Balancing meaningful work and work that needs to be done

How can a senior HR manager attract and retain millennials by balancing their work expectations?

New young people are entering the workforce every day. They are what is being loosely and sometimes mysteriously referred to as “the Millennials” and they represent more than 50% of your organisation workforce. If you are already working with millennials, you have probably already some challenges, such as: How can you keep them engaged, let alone keep them? How can you meet their desires to be flexible, work anytime, anywhere and yet have plenty of social interactions? How can you reassure them that their contribution to your organisation is meaningful? See our article: How to keep employees engaged in the workplace?

Millennials want, above all, one thing: meaningful work, a sense of purpose, and the opportunity to change the world.

meaningful work
There are a number of characteristics that describe this generation, however, the core can be distilled to the following:

As a LinkedIn survey revealed, 74% of candidates want a job that fills them with meaning.1 The problem is, meaningful work is most obvious at senior positions, that cannot – yet – be matched with the current level of expertise and experience that most Millennials exhibit. So, as a senior HR manager yourself, even one working for an organisation with a clear sense of purpose, you may find yourself struggling to attract the right talent for entry and junior level positions. You may even find yourself in interviews, struggling to explain, at the explicit request of the Millennial applicants, the purpose and meaningful component of this junior position.

The good news is – assuming your organisation is indeed driven by a strong vision, a strong sense of purpose and meaningful contribution to the world –, every position is or can be reframed to be as meaningful as the overall company mission. The secret is in establishing a clear link between any position and the ultimate company purpose and making that link visible to everyone in the organisation. It doesn’t have to be a dilemma between a junior position and meaningful work.

meaningful work
meaningful work
meaningful work
The top 3 secrets for establishing and living the meaningful connection.

Tip #1: Millennials have a reputation – true or false – of wanting things handed over to them on a silver platter. This attitude is one that you absolutely want to eliminate from your organisation. So, what I would suggest you to do is to clearly describe that link in the job opening, and at the beginning of the interview. Then, ask the applicant to elaborate on that, to describe how they think they can keep the link alive, hold them responsible for that link, for living it and making it effective, i.e. hold them responsible, accountable and make them proactive about the actual contribution that this position can deliver to the overall company mission. Encourage them to explore both the company mission and their own individual mission.

Tip #2: Renew the commitment regularly: Make these questions a stable agenda item in your performance reviews. These questions of meaningfulness need to be asked as often as possible and as regularly as possible.

  1. How is what I am/we are doing in my position / in our team on a daily basis meaningful?
  2. How can I/we make (notice the intentional proactive use of language) my/our work more meaningful?

Don’t forget to encourage them to explore both the company mission and its own individual mission. It is essential to continuously check alignment and whether you are all still moving in the same direction.

Tip #3: Use one of your most expensive yet most underused resources: your workplace. Your second most expensive resource is your workplace. Most organisations’ second most expensive cost is their real estate/office space costs. Recent research has shown that 89% of people blame their physical work environment for their dissatisfaction and lack of  ngagement at work.2 Beyond being a “roof over your head” or a backdrop to your activities, your workplace can and should  communicate to every person visiting it, and – even more importantly – to every person working in it on a daily basis, why they are there and how they are connected to the company’s mission. This is crucial because if the  connection between the employee’s contribution and the company’s mission is weakened, the employees can easily lose their enthusiasm. In order to avoid this, you need to ask yourself: what can I improve in my organisation’s workplace to communicate to my employees the connection between their work and the overall mission of the company? I am not suggesting you have the company logo and a few motivational words displayed on the wall. What I am suggesting is to think about the non­verbal communication your workplace is broadcasting – whether by design or by default – and consider how your workplace can capture the energy, values and the mission that is driving your organisation. Once your workplace can capture and communicate the meaningful purpose of your company, it can keep millennials and all other employees connected to the purpose of the company. And the best thing is, your workplace can do that while you sleep.

Alignment is the key to your organisation’s success.

These three tips can help you not only attract, but also retain talent in your organisation. These methods will also significantly boost the impact that your organisation aims to have because they not only remind each individual of the meaningfulness of their work, but they constantly remind, re­align and reunite every person in the organisation towards the one mission.

If a company can help individuals with their search to find meaning in their work, then the organisation will benefit from having more productive and successful employees.

Are you interested in boosting your efforts of attracting and retaining millennials easily, swiftly and for good? Are you wondering how to address this and other millennial­related challenges in your own  organisation? Download here the book The Power of Interactions to learn how to align and engange any group of people and therefore retain and recruit talent easily and effectively. Solve the challenges you are facing as an HR professional now.

Align and Engage your entire workforce to achieve massive growth in your Organisation.


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