The era of labor abundance is over. People don’t need your job to survive. Unlike your grandparents, they aren’t going to stay in the same job position at your company for their entire professional lives. Millennials average job tenure is under 3 years. People aren’t looking for just a job anymore. They’re looking for a purpose.

Employees Want to Be Part of Something Important

Your employees want meaning and purpose when they come to work. When they look back over the forty years of their professional career, they want to know that what they did mattered. And for many people, that goes beyond what they achieved as an individual. It’s about the role they played in the tribe. Working at a company that’s creating an appreciable social good helps to leverage their own contributions. They did what they could as an individual, but rather than being just a ripple in a tide pool, they were involved in something that felt like a sea of change.

The workforce is no longer driven primarily by a frame of job scarcity. Even though everyone doesn’t have the luxury of changing jobs on a whim (yet), if the connection with their employer is tenuous, they will often move on if given the opportunity. Just a few months ago the U.S. reached a new labor record 3.5 million Americans quit in one month! Today, it’s not about job security and building tenure. It’s about finding work that is fulfilling, includes some autonomy, and has a mission, purpose, and value set that fits with the employee’s own.

I tell the CEO’s we work with that if there is no emotional velcro between an employee and their workplace, all it may take for them to cross the street for another job is 25 cents an hour more. Here’s how you can help your employees form the hooks and loops of emotional velcro that compel them to stay:

Provide frequent validation. Your employees need to know that what they do at work every day makes a positive impact on the overall goals of the company. When you recognize your employees’ work, they’re more motivated to continue doing good work. Look for any instances when employees do more than they have to, and comment on it.

Establish a strong sense of community. Work to create a robust community of people who feel comfortable sharing who they are with their manager and co-workers. Encourage your employees to make connections with their colleagues. Maintain open communication with your employees through frequent feedback and support.

Link your employees’ job roles to a greater cause. It’s critical to communicate your company’s mission, strategy, and goals, while articulating how the work that each employee does is contributing to a greater social good, to an improved quality of life for customers, or to the growth and prosperity of the company.

Support and encourage ongoing learning. Opportunities for career development give your employees’ work a strong meaning and purpose because they allow them to sharpen their skills and take on new responsibilities. Employees are more engaged in their work when the company invests in them. Whenever employers focus more strategically on the meaning and purpose that employees find in their work, engagement increases.

Key Takeaways

  • In the current economy of labor scarcity, people don’t need your job because they can easily take their talent elsewhere. Employees want meaning and purpose when they go to work, and if that is lacking, they’re more likely to change jobs.
  • Establish meaning and purpose for your employees by articulating how their work contributes to a greater social good, to an improved quality of life for customers, or to the growth and prosperity of the company.
  • Leaders will benefit by focusing on the emotional velcro that connects employees to their workplace.
  • Creating a strong sense of community in your workplace helps employees find fulfillment in their work and connect with the organization’s mission and goals.

Adapted from: 4 Ways to Help Employees Find Meaning at Work, Stephanie Vozza, Fast Company.