are trying to regain control of our lives. In a world that is spinning ever faster, with new technologies, commercial messages, family obligations and business demands competing for every minute of our stressed-out existence, it is no surprise that we pang for simplicity, serenity and ways to un-complicate our lives.
- Focus on fewer activities and strategies. Accept that you cannot do it all and be everywhere at the same time. Most people cannot focus on more than three main activities at the same time. Stick to the rule of 3: 3 goals, 3 metrics, 3 projects, 3 slides on any topic, etc… Cost: None
- Encourage working from home at least 1-2 days each week. This frees up valuable time normally wasted on commuting. Cost: None
- Host regular life/work-hacking events where people can learn tips and techniques to simplify their lives. Focus on helping people to develop and adopt coping skills for today’s changing world. For example offer everyone a free subscription to magazines like Life-Hacker or Real Simple. Cost: $
- Develop an e-mail protocol and etiquette to avoid excessive communication. Help people become better organized and help them manage the flow of information they receive at home and at work. Hold communication training workshops. Cost: $
- Reduce the need for multiple systems each with different passwords to access. Cost: $$
- Cut back on the number of meetings. Keep them short if possible. Try standing meetings to get more focus from attendees. Cost: None
- Encourage staff to participate in office-based health activities each week like yoga or massage therapy. Even if they have to be paid for directly by the employees, offer to have them on site and possibly consider subsidies to encourage participation. Cost: $
Got any other ideas, suggestions or experiences you would like to share? Please leave a comment.
photo credit: moleitau via photopin cc
I love this post and I think you’re spot-on with your suggestions. So many meaningful changes cost NOTHING! Also, I have a t-shirt with that graphic. 🙂