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March 4 is Employee Appreciation Day, according to people who make these things up. Since there’s a correlating holiday for bosses (October 17 in 2016) it seems only fair that bosses take one day to tell show workers how much they appreciate them.
In the spirit of the holiday, I have compiled a list of what employees really want from their employer – and why.
In almost every survey over the past decade, workers say they want job security. Some people think that the quest for job security is simply saying “don’t fire me, even if I’m not performing.” Cynics consider job security to be the last bastion of lazy and disengaged workers. In fact, only delusional workers want to be immune to consequences of less than adequate performance.
When a worker talks about job security, what he really means is that he doesn’t want to have to spend energy worrying about whether his job will be here tomorrow. It’s impossible to be fearful about losing your livelihood and do a great job at the same time. Workers need to trust that you’ll tell them when the company is in trouble or when management is thinking about changes. Gossip, rumors and free-floating angst are exhausting distractions that take time and momentum away from people who want to do a good job.
Talk to your people early and often; look them in the eye when you have bad news to deliver. The question they really want to ask is “Should I be worried?” If they believe that you’ll tell them the truth, whether it’s “No – I’ve got this under control,” “I’m not sure, but I’ll let you know soon,” or “It’s not looking good, and I wanted to let you know,” they will sleep better and perform better.
The newest item on your employees’ wish list is control, something that has traditionally only been available to corporate executives. Today, workers think of it as their due; they want control of how they work, when they work and where they work. According to a 2014 FlexJobs survey of 1,500 job seekers, 20 percent of respondents would take a 10 percent cut in pay for flexible work options. Forget a corner office and title; freedom and flexibility are the new perks that make your job worth having.
One big reason for this is that is the influx of millennial workers, of course. This is a generation that understands and craves work/life balance and doesn’t get the concept of face time (unless it’s the Apple product, of course.) The baby boomers, who were once reliable corporate drones, are exiting the full time workforce. Many of those who remain are questioning the very premise of a full time job.
They are starting to be driven by a sense of their own mortality. They recognize now that when we said glibly, “life is too short to… (insert self-indulgence here: drink bad coffee or cheap wine)” we could have simply stopped at “life is too short.” They want to spend time on what really matters while they have the energy to enjoy it.
So if you’d like to get your employees gifts for their special day, consider transparency and flexibility. No gift wrap required.
In fact, you might not consider it a gift at all. Writer Gene Wolfe once said: “When a gift is deserved, it is not a gift but a payment.”