The Enthusiastic Workplace, Part I: What Employees Really Want

Is your company an enthusiastic workplace? Do employees come in chomping at the bit, raring and ready to give each day at work their peak performance? I can practically hear the responses out there among some of you: “Are you kidding?” or “Anything but!” or “In my dreams, maybe.” And there’s the first problem right there. Far too many in the HR and talent management field have become jaded and cynical about their employees and the workforce in general. But here’s the thing: Enthusiastic employees don’t have to be such a rare breed. What makes for enthusiasm among your workers is surprisingly simple, and it’s high time we get back to the basics of what really makes employees happy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 11.37.23 AMSirota Consulting, a business focused on industrial organizational psychology, has been conducting employee attitude research for more than three decades. The data collected over those years are incredibly consistent, and resulted in a book called The Enthusiastic Employee. It reveals how employees really only want the following three things from work:

  •  Equity
  •  Achievement
  •  Camaraderie

End of story, right? Well, not exactly. Teasing out what goes into each of those broad categories and how companies can make sure they’re doing the right things to keep their employees happy and the company profitably humming along will be the focus of this four-part series on creating enthusiastic workplaces.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, what about all those articles on Millennials and how different they are from previous generations and all of that?” Good question. Those of us who are a bit older do tend to look at the most recent generation with more than a bit of perplexity. But here’s the thing: This happens with every new generation. The Baby Boomers looked askance at Generation X, and now both of those generations are wonder who in the world these new Millennials are. Young people are always criticized by their elders in this big-picture way. It’s been happening forever and will continue.

Are there real differences between the generations? Sure, but they’re not earth shattering differences. Millennials are a truly tech-savvy digital generation in a way that leaves Baby Boomers’ heads spinning. But when you get down to the basics of what all three generations want from work, it’s still about equity, achievement, and camaraderie. So every time the different generations look at each other as if they’re from different planets, just remember everyone wants the same basic things.


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The evidence is overwhelmingly consistent on these basic goals. In fact, the same basic needs apply to 85-90% of workers, regardless of the generation to which they belong. And that means this hasn’t changed over time, and certainly isn’t going to change any time soon. What does differ between the generations is not what they need from work, but what will satisfy those needs. That is where technology comes back into the picture for Millennials. Unlike previous generations, Millennials didn’t have to adapt to the digital age because they were raised in it, which means they’re very comfortable with social media. To show the difference, the Pew Research Center notes that 55% of Millennials have posted a “selfie” to a social media platform, whereas only 24% of GenXers and just 9% of Boomers can say the same. What that means in terms of the workplace is that Millennials simply expect to take a social media approach to work, and can feel a bit stymied with more traditional workplaces that aren’t on what feels like the cutting edge of technology to the older generations.

The next three articles in this four-part series on enthusiastic workplaces will take a closer look at each of the three primary needs (equity, achievement, and camaraderie), deconstructing them into their essential aspects so that companies can have a firm grip on what it takes to keep employees happy, which is the surest path leading to enthusiasm in the workplace.

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July 6, 2015   Updated :October 22, 2015   enthusiasm, talent management   

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