There is no doubt that Millennials have one thing spot on: It’s time to change the way we work!
I do not mean a ground-breaking time or efficiency revolution. What I am talking about is formalizing purpose into the workplace. And although for many reading this, “finding your purpose” may sound like a vague expression of the day, our Millennial partners have actually refused to abandon its pursuit. If we listen carefully to what they are saying, we may discover it is in fact one practical way to revolutionize organizations, as well as the workforce which powers them.
If you were like me, during the 1980s and ’90s you were motivated by the paycheck, that yearly increase and performance payment. We worked extremely hard to move up the corporate ladder, and our incomes and organizational power were the ways we defined who we were and our value. The newest car, the biggest boat—as many toys as possible.
If we transport ourselves two decades forward—especially those of us who manage teams—we discover that Millennials are engaged with other priorities. Money remains very important, and they do enjoy earning a fair wage; however, they long to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Neither the workplace nor the organization defines them to the extent that it did for too many of us in the Boomer club. Millennials want that work–life integration. They want to be fulfilled both at home and on the job—money, while still important, comes second!
Establishing a purpose for all employees is important, but giving your young employees a purpose will allow them to envision a future with your organization. Younger people are unpredictable. They are on an infinite search for happiness. If an organization is not capable of clearly articulating a plan and purpose for work, it will unfortunately observe a higher employee turnover. Millennials want direction and meaning, an interesting combination of altruism and self-interest.
Discovering purpose at work does not suggest you need to relocate to a tropical rainforest of the world, safeguarding threatened wildlife. Purpose can easily be found in any kind of situation, because it has to do with the way you approach the work, not the particular nature of the work.
A while back, my father was in the Heart Institute having a pacemaker placed in his chest to deal with abnormal heart rhythms. He had been having serious issues for a number of months and we were very concerned, but at the same time pleased his issues were being addressed.
As I sat in the waiting room lost in my own thoughts, I noticed coming down the empty hallway a young man pushing a janitorial cart with brooms and mops sticking out of the top. He stopped every ten feet or so to run a dust cloth over the handrails, and then he sprayed it down with what I assumed was a disinfectant spray. What he was doing was not unusual by any means, and likely work that goes unnoticed by many. What was unusual was the singing. This young man was singing continually as he worked. He passed by me with a smile and a hello and then disappeared into the men’s washroom across the hallway from me. As he disappeared behind the closed door, sounds of cleaning emanated from the washroom, accompanied by, you guessed it, singing.
As he reappeared I smiled at him and commented that he sure was enjoying his work.
A big smile enveloped his face and he responded, “Who wouldn’t be? I have a very important job—the better I do my job, the fewer people will become ill from germs.”
He was right. More importantly, he had found real purpose in work many of us would consider beneath us.
Regardless of the job an individual has, it serves an important purpose. When those we lead understand that purpose and see their value and purpose as a contributor to the success of the organization, retention rates increase significantly. When leaders focus on creating an organizational culture that fosters purpose-driven initiatives, the employees, the organization and the leaders all benefit.
I learned these realities watching, listening and leading Millennials over my career – how about you?
This post is an excerpt from Bruce’s newly published book
Leadership Hack: Leading the Millennial Tribe, currently available on Amazon.