Perhaps more than any other generation, purpose is what inspires younger generations of workers to engage and put forth their best efforts in the workplace. So whether your organization has committed to a purpose transformation or not, the chances are it is undergoing one anyway, simply by virtue of the fact that the face of your workforce is changing.

According to Pew Research, Millennials surpassed Generation Xers in 2015 as the largest generational cohort in American workplaces. Yet, the majority of business leaders still haven't figured out how to get this generation engaged in the workplace. My take? If the people we're leading have changed, then so must how we lead them.

Reflect on This: Leadership and Purpose Are Key

In my interviews with more than 600 business leaders, one refrain that has sounded again and again is that it takes a new approach to leadership to attract and engage younger workers. Statistics bear this out: pollsters at Gallup have uncovered some interesting differences between Millennials and the generations that preceded them when it comes to workplace motivation and engagement:

Money - Millennials started their careers during the worst recession in recent memory, and many of them carry large student debt loads. As a result, about half of millennials would switch jobs for a pay hike of 20% or less. Engaged employees, however, are less likely to leave which indicates it's not only about money.

Opportunity and Purpose - Millennials actually place other things ahead of compensation when it comes to assessing career prospects: opportunity to learn, grow, advance, and to do work that matters. In other words, they are motivated by purpose and the opportunity to influence that purpose.

Leadership - Millennials also are looking closely at the quality of leadership and management that they will work for. They're seeking those who can inspire and support their best efforts. In other words, they're looking for leaders who can shape careers, not just managers who hit their numbers.

What do these findings mean for your business? That it takes more than money to engage today's employees. It takes purpose and leadership as well.

Why Self-Reflection Matters

For many managers and executives, becoming the kind of leader that can inspire younger workers will require some self-reflection on how transforming ourselves as leaders, can transform those we lead.

According to Dr. Stewart I. Donaldson, Director of the Claremont Evaluation Center at Claremont Graduate University, managers who want to inspire greater degrees of engagement can't just talk a good game. Says Donaldson, "In our work, if the leader or top management team is really not on board with positive principles and isn't committed to this approach in how they interact with employees and manage the business, it's very difficult to have a lasting positive effect on an organization."

In other words, great leaders seek to transform themselves first, in order to transform their business. Says Lindsay Pattison, Chief Transformation Officer of GroupM Worldwide & CEO of Maxus Global, "Employers need to look at themselves - their business structure, who they really are and how they communicate. Integrity matters. You have to be confident in your own moral compass and be aware of your own boundaries and limitations. These aren't 'soft skills,' they are things you really need to do to grow as a leader."

"Self reflection is key!"

People are Your Key Differentiator

Todd Davis, serves as the chief people officer for FranklinCovey and is the author of the new book Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work, believes, "No matter what business you're in, people are your greatest asset. However, it's the nature of the relationships between people that become your organization's greatest competitive advantage."

According to Davis, there are two interpersonal skills that leaders must have to get the most from their people. Says Davis, "Leaders must make it 'safe to tell the truth.' They must be open to feedback, so it's safe for people to tell the truth when they give or get feedback."

Secondly, leaders must model what they want to see their people do. "Leaders who model what they teach have a ripple effect on the entire culture," says Davis. "We have to do more than talk about what we stand for. We have to believe and do it. All meaningful change comes from the inside out."

Connect Behavior to Results

Mike Gummeson, President of NDS, water management solutions division of NORMA Group, says engaging employees means rewarding those employee behaviors that align to your business's core values. The goal, says Gummeson, is "creating awareness within each individual that they are working for the success of the company by making a difference for our customers and to recognize how they contribute to results like profitability, growth and purpose."

Gummeson says this means "Leadership means being a resource and coach, but also encouraging employees to have an influence. We need their input on where the company should go. It's not enough to just have them agree with us about that direction."

As Employee Needs Change, So Must Leaders

Erin Krehbiel, is President at ACI Specialty Benefits, a company that provides employee well-being, work-life, and concierge benefits that help employers win awards, improve morale and improve their bottom lines. Says Krehbiel, "Today's employer has to provide tools and engage by filling a spectrum of employee needs. They can't just think that money trumps all."

Says Krehbiel, "If we look at organization responsibilities in regard to Maslow's Heirarchy, there's been almost a complete shift in employee needs. Money still matters, but it's not just about lower level needs like being able to afford food and shelter. People aren't just looking for a job anymore - they don't just go to work and then go home. They're looking for fulfillment."

Managers and executives that want to lead today's workforce need to understand not just what's different in their employees, but must reflect inwardly to understand how the changing face of the workplace must inspire change in how they lead. By placing the emphasis on leading with purpose, employers can inspire engagement and loyalty more effectively than through monetary compensation alone.

Published on: Aug 18, 2017