What do employees and leaders really want out of their work setting and working relationships? It’s time to ask, not assume. Material and monetary offerings matter but are often overrated. Instead, purpose, value, and acknowledgment top the list of what makes people feel empowered and motivated at work. People seek meaning in their lives, and researchers are saying an increased sense of meaningfulness at work is actually more important than just identifying as “happy” at work. Individuals want to know—and find more satisfaction in knowing—that what they contribute matters. The “employment contract” era, where a worker provided services purely in exchange for monetary compensation, is over. Instead, leaders AND employees seek a more human employment value proposition and connection—they want employers to recognize their value and return value to them on a human level. While monetary compensation is vital for surviving, deeper relationships, a strong sense of community, and purpose-driven work have become absolutely essential to thriving in the workplace.
The sense of connection at work has been totally reimagined as workforces have had to think outside the box to creatively provide value in remote, hybrid, and office settings. Trends are showing that people seek friendship, community engagement, development, and guidance outside of their careers – and most importantly, they want to feel supported and heard in their work environment. Most of us desire to work in a culture of mutual respect and accountability, where our voices and opinions are listened to, we feel appreciated, and our work is valued. But there is no “one size fits all approach” to providing value to employees at work. So, we recommend leaders and employees take quiet time to reflect on their desires for an ideal workplace culture and put their ideas in writing. As a leader, list questions you can ask to determine what really matters to your employees. Employees, write out your own answers to the questions and discuss them with your leader. We share four great example questions here that can help get you started:
1. How do you want to contribute? What can I do to support you?
Understanding the value and contribution each employee seeks to bring to the table is incredibly important. People want to feel connected with their work community and bring value that benefits the entirety of the group. As a leader, understanding how you can support your employees in doing this is crucial. You want to show your people that you hear them and are there to support them in their endeavors.
2. How do you want to work?
This has become a “pressure point” question in today’s workplace. There are now several different variations of ways to work. For example, if an employee is really seeking a hybrid schedule but physically reports into the office daily, they will be less motivated on the job and likely searching for another position elsewhere.
3. Are there any aspects of our team culture you wish you could change?
This is a big one. Simply checking in with your employees is one of the easiest ways to determine what really matters to your people. Culture is a significant factor in engagement and motivation on the job, and often team culture can make or break an employee’s success. Understanding what is working, what could work even better, and what needs to be changed is imperative for leaders to know so they can cultivate an environment where people want to work.
4. What is getting in the way of loving what you do?
It couldn’t get simpler than this. Asking your employees what is holding them back from being passionate about their work is vital information. Their lack of fulfillment and engagement is preventing them from reaching their full potential and their optimal success. Remember, work isn’t work if you love what you do; so, understanding how you can support your employees to love what they do is critical.
One research-based method to determine a person’s motivators in the workplace is the Harrison Assessments Employee Engagement Expectations report. This report also provides a positive, supportive structure for a conversation between leader and team member that fosters connection.
LEADERSHIP TAKEAWAY: Once you clarify your ideal and your employees’ desires, the next step is to evaluate and restructure your approach – without making promises you currently can’t keep. The great news is that by knowing what you and your team are striving for, you can craft a meaningful vision for where you want to go and grow!
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Dr. Cheri Rainey is the CEO/Founder of Rainey Leadership Learning, partnering with leaders to support the entire employee life cycle.