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Joe Szynkowski: Perks or purpose? Companies are missing the mark, should value their workers

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An interesting article came out this week discussing what current workers want most out of their jobs. It’s a complicated topic that has truly evolved over the past 20 years.

Baby boomers spent their heyday focused on making a living, raising a family, and building a comfortable retirement. In talking with Gen-Xers and Millennials about their professional goals, the vision of sailing the ocean with gobs of retirement money stashed away doesn’t quite fit.

I’m hearing more about later-in-life volunteering or consulting ideas. More than once over the past few weeks, I’ve had friends or clients tell me they never plan to retire.

Their reasoning isn’t necessarily money-related – although who knows what social security benefits will look like by then – but more about keeping themselves engaged with others and with fun projects that make them feel valued.

Today’s employees are also searching for this type of purpose-focused work life. Unfortunately, sometimes they are forced to leave their current jobs to find it.

Leaving for a reason

A Gallup poll recently found that happy employees are no more likely to leave their gigs today than they were prior to the pandemic. Around 40 percent were open to leaving before the virus hit, and basically the same rate are open to change companies today.

But in a strong economy that continues to rebound, you would expect a natural decline in this number. It’s not happening anytime soon.

A big reason for this is engagement, or the lack thereof. Many employees simply don’t feel like they are valued.

Work-from-home mandates are being issued and redacted quicker than workers can pack up their box of office supplies or figure out a plan for childcare. Some companies are making employees travel across the country, even in the face of rising infection rates and deaths.

These types of power-moves by businesses do nothing but create resentment among their employees.

On the flip side, I’m hearing of companies offering “perks” like rental car discounts, in-office ping pong tables and mandated in-person team-building events.

Talk about a swing and a miss.

Workers are struggling to find balance between work, family life, and personal time. They need perks that directly impact these three layers in meaningful ways. If a perk doesn’t improve someone’s overall experience at work or home, then companies should put it on the shelf for now.

Think 2022 and beyond

As we come upon the fourth quarter of the 2021 business year, the vast majority of people do not want to be told to come back to work. What’s happening with the pandemic will not change this fact.

Gallup found only 30 percent of Americans want to come back to the office full-time. Yet so many company leaders are resistant to this data.

We are more than a year into the pandemic. Companies have had time to build their work-from-home strategy. It should be firing on all cylinders by now. The fact that it’s not means your company is missing the mark.

So, what do people want?

Purpose. Collaboration. Flexibility. Diversity. Advancement.

They want to work for a company that has a clue.

Forget the ping pong tables.

Focus on your people.

Joe Szynkowski is the happy founder and owner of The UpWrite Group, a small local firm that has offered corporate communications, personal branding, public relations, and ghostwriting services since 2008. Email for more information.


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