In the 21st Century, most resources focus on professional self-development for entrepreneurs. But most people aren’t entrepreneurs, and even those who are may eventually hire employees. So it’s always a timely subject.
The Twelve Most Important Needs
According to Abhinav Gulyani’s review of First Break All the Rules, Gallup spent 25 years interviewing more than a million employees from a broad range of companies to determine the 12 most important needs of the most productive people. Any manager or business owner capable of meeting these needs will find a workplace culture that fosters loyalty, creativity, efficiency, and excellence. Some of the needs may surprise you.
1. To know what is expected at work.
Everyone needs to know what is expected. A good employee wants to meet or exceed the expectations of their employer, and this can only be accomplished by clearly understanding expectations. You can’t aim an arrow without a target. Otherwise you’re shooting into empty space.
2. To have the materials and equipment needed to do the job well.
Every soldier, doctor, and builder will tell you that the right materials and equipment are essential to accomplish a specific goal. You can’t saw a straight board with a bent saw blade (trust me). You can’t paint the Mona Lisa with a crayon. You can’t remove a tumor with a spoon.
Far too many companies look at materials and equipment based on a 30,000 foot view of the cost rather than the objective or the employee. Once you have a target, you need an arrow. Otherwise the target just rests out there in the distance untouched.
3. To have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.
When you spend most of your time on tasks outside of your skill set, it takes longer to accomplish a lesser quality of work utilizing.
4. To receive regular recognition or praise for work done well.
The #1 most popularly overlooked aspect of a winning work culture is recognition and praise. Your people will work harder and be more loyal when they feel appreciated and respected. It’s a universal currency. Everyone wants to know that what they do matters and that when they put in the effort to do a great job it is recognized and appreciated.
5. To have a supervisor, or someone else at work who cares about them as a person.
While our parents and grandparents may have accepted their roles as cogs in a great machine, we see the world differently. Life needs to mean something more than loyalty and pension. Freedom and adventure, or at least the possibility of adventure, are recipes for success among the working class in our generation. To work for someone else is often a choice of freedom versus security, with work culture being the great tiebreaker. When supervisors invest in and care for their employees, people thrive. Company becomes family. And people would die for their family.
6. To have someone who encourages their development.
Upward mobility. It’s more than a cliche. Being able to learn and develop and even achieve a more desirable position with better pay within the same company has given many the reason to stay and to excel.
When I was fresh out of college, I got my first job as a clerk at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Mortgage didn’t happen to be an industry of any interest to me, but I came across the corporate list of self-improvement classes available and my supervisors encouraged me to advance as far forward as I wanted. There were classes to loan processing, closing, and underwriting. In theory, I could have landed in an Underwriter’s chair within 2-3 years earning $60K. That’s a far cry from my clerical position earning $27K.
7. Feeling that their opinions count.
Employee input can shape office culture and improve daily work life when someone in management is actually listening.
8. Feeling that the mission of the company makes their work important.
9. Having co-workers who are committed to doing quality work.
10. Having a best friend at work.
11. Getting feedback on their progress at least every six months.
12. Receiving opportunities to learn and grow at work.