What Employees Want: Ways to Keep Your Workforce Engaged and Motivated


Adulting is hard…How many times has the alarm gone off, and all you wanted to do was roll over and go back to sleep? Pretty much every morning, right? Somehow though we all get up, get ready, and go to work. Besides the obvious; what is it that keeps us all heading in day in and day out? How can employers learn what employees want and how to keep their workforce happy and motivated, and not dreading the next wake up?

One of the major issues facing employers today is how to keep and retain their employees, as well as keeping them motivated and fulfilled. With millennials embarking on their career journey, and with many baby boomers delaying retirement, employers must find ways to entice a multi-generational workplace.

What Do Millennials Want?

Let’s first take a look at the newest members of the workforce; the millennials. As this group (myself included) spreads their wings in the workplace, it is common for them to hop from job to job post-grad. Businessnewsdaily.com explains further:

“Research suggests that today’s college graduates will have a dozen or more jobs by the time they hit their 30s. In an uncertain job environment, it has become societally and culturally okay that they explore. The expectations have changed. Your 20s are used as the time where you actually figure out what you want to do, so the constant job hopping to explore multiple industries is expected.”

Their older, Gen.Y counterparts are out to change the world; but millennials have a different way of doing the changing. They want to feel like they are part of the big picture and are making a difference; if they don’t mesh with the big picture of their employer or feel things are stagnant, millennials will likely move on.

What Makes Baby Boomers Stay?

As millennials enter their careers, baby boomers are continuing at the helms of many businesses; and are extending their time in the work force before retirement. A recent study by AARP finds that 41% of baby boomers have no plans to leave their posts in the near future. There are two major factors that are keeping this group working; the economy and their health. Due to the recession and slow economic growth in the past few years, this generation is staying employed longer to make up for their losses. Though they may have lost in the stock market in the past, for the most part, this group is still healthy and still has much to contribute.

How Do You Make Them All Happy?

The quick and dirty answer is…you don’t. Each person, regardless of their education or generational background, has different needs and wants, and like how mom always says,“you can’t please ’em all.” But, there are several things an employer can do to help improve employee moral, drive, and retention rates.


Everyone likes to know that they are doing a good job. That pat on the back lets you know the the work you do is appreciated and can go a long way. For me, this is probably what motivates me most; I aim to please, and want to continue to impress. Letting employees know that they are valued can help increase motivation and decrease the desire to look elsewhere for validation and fulfillment; especially where millennials are concerned. Here are some ideas employers can use to recognize and encourage their workforce:

  • Tell Them! – Sometimes it’s as easy as that, a few words about the good work they did on a project or the passion they show for their work can do wonders.
  • Special TreatsHas an employee been working diligently to complete a big proposal? Recognize their diligence with a special treat like a gift card to their favorite lunch spot, or if your company can swing it, maybe tickets to a special event coming to town.
  • Additional ResponsibilitiesThis may sound counterintuitive, but if you recognize an employee has the skill and drive it takes to complete a certain task, give it to them. Trusting them to leave their “comfort zone,” take on a new challenge, and recognizing their ability to learn and advance can really motivate employees who express the want to grow.


Interesting Work

I’ve worked a lot of menial repetitive jobs in my day, (in my defense these were high school/college era jobs) and can tell you there is nothing that makes me dread working more, and want to look for an alternative to the monotony, than work that doesn’t interest me. Believe me I know that these “boring” jobs are necessary; but sometimes you need to break up these “uninteresting” tasks and do something more challenging or different. There are many ways to prevent boredom and burn out; here are a few suggestions:

  • Unrelated Work – Is your company big on giving back? Pull one of your employees and have them organize a company fundraiser. Give interested employees the ability to work on a project outside of their daily tasks. It will give them a break from the funk they may be in.
  • Outside Learning – Employees do have interests outside the work they do daily; try sponsoring an “activity night” and get your employees using their brain cells as they work on non-work related projects.

 Keep Them in the Loop

Millennials want to feel like they are part of the bigger picture. Baby boomers need to be reassured that they aren’t being pushed to the wayside as the younger crowd moves in. Keeping employees “in the know” and active in company culture can help avoid employees feeling alienated and detached. Involving employees in activities would be a good way to reinforce company culture and keep them in the loop; these ideas would be a great place to start:

  • Company Activities – Like suggested above, organize an activity in which all employees are invited to take part in; maybe a 5k run/walk. Or, again, if your company can accommodate it, plan an outing and get the team together outside of work.
  • Newsletter/blog – Keep employees updated with key happening in the company by creating an internal newsletter or blog; make it ever more inclusive by letting the employees submit their own content.