Respect in the workplace is more important than perks for younger employees

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Experts say fun and trendy job benefits aren’t as much of a draw for younger workers

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia explored what’s important to young workers. According to their findings, having meaningful, respectful communication at work is more important than “fun” perks like company happy hours. 

“Millennials have been called the ‘entitled generation,’ and they kind of give young workers a bad rap because their often-publicized interests began with wanting to have fun in the workplace, but today’s younger workers have shifted toward interests in doing valuable work and finding meaning in their day-to-day job functions,” said researcher Danielle LaGree. 

“Leaders and managers are the ones who have the power to help foster that connection of meaningful work, determine what employee well-being means, and how to communicate that in a respectful way to their employees.” 

Respect is important 

For the study, the researchers surveyed over 1,000 full-time workers between the ages of 21 and 34 across nearly two dozen different industries. The participants were asked to rate their current places of employment in six areas: occupational resilience, respectful engagement, job engagement, job satisfaction, autonomous respect, and employee loyalty and retention. 

Based on their responses, the researchers learned that younger workers have placed an emphasis on feeling respected and valued in the workplace. They want to be able to find meaning in their work, and a big part of that is how employers communicate with their employees. 

The researchers explained that it’s important for leaders in the workplace to do their part to create an environment where workers feel their tasks and interactions are valued, as it will likely push them to perform at their best. 

“As we see here with this research, actively recognizing employees for the value they bring to their organization will help equip them to bounce back after adversity, to perform better in their jobs, and be more committed to their organizations in the long term,” said LaGree. “I think that’s especially relevant today, even though this study was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope these findings emphasize exactly what younger workers are looking for on the job market. By ignoring these important values, companies may lose out on job prospects or may find themselves constantly filling empty roles. 

“There’s a giant risk for employers if they don’t help employees have a sense of purpose and a sense of well-being and enjoyment,” said researcher Margaret Duffy. “Coming to work may not be joyful every day, but if work is something where I can feel fulfillment, I can feel respected as a human being, and most important, that I can feel that I have earned the respect and recognition that I’m given by my boss and by my co-workers.” 

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