Feb 01, 2023
Written by: Brad Shuck, Ph.D., Professor of Human Resources and Organizational Development, University of Louisville, Co-Founder, OrgVitals; John O'Brien, VP Employee Performance Group, BI WORLDWIDE
Pre-pandemic, employees were looking for four main things in their work: a mission to accomplish, a climate to embrace, a place to grow and good co-workers.
Those extrinsic factors have shifted to intrinsic ones. Here are five motivating factors that employees are now looking for in their work.
There is noise everywhere: recessions, layoffs in major sectors, political strife. There is little news of stability and employees are responding by mitigating risk. Loss aversion bias describes the human tendency to be twice as motivated to avoid loss as to secure a gain of equal value and that means, right now, employees are looking for indications that their job will still be there in 2024.
A recent BIW survey showed that employees who are worried about losing their jobs are 4 times more likely to plan to leave in the next year. Communicating (and even over-communicating) with your teams about the factors surrounding their job stability and benefits that promote upward mobility lessens feelings of insecurity and burnout.
A recent study1 found 75% of employees would give up other job benefits for the option to work remotely. At the same time, only 1 in 7 job postings offer remote work. The real conversation is not about remote versus hybrid or work from office—this is about the degree of flexibility in terms of where and when work happens.
Not every employer is able to offer remote work, but things like flexible start times, expanded meeting format options and workday accommodations not only are seen as a competitive advantage in hiring and retention, but they also help address DEI factors for neurodivergent employees, parents and employees dealing with wellness issues.
This is at the root of the phenomenon with the misnomer of “quiet quitting.” Employees are not “doing the minimum;” rather, what leaders are interpreting as “quitting” is boundary setting, a recontextualization and an integration of life factors that have not traditionally included work.
New Rules of Engagement® research by BI WORLDWIDE found only 56% of employees say their employers make it easy to live a healthy lifestyle. A study for Performance Improvement Quarterly found employees in toxic work environments were at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and mental health crises. Conversely, employees in positive cultures that promoted employee wellness reported healthier sleep patterns, healthier eating patterns, healthier drinking habits and general feelings of wellbeing. Those employees took sick days less often and for shorter durations and were more productive in their organization.
Increasingly, the research is clear. Work that does not have a purpose is not worth the cost. Having a direct line of sight to the social impact of work and how individual employee goals impact the overall goals of the organization is golden.
In a job climate where 74% of employers report problems finding the right talent to fill positions, inspired employees are twice as likely to stay at their company for the next 12 months and are 44% more likely to refer friends and family to come work with them.2 Communicating meaning at work has a tremendous ROI (Return on Investment).
In our 2022 research, employees who felt they belonged at their organization were over ten times more likely to be inspired at work than those who felt disconnected. Belonging, which integrates equity and inclusion, is a primary currency in the future of work.
Similar to purpose, says behavioral psychologist Dan Ariely, “The more a company can offer their employees opportunities for meaning and connection, the harder those employees are likely to work and the more enduring their loyalty is likely to be.” Working with tenured employees to create allies and mentorship connections across work silos for new employees, offering regular check-ins and making clear, visible changes to team culture when feedback dictates will keep your best employees around long term.
In addition, organizations should consider the role recognition plays not only in activating but also in sustaining employees’ energy. If 77% of the decisions we make are based on how we feel, recognition is a great tool to connect emotionally with employees.