51% of employees are actively seeking new jobs or watching for new job opportunities according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Study.  For many organizations that means that more than half of your employees are on their way out the door unless affirmative steps are taken to retain them.  So what is it that employees want, what are they looking for in a workplace?  Here are the 3 most important qualities employees have overwhelmingly indicated they seek in their workplaces.

1. A Sense of Purpose

Believe it or not, your employees are not solely interested in how much money they can make.  While it is obviously an important factor, it is not THE most important factor.  An employee’s ability to do what they do best has been ranked as the most important factor for employees when it comes to work.  This tells us that employees want to be able to use their strengths when making their contributions to the goals of an organization – in doing so employees gain a sense of accomplishment and purpose.   Considering employees spend more time at work than they do anywhere else, it’s no wonder they seek for their efforts to be meaningful, worthwhile and a reflection of their best.  Conversely, when employees feel their efforts are being wasted they become bored or restless and do not enjoy what they are doing or where they are doing it.    Organizations can fuel this desire in employees by matching the right individuals to the right roles based on identified skills and knowledge base.  But to be effective, organizations must make the effort to understand and identify individual employee strengths both from an initial recruitment and hiring perspective as well as on on-going performance management and development perspective.  By actively leveraging an employee’s talents and abilities and connecting them to opportunities within the organization that complement those facets, organizations would be giving its employees the opportunity to excel at what they do and feel good about themselves and the contributions that they are making.

2. Flexibility

Now, more than ever, employees place a greater weight on having a work-life balance.  In fact, it’s been identified as the second most important element employees desire as it relates to work and workplaces.  Employees no longer want to sacrifice their personal life for their professional life and are seeking organizations and work opportunities that afford them flexibility so that they don’t have to.  Workplace flexibility has different meanings for different people, but when it comes down to it, employees want to be able to make adjustments to their work life as needed, including but not limited to flexibility of when they work, how often they work and where they perform their work.  While there may be certain positions or industries where flexibility in time and/or location is not feasible, the key is to figure out how you can address an employee’s fundamental need to achieve balance and well-being at work.   Beyond your standard telecommuting or flex-start and end times, consider alternative benefits such as allowing your employees to freely switch shifts, earn additional personal days, dress casually or even being able to exert control over other parts of their day such as when they take their breaks and lunch. Finding ways to introduce flexibility into your workplace and policies is well worth the effort.  In the end, your employees will gain a sense of empowerment by being able to balance the demands of their workplace with their overall well-being.

3. Stability

Employees want to work for an organization that can offer them a secure and stable environment.  With the public collapse of so many well-known organizations over the last several years, it’s no surprise that employees place such an importance on working for an organization that is on solid footing and poised for growth.  Stability can be measured not just in the organization’s financials, but also internal employee turnover rates as well as an organization’s retention efforts.  The more stable your organization appears in all of these areas, the less worried an employee will be about losing their job or your company going out of business.  While nothing is ever guaranteed, stability and continuous growth provides an employee with a sense that they will be provided with the type of workplace where they can grow and succeed.  Sharing the organization’s record of steady growth and establishing the vision of future growth for both candidates considering joining your organization and your existing employees will not only help them believe in the future of the organization but will assist them in being able to envision themselves as an active participant in that future.

If you have any desire to retain the talent that your organization currently has and to be able to attract the type of candidates that your organization needs, you must take the time to understand what employees are looking for and create an environment where there is intentional effort to meet those needs.   In the end, your employees will thrive and as a natural result, so will your organization.  Win – win.

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