The purpose, or what I call the “Why” for what your employees do at work, is becoming more important to them than just collecting a paycheck.
I know this to be so because I witnessed this when I was a contractor and now as a consultant to contractors. This long-time trend has become the norm. And I think it’s not just a good thing… I think it’s a great thing.
This may seem scary to you. Or, you may be in disbelief that this could be true. A quick review of articles and blogs online will validate what I’m saying here.
And if you’re an owner or manager who is over 50 years of age, you probably grew up in the trades with being told, “This is what I want done”. There was no discussion. You were just expected to do it because your boss told you to.
But having worked with consulting clients over the last few years, all I see are Millennials and now even some of the Generation Z arriving at work. This movement is in full swing, so doing things because “I told you so” is long gone. In general, they’re not going to engage their heart and soul into anything at work until they know the “Why” they’re doing something.
The good news is when they understand the “Why,” which leads to the “Meaning,” they’re some of the best employees I’ve ever worked with. The results of what they can do is truly remarkable.
Where and how do they learn the Why?
Well, these educated-online generation groups start seeking out the Why long before they show up at your door for an interview. Many of them have researched you and your company online. Since there’s no shortage of ways to access your online reviews from customers and staff, they’re well prepared. Sites that rate you as an employer like Glassdoor®, are now part of their job search process. It helps them form an opinion about you and your company, both good and bad. They tend to trust what they can research online as much, if not more, than what they see and hear from you in the interview process.
The Why has now become a vital part of recruiting, hiring, orienting, training, and retaining employees. And recognizing and proactively addressing this in every way you interact (virtually and in person) in every step along the way will do two things: it will attract right-stuff candidates to your door and will make it highly unlikely that they will want to leave you if they come onboard.
Next-level engagement for them is to know their Personal Why, and that starts with knowing that you’re promising and can deliver to them a career, not just a job.
Knowing that they can get some input, what I call “fingerprints,” on how work gets done and how policy is created and evolved is also vital to strengthening their belief that they’re not just a cog in a machine but rather a valuable contributor to something bigger than themselves.
To me, “Why” is also about making them feel a sense of belonging and part of a supportive community. Face it. Many young people these days have been identified as feeling lonely and having little in the way of friendship and kinship.
Being a part of a team is more important than it’s ever been. I recognized this so many years ago when I was out until the wee hours of the morning running a service call and feeling everyone else was at home asleep and it was just me out there. I feel being a Tech is a particularly lonely profession, but even working in a cubicle or tiny office by yourself can also feel lonely. So the better job we do of defeating this syndrome, the more engaged our employees will be.
You’re probably thinking, “Okay, I kind of see it. But is it more important than just money?”
Well, I learned all of what I’m sharing here while I was working in my family-owned contracting business. It started to show up when we had evolved to where we were always training them and always advancing their careers. And probably because my team was so well trained, they were always being recruited by my competition, and, in many cases, for a lot more money… but… they wouldn’t go. The reason they didn’t leave for the money was they loved the culture and they loved feeling that their career path was taking them to their goals.
They knew the Why and that it too was just as important as the money.