We are in the middle of a radical transformation of the workplace as it becomes much more fluid and dynamic. By 2020, Intuit reports that 40% of us will be independent workers and the expected average tenure of an employee will drop precipitously as the Millennial generation becomes the majority of the workforce. This new generation expects to stay in a job for a third of the time of their Boomer counterparts and will require significant investment to keep them longer.
The impact of the Millennial generation on the workforce has been documented in numerous articles and studies. At the core of all this research is one word – purpose. What the new majority of the workforce want at unprecedented levels is purpose in their work. They are not alone. The other major demographic that will define the workplace of 2020 and beyond is women and they too prioritize purpose relative to a traditional, male-driven workforce.
Purpose isn’t about causes and charities. It can be found in all jobs when people make an impact, have strong relationships, and experience personal growth. It is increasingly the “special sauce” that is building employee engagement, creativity and loyalty.
Millennials are well documented to demand all three of these forms of purpose. Impact, the feeling of working for something bigger than one’s self, is a priority to millennials, with 72% considering it an important factor in a job. The relationships one creates with one’s co-workers and community are a second way to build purpose, with 71% percent of millennials hoping for their colleagues to become a “second family.” And personal growth is also an important way to find purpose, with 69% of millennials naming it as a factor in deciding on their current position.
All of this speaks to the need to move managing from traditional financial or position-driven motives to leading by “intrinsic motivation.” The key first step, then, is for companies to help people define what generates purpose for them (free diagnostic at imperative.com). Managers can do this through the process of ‘job tailoring,’ helping an employee take ownership over their job to increase purpose by tailoring 10-15% of their tasks, relationships and approach. Learning the motivations behind each person will help managers guide employees in tailoring each employee’s job to them as an individual.
We have all see people who tailor their work to meet their purpose needs – from parking lot attendants to CEOs. They find ways to connect mundane tasks to the goals they support to make their lives more meaningful. They go out of their way to care for others on their team and in their community. They see their work as a craft and are always working to grow. They are proactive about their work and define it in their terms — not just narrowly by a job description.
Another way companies can support these intrinsic motivators is by practicing servant leadership. Millennials, who prefer a friendlier, more collaborative style of management that fosters independence and openness, are turned off by the top-down approach found in many companies. Instead of viewing managers as traditional bosses in a hierarchy, managers can become servant leaders and coaches, guiding employees at all levels to work cohesively and collaboratively to help the organization’s mission succeed.
One’s purpose can’t be found without self-awareness. Organizations that encourage and champion that trait will do a better job in helping meet their employees’ needs. Companies need to work together with their employees to find out what creates purpose for them within the work environment. Purpose is not about causes or about promoting the organization’s mission, but rather comes from the aforementioned impact, personal relationships, and professional growth that can happen at a company. Self-awareness is the key to finding what exactly helps each employee feel a sense of purpose in the workplace.
Companies can also get ahead of the game by making work a social place. Millennials prioritize closeness in their co-working relationships and appreciate work settings where social interaction happens often. More and more frequently, organizations are structuring their work environments to foster collaboration spaces as well as specifically-designated social spaces. This is the case for both online and offline environments.
Similarly, creating work environments that allow people to be their whole selves is important. Gone are the days where you were one person at work, and another at home or with your friends. Instead, organizations (especially those run by millennials) are embracing the characteristics that make each person unique, allowing flexibility in dress, conversation and personal work style. This kind of acceptance leads to a more comfortable, relaxed, and creative atmosphere at work.
Finally, companies can help employees find purpose by investing in mentors. Millennials, who were often guided heavily throughout high school and college, view mentors as important, with 75% saying mentors are vital to their success. Ideally, mentors can provide workers with guidance on both their jobs and on their purpose as well.
Companies who want to keep up with the changing landscape of the workplace, especially with the influx of millennials, will do well by prioritizing intrinsic motivation. Helping employees find their purpose through impact, personal relationships and professional growth will foster a happier and more satisfied work environment, and strengthen the company’s long-term success.Aaron Hurst is the CEO of Imperative, a technology platform that enables people to discover, connect and act on what gives them purpose in their work. Aaron is a close advisor to many global brands and frequent speaker and writer on the Purpose Economy. He is the founder and active advisor to the Taproot Foundation and previously worked in Silicon Valley developing the precursors to social media.