Gallons of digital ink have been spilled and much has been made of today’s young generation. Who are they? What do they want? When they choose jobs and employers, and when they choose to keep a job instead of moving on, why do they make these decisions? Just as advertisers and marketers scramble for their attention and their money, employers are scrambling to get a piece of something even more valuable: their time, their talents and their passion.

We’ve reviewed volumes of research on the subject, both formal and informal, and we’ve been exposed to both rigorous and casual studies that help us understand what entry- to mid-level employees care about and what they’d like to gain from the decisions that guide their careers. And one of motivators we identified can be summed up in a word: meaning.

Young employees in 2018 want their time and labor put to valuable use. The definition of “valuable” varies from person to person, but there are a few things that consistently fall outside that definition. Work is not valuable if it’s not beneficial for society, if it’s not used and applied to company goals, and if it is applied to those goals, but the goals go nowhere, make no sense or make the world generally worse.

The take-home message is simple: If you want young employees to come on board and commit themselves, clearly show them how their daily tasks help the organization. And then clearly share the overall mission of the organization and how it solves, sells or does something that contributes to the greater good.

Gone are the days when a young employee would eagerly rush to fulfill a request because it was issued by “the boss.” And rapidly following out the door are the days when an employee would tackle a seemingly meaningless task because doing so might lead to a positive recommendation someday or a possible promotion ten years in the future.

Younger employees tend to ask “why” before throwing themselves into an endeavor, and even if they don’t ask the question aloud, they still ask it in their minds, and they still expect an answer. The world is more complex and interconnected than ever, and these days most of us are driven by a search for meaning in our actions, links between events and connection between cause and effect. Recognize this fact as you set your teams to various tasks, and keep it in mind even as you draft your job descriptions, source candidates and pitch your position to talented applicants.

If you need some guidance during this process, reach out to the Milwaukee recruiting professionals at Extension. We’re always available to help you find, attract and retain the skilled workers who can help your company grow.


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