What All Generations of People Want From Work

I have been speaking a great deal lately about what people need / want / desire from their work, and so I put together a list of the top 11 things I’ve noticed that people of all ages, backgrounds and roles have been mentioning for the past 35 years I’ve been tracking. They are:

Appreciation. People need to feel cared for and appreciated – especially by their manager.

Recognition. Ample feedback whether in private or public about their value to the team/organization.

Being ‘in the know.’ Even if employees can’t affect company plans, they feel more empowered when they have a full picture of what these plans are.

Understanding in crisis. Life happens, and managers need to work with employees when problems crop up off the job.

Job security. While no job is 100% secure, employees need to know managers will do all they can to secure their jobs, as long as they perform.

Engaging work. Give top performers a chance to do more, interesting tasks.

Growth opportunities. People want to be able to learn and grow professionally and personally.

Loyalty. Employees respond for leaders who “have their back.”

Tactful, respectful discipline. Offer challenging/negative feedback without humiliating the person.

A fun environment. People try harder when they like where they work.

Fair compensation. While money is important, once salary and benefits are accepted it becomes less a motivator unless all the above are missing (then it can often be the only reason one stays in that job).

I suggest that every leader / manager look at this list and first themselves rate how they would evaluate their own experience within these eleven areas. Are you appreciated and recognized enough? Do you feel the organization cares for you, keeps you informed, offers understanding when you need flexibility? Are you engaged in your own role and are you growing yourself amply? See where you have alignment with your organization, culture and leadership or not. See where you are engaged, or not.

Then take this list and share it with your team, and ask them to do the same evaluations, first for themselves, and then as a group. See where you are doing well, and where you gaps and areas for improvement pop up. Decide on an action plan to boost one or two of these at a time, and maintain honest assessment and accountability around your progress.

People respond very quickly when we give them the basics that compose healthy human connections and interactions. When basic needs are met, and the higher needs are addressed, people flourish. The leaders role is to see to it that their people are cared for, and an easy way to do that is to find out what needs they have and then address them.

Millennials, Gen-X’ers, Boomers and the War generations all share one core truth – they are all human beings, and humans crave similar things from their work and relationships. True leaders go the extra mile and connect business systems and processes with their people, and when that happens higher levels of employee engagement drive productivity, quality, customer service, and especially profitability ever higher. All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to engage and connect with people! Reach out, connect, talk about what they want – it will pay huge dividends for all!

When we know we are cared for we are free to bring our best self to our work!

The Power of Recognition & Appreciation

I spoke last week at The Millennial Leaders Summit about what are the top things that people most desire from their work. I have been tracking this topic the last 30 plus years, and the number one item on almost every survey or study’s list, no matter the age group, is Recognition and Appreciation. We all want to be seen for who we are and what we do, and to be valued by others. This is actually what we all want in our lives, not just at work. We humans are connective beings, and in that need for connection we require an exchange of energies that keep us safe, secure, loved and appreciated.

Why is recognition and appreciation so important? What is it so universally desired by people across all demographics? If you think about it, the benefits and payoffs to being recognized and appreciated are being accepted, valued, affirmed, noticed, respected, understood, and acknowledged. Who doesn’t want any of these things in their life? Yet how often do we actually receive the gifts recognition and appreciation bring?

When we recognize and appreciate someone or something, an interesting thing occurs. If we pause long enough and truly see who or what is right before us, we are invited into the realm of appreciation. In the moment of appreciation we allow ourselves to connect to a universal source of tranquility, and we feel that sense of well-being stirring within. Even though some external source stimulated our appreciation pause, we are the beneficiaries of the ‘feeling-good’ state. In appreciation, we find something in another we value, treasure, and hold dear.

In this place of appreciation a positive sense of awe embraces us – wonder, admiration and reverence wraps around us, even if for just a moment, and that gives way into gratitude. When we feel grateful, when we are dipped in the nectar of gratitude, we are in a state of grace – words seem unnecessary, we just experience a standing-still moment of an elixir of joy, peace, ease and aliveness.

It is this aliveness that gratitude stimulates a sense of being fully present and connected – to ourselves, to others, and to Life. It is that connection, those meaningful-moment connections, we all crave. When we feel connected we know, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment, who we are and why we are here. In those moments of connection we are free to just be – be who we are, what we want to feel and express, and how we can best show up for others.

Isn’t it funny that what we all desire, recognition and appreciation, not only has positive aspects for us being recognized and appreciated, but has equal opportunity for positive outcomes for those who do the recognizing and appreciating! It’s a two-way street to the highest states of what it means to be a healthy, loving human being!

So if you want to feel better or feel good, remember the chain-reaction of recognition and appreciation. When we pause and just look at who or what is before us, and without judgment/shame/blame just see it, find something about it that you can appreciate, or see some positive in it, the flood of warm feelings from awe and gratitude will simply flow. When you recognize and appreciate another, not only are you momentarily swept into a state of presence and connection, so is the other as you share your appreciation with them.

This holiday season we seem to put a premium of being grateful, giving thanks, and spreading good tidings. We don’t have to wait for calendars to turn or external clocks to trigger us into these states – we can do it ALL THE TIME! If recognition and appreciation are the number one motivators for human beings, then by all means let’s offer them freely, often, and consistently. If the receiver and the giver of recognition and appreciation win, then let’s keep on winning, together!

Go ahead, try out offering more recognition and appreciation to those in your work and private life! Do it one-on-one, or watch the exponential effect that cascades onto everyone when you do it publically. You and they will feel better when the recognition and appreciation is genuine and meaningful.

Go ahead, recognize and appreciate those around you – and be the source of some terrific outcomes!

Recognition → Appreciation → Awe → Gratitude → Presence → Connection