Getting Millennials to Love Their Jobs Isn't About Pool Tables and Beer

Only 30% of employees are motivated at work, and that is up from 28% in 2010.  About half are disengaged, don’t really care if they are “there” or not, and the rest are actively disengaged, resulting in lost productivity and other costs to the organization, like turnover.  Which category do you fit into?

If work is so depressing, what’s going on? Aren’t we enjoying those great new perks companies are offering, like pool tables and beer at work? Don’t those make it more fun to be there? Actually, in our recent article on cool cultures, we noted that it is not the perks that make work motivating, but the culture that is created: the tone that is set, the way that employees are empowered to make positive contributions, allowing employees to share in the earnings of the company, helping employees contribute to the community, and having a boss that remembers your birthday and appreciates the contributions that you make to the organization.

This sounds exactly like what millennials want in a company. According to a recent survey, millennials want a workplace where they can express their ideas and be creative. They want to work somewhere that allows them to incorporate their passions at work. Millennials want to work on multiple projects at once, allowing them to use all of their skills that they have developed. Finally, millennials want flexibility. They want flexible hours and the flexibility to work from home occasionally.

Baby Boomers shouldn’t be surprised by what millennials are looking for because they want the same things: they have been struggling to find these things at work for years, which explains the overall discontent at work — everyone is searching for something that is hard to find.

It’s time for companies to look at new ways to organize and lead to get the best from their people if they want them to be engaged and stay engaged.

Aneil and Karen Mishra are business school professors and authors of Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2011). They help leaders and teams build trust to become more engaged at work.