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What Do Employees Want from the Workplace?

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

There’s always a lot of talk about generations in the workplace. Some researchers would have us believe there are great generational divides. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as far as engagement in the workplace is concerned.

There’s a danger in painting people with a generational brush. Writing off entire swaths of people because they’re too young to possibly know how to do anything, or too old to be able to figure things out any more, puts a company at risk of not having the right talent for the job. To me (a woman of a “certain age”) the idea that age discrimination starts as early as 35 is laughable. If that’s the case, that leaves a pretty small window for someone to start working and make a mark in their career before they’re written off as being too old.

Anyway, enough of the ageism rant… Let’s switch back to what people of different generations want in the workplace.

Gallup organization, the experts in employee engagement measurement, have asked people from different generations what they want from their employers. Interestingly enough, the answers were pretty similar.

Across generations, the first 2 needs are consistent. Every generation, including Boomers and Gen X who grew up with the Command and Co y that cares about their well-being.

What defines “Caring”?

If the pandemic has taught business anything, it’s that employees are human and, as such, bring that humanity into the workplace—especially if the workplace is their home. At a time like this, concerns about well-being come to the forefront. In fact, well-being was a top 3 issue for every generational cohort before Covid-19.

Employees are looking for organizations to satisfy 5 factors of well-being:

· Career

· Social

· Financial

· Community

· Physical

Employees want to like what they do (Career), have meaningful friendships in work and at home (Social), make the right kind of money (Financial), like where they live (Community), and have the energy to do good work (Physical).

In my book, I present 7 key traits managers need to possess to support their team members’ well-being. Those traits are:

1. Develop a Relationship with the people on your team. 2. Have Empathy for those with whom you work. 3. Support the members of your team. 4. Promote the ideas of your team members. 5. Empower your team members to be great on their own terms. 6. Have Consideration for their feelings. 7. Trust them, and be trustworthy yourself.

Let’s see how those traits stack up against the 5 elements of well-being:

  • Relationships - Social, Career

  • Empathy - Social, Community, Physical

  • Support - Social, Community

  • Promotion - Career, Financial

  • Empowerment - Career, Financial

  • Consideration - Really… all of them

  • Trust - Really… all of them

The best way for managers to develop a relationship with employees is through the One On One Conversation. Once that relationship is built, the path to helping support employee well-being will become clear.

If your company is struggling to connect with and inspire the people who report to them, consider:

  • Holding leadership conversations that address connection in the workplace

  • Making regular, frequent, and consistent one on one conversations part of every manager’s mandate

  • Holding managers accountable for the number of, and quality of, the conversations they have with their reports

  • Ensuring these conversations move beyond task reviews and encompass employee concerns and their professional development

  • Training managers to be able to hold these conversations confidently and capably

Pay close attention to the second and third bullet. I have a lot of managers tell me they hold regular one on one conversations with their reports. However, there are few managers who go beyond task reviews. That’s not a one on one, that’s a check-in.

Employees experience your organization through their manager. If your managers aren't doing it, it's not your culture. It is imperative that managers are trained to care about employees as people and set expectations of ethical and inclusive behavior. – Gallup

If employees truly are an organization’s greatest asset, then the organization needs to communicate to the managers to deliver on that promise. The best way to do this is to make one on one conversations part of every manager’s job (including executives—after all, they’re managers too).


Check out C-Change Learning and Development’s manager training programs. You’ll find them here:

Download my one on one conversation template here:

cover photo: Jacob Lund, The Noun Project


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