The Future of Work: Employers Who Genuinely Care

Larry Alton

It’s easy to assume your employees are exclusively looking to cash a paycheck; that their loyalty to your firm runs only as deep as the salary you give them. But a hard look at the data and a chat with today’s workers – millennials in particular – reveals that they expect much more from their employers.

When employers understand and meet these intrinsic needs, workers are more apt to stick around and give you everything they have.

Here’s what employees want

Millennial employees regard jobs as opportunities for growth, maturation, and development. They want to be part of a management culture that values the individual and places an emphasis on acquiring and improving skills.

Despite what trendy news articles and viral social media posts have claimed, nap pods, ping-pong tables, and free booze on tap aren’t major priorities. “Contrary to popular perception, millennials place little importance on a company encouraging creativity or being a fun, informal place to work,” Harvard Business Review explains.

“In fact, baby boomers are slightly more likely than millennials and Gen Xers to say that creativity and fun are ‘extremely important’ to them when applying for a job. But millennials do need to be convinced why and how an organization will help them learn, grow, and develop and further their careers.”

In addition to the opportunity to learn and grow, the Harvard Business Review article cites research that shows millennials find the quality of management to be a factor when they apply for a job. In particular, they want managers who care for them as individuals, not just as another line item on an accounting statement.

Three ways to show you care

As time passes, your management style should evolve. What worked five years ago may not be so suitable five years from now.

The future of work is steadily changing, so your approach to managing employees ought to undergo transformation, too. If you seek to help employees find meaning in their jobs, you should look for little ways to make them feel cared for.

Here are some ideas.

1. Provide support for mind, body, and soul

Most employers understand the value of offering benefits packages, which often include health insurance, but for many it stops there. The problem is that today employees look for more.

A recent Mayo Clinic survey shows that American workers blame their jobs before a list of other potential factors that adversely affect their health. From being confined to a desk all day to a limited understanding of mental health issues, employees say they regard employers as obstacles more than advocates.

You can flip this equation by offering options such as an on-site gym, healthy snack options, and access to mental health support.

2. Equip employees with financial skills

The average millennial is in over his or her head in debt and may have little understanding of how to perform basic financial functions. Although this is ultimately a byproduct of a broken education system, it’s something employers should tackle proactively.

Teaching financial skills to employees – including how to budget, save, and invest – will put their minds at ease and empower them to focus more on work-related tasks.

3. Provide positive reinforcement and feedback

Many work cultures are hard-nosed places where employees are expected to perform up to expectations and are berated when they don’t. Sadly, this doesn’t always work. Positive reinforcement and encouraging feedback are important to millennial employees. By taking more time to let your employees know when they’re doing well, you can arm them with the confidence they need to continue growing.

Cultivating loyal and engaged employees

People are social beings who have a universal need to feel connected, loved, and appreciated. There are multiple ways these connections can happen in life – via friendship, romantic love, children and family, pets, etc. – but a person’s job can play a critical role as well.

As business consultant Sheila Margolis says, “Engagement flows from the top downward. When senior leaders are visible and show empathy and appreciation, employees are more engaged. The emotional connection between employees and the company leader impacts how employees feel about the company and their job.”

You should make your subordinates feel cared about because, for one thing, it’s the right thing to do. But it’s also helpful to remember that engaged employees who feel more positive about their job are more likely to yield value.

Keep this in mind as your management style evolves.

A related question to ask yourself: “Does Your Compensation Plan Reflect Your Culture?


About Larry Alton

Larry is a freelance marketing & technology consultant with a background in IT. Follow him on Twitter @LarryAlton3.