Beyond Beer on Tap: What do Your Employees Really Want?

Q: Where Was the Most Action-Packed Gig In Town This Weekend?
October 9, 2018
learning and development consulting
Episode 060: Working Through the Messy Middle
October 23, 2018

Beyond Beer on Tap: What do Your Employees Really Want?

what employees want

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients individually for the last 5+ years. In our meetings, I get a lot of “This may seem silly but…” or “I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this, but…”

And what spills forth from there would shock you. 

Not because it’s the most earth shattering thing you’ve ever heard, but precisely the opposite – it’s so simple, it’s kind of crazy. 

People want to feel like they’re part of something and that they matter. 

That’s it. Full stop. 

But as L&D and employee engagement aficionados, we understand that it’s not a matter of waving a magic wand in the workplace and having it all be hunky dory. It takes more than that, which I’ve written about in other posts and will continue to do so, to give you tips and ideas for your own internal company professional development programs. 

Back to the topic at hand: what is also so shocking is the way people talk about these things. These are direct (anonymous) quotes from clients who want out of companies like yours, and a lot of the time, you wouldn’t even know it. 

“This may be weird to say, but I just want to feel like I matter to my manager and my team. I’ve tried to have convos to develop my career there and they’re always pushed off or canceled last minute. There’s nothing left for me here.”

“My manager is unresponsive when there’s a deadline and I’m left to make my own decisions and move ahead. But then we get down to the deadline and she comes in and wants to change everything. This leads to me missing family events, exercise and sleep. I keep my phone in my bed with me in case it goes off at 1am and she needs something changed. I’m a zombie a lot of the time.”

“The partners at my firm are really demanding, and they don’t seem to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them. I’m all about hard work and I’m ok working long hours when it’s needed, but it seems like it’s always needed and that’s not sustainable year-round. I bring my phone to my SoulCycle class so I can answer emails mid-spin.”

“I don’t need free snacks and lunch. Sure it’s nice, but I need a challenge, some professional development and the feeling that my career is actually going somewhere at this job.”

How do those quotes hit you? 

And here’s the other thing: these are the ambitious, high-achieving team players that arrive at work exhausted, leave work exhausted and repeat the entire cycle for 5 days, only to enter the weekend one of two ways: collapsed on their couch watching Netflix for 48 hours or enacting the second half of the oft-used phrase, “Work Hard, Play Hard”. 

I know this because I talk to these people on the regular, and I was one of those people for many years. 

It’s not a great place to be, and I can’t blame people for wanting to figure a way out of their situation. 

But you also have another insidious problem when things aren’t working correctly and people aren’t feeling like there are any development goals: you also may have some ‘fly under the radar’ types that aren’t the high achievers we’ve been talking about in this article. And they may be doing jussssst enough to get by, but they’re not actively looking for a new position.

This situation may be even worse for your company’s reputation, bottom line and culture than the high achievers busting their butts to stay on top of everything. Do you really want people who don’t want to be there out selling your product? BUILDING your product?! 

When I recently asked a client about her ‘wins’ for the week (something we do to open up our meetings), she paused and said, “Well, I showed up at work today. I guess that’s a win – just getting out the door.” 

WOW. So either way you slice it, high achievers and beaten down meh ‘fly under the radar’ vibes are NOT what you want in your office. 

How can you get your finger on the pulse of whether you have either of these two types of people in your workplace? Here’re a couple ideas to get you started:

  • Build rapport- and mean it: Take time to shoot the breeze with your fellow employees. Be genuine – don’t add this as an item on your to-do list. If you’re not doing it now, it may feel unnatural to start, but believe me, it’s worth it. In informal convos over lunch or a work happy hour, you can learn what it is your people really want and if they feel like they’re getting it here.
  • Anonymous surveys: They’ve gotta be truly anonymous if you’re saying they are. People will unleash the dragon (i.e. their opinions) when they’re given a forum. You need to make sure you’re asking the right questions and the right question format mix. In other words, you could have a question that is a scaling question, like, “On a scale of 1-10 (ten= most satisfied), how satisfied are you with your job duties and responsibilities as relates to your career growth.” And then the next question can give them space to expand if they wish. Keep in mind that some people will not expand because it may take away the anonymous spirit of the survey as they give more detail. This is why the rapport building is ALSO important. Some great resources for assessments and surveys are Glint and Retensa.

In short, instead of only helping people GTFO (Get the Eff Out) of their workplaces as I’ve been doing the last half a decade, my goal is to help those workplaces be better places to be, so the GTFO plan isn’t needed. You can learn more about that here.