“A purpose, a project, an emotional connection, feeling like your work is meaningful… This is what people are looking for these days”
Just a few years ago, a good salary, social benefits, or stability were some of the most common demands of employees when entering the job market, or when changing companies. However, the pandemic has caused that focus to shift. Or perhaps it was not the pandemic, but instead something that had already been happening, and the pandemic just brought it to the surface, or caused it to emerge more quickly and more noticeably.
What motivates employees today, and in fact what they are demanding, is an opportunity to work on an interesting project, at a company that has values and a purpose. They want to feel useful and they want their work to be meaningful. This is what professionals want from a company these days and it is what motivates them to join a project, or to quickly move to a different one.
We are living in times when the major challenge confronting us is how to deal with uncertainty. Failure to recognize this is to ignore a reality that has already emerged before us in a way no one could have imagined. Over two years ago, we went home because of the threat of a pandemic. None of us had experienced anything like it before. We had no idea when we would return to our offices. We started working and relating with each other remotely on a large scale. Were we ready for this? Every company did it. We had no choice (within one month, 90% of the workforce was working remotely). I suppose that each company had its own level of preparation, which was also influenced by their particular industry… In any event, all of this put a new reality on the table, which is one that today, a couple of years later, is having an undeniable impact: flexibility, trust, and a two-way sense of responsibility between a company and its employees.
These are precisely the characteristics that are defining our new ways of working, and they are the ones that everyone is now demanding, regardless of their age. Perhaps it is because these are characteristics that foster personal and professional growth and development. It is also because these demands have become increasingly significant in terms of attracting and retaining talent. It is important to remember that organizations has an abundance of talent that must be put to good use, and who require work-life balance and time for their personal lives.
Working on a project that is appealing and interesting, and that can enhance an employee’s professional development, one that will make an employee say “yes”, has now become a sine qua non condition. Salaries and social benefits are still important, but they are something that is taken for granted. They are something that all companies can offer, to one degree or another. What makes a company stand out is the rest; it is a company’s culture, its purpose, and its ability to create a sense of belonging. Although corporate culture is still the force that holds any company’s organization together, the way that this culture is conveyed and experienced has changed from a few years ago. That is why the need for an emotional connection, especially when part of the workforce is working remotely, is essential.
What employees are now demanding is a project that is exciting, at a company with purpose and values, one that is in sync with what they want to do… and these demands are being seen across all generations.
Working on international projects, but from your own country, or on projects from a business or area other than your own, makes it possible to share experiences and acquire new knowledge. Independent, multidisciplinary teams provide opportunities for learning about other perspectives, simply by the fact that a project must be seen through a different lens, whether it is geographical, generational, etc. It is this diversity that adds value to work, enriching a project and the employees, both personally and professionally.
These characteristics, which are defining a new way of working, do not remain static, because this is a process in constant evolution, where team leaders still have a very important role. However, their role has changed. A leader must be able to bring together and facilitate the work of their teams. And getting something wrong is not synonymous with failure. Trial and error are tools and ways of continuing to progress. The independence of team members is achieved through mutual trust between a team and its leader, and that trust translates into self-management. It is the leader who gives a team cohesion, who looks after a team and attracts talent to it, and this is what leads to and fosters growth among all of a team’s members.
Learning must be something that happens every day, but there must also be a willingness to unlearn knowledge that is no longer useful. Bureaucracy directly contradicts what people are looking for in a company these days. They require immediacy and flexibility, and these are aspects that a company must learn how to incorporate and learn to quickly. Companies and their employees must learn together, in a context that is entirely different from the one they have experienced up until now.
In this new reality, employees are becoming the true owners of their own professional careers, with the capacity for independent learning taking on much more importance in times like these. Although a company must provide the means that will allow employees to gain the knowledge for their job position in order to develop, the employees are now the ones deciding what they want to learn. Self-learning. In the field of human resources, this is probably one of the most significant changes that has occurred during the last decade. Each person has their own talents and a company must be fully aware of these talents and identify them. This is how a company will be able to offer new challenges to its employees.
There is another new trend that is beginning to emerge: employees who change companies not because they are unhappy, but because they have found a more appealing or exciting project at another company. However, they still want to have the opportunity to return. Although this is a dynamic that is just beginning to appear, in the future it may not be so rare, and it may eventually be found to offer advantages to companies as well as to their employees. The employees acquire new skills and knowledge, and their companies benefit from this new talent learned at another company. Right now all of this is quite new… but who knows?
The paradigm shift, and its speed, that we are experiencing in our ways of working are happening much faster than the changes we have seen in the past. This is our reality. The way teams are managed has changed, and the way of working has too, and the demands and interests of employees are no longer the same. A sense of purpose, and the flexibility required in order to adapt to these changes, are priorities for everyone. This is what people are now looking for before they join a new company, and this is a reality that is unstoppable.