Many of us started 2021 clinging to the hope that the shock of 2020 would be behind us. But over the past year, we’ve experienced new disruptions — from COVID-19 variants to ongoing natural disasters to the conclusions of several court trials that shook the country’s collective heart. Adding to that are the 38 million American employees who resigned from their jobs, creating unprecedented fatigue for the ones who remained.
To be blunt, 2021 did not take it easy on us. And yet we persisted.
Brave activism changed culture, innovation flourished, over 8 billion COVID vaccines were administered, electric cars outsold diesel in Europe, and we landed a rover on Mars.
That’s why the spirit of “and yet” is my watchword for 2022. In this new year, our people need one thing from us, above all else: inspiration.
How do we set goals that inspire? In part, the answer comes in recognizing who it is we’re leading. As we look to 2022, it’s vitally important we understand who it is we most need to engage, and how those particular people are most inspired.
Millennials now represent the largest group in the workforce with 56 million members. They’re marked by loyalty to issues over institutions and are credited with leading the charge in the Great Resignation.
And millennials — and members of Gen-Z, who share many of the same characteristics — are largely driven by their personal values. From the choice to bike to work instead of driving to the decision to reject a job offer from a company that has no minority representation in leadership, there is almost always a deeper principle behind the decision-making of millennials and Gen Zs.
That’s something profoundly worth celebrating, and it’s something that should drive leadership decisions in 2022. Here are three considerations:
1. Connect Employee Passion to Company Purpose
Goal-setting is all about turning the sails in the right direction. That means identifying where the organization needs to go, then figuring out how to navigate the metaphorical “winds.”
Some of that wind energy lies in employees’ commitments to their deeply-held values. And to the extent that you build alignment between workers’ passions and the company’s ambitions, you’ll get natural employee engagement. You’ll inspire.
How do you know what your people are passionate about?
The best way is to ask, whether through data-driven surveys or intimate conversations. But recent research shows the most pressing top-of-mind concerns for millennials (and Gen Z) are:
- Justice and equality (related to issues such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual-orientation and wealth-distribution).
- Sustainability (environmental impact, climate change, ethical sourcing).
- Access to affordable healthcare (including mental health).
- Opportunities for jobs and education.
So as you craft goals for your company’s future, why not connect some of them to your employees’ passions?
Here’s the payoff: When workers realize their organization cares about many of the same things they do, it provides meaning, boosts feelings of connection and promotes workplace pride. In short, it’s a powerful tool for motivation.
Related Article: Make Your Organization a Place Worth Staying
2. Expand Autonomy
It’s well-documented that autonomy, flexibility and input are keys to satisfaction for millennial workers. Try channeling that energy in the direction of goal-setting.
Invite employees, departments and teams to craft their own goals tied to yours. Hold them accountable for hitting targets, but offer freedom in determining the ways they’ll go about their work and in creating the sub-goals that will guide their alignment.
When workers have a say in how work gets done, they’re often much more motivated to own the results.
Related Article: How the Digital Workplace Is Becoming More Human-Centered
3. Make Employee Well-Being a Goal in Itself
Personal well-being (including mental health) is one of the most pressing concerns according to younger workers — especially as the pandemic continues. In fact, 81% of Gen-Zers and 56% of millennials have left a job over concerns regarding their mental health. If you’re going to motivate employees with your organization’s goals, they need to know you’ve made them one of your goals, too.
Prioritizing employee well-being is table stakes now. Organizations are rapidly retooling or expanding their benefits, like increased PTO, child-care subsidies, mental health and wellness offerings, access to services that free up time at home (meal prep, house cleaning, task services), and maximum opportunities for flexible work hours and location.
2022 is sure to bring its share of challenges so as workers head into the year, potentially already tired and disillusioned, focus on inspiring them with a compelling vision. Release them to pursue objectives with flexibility, and care for them by meeting their needs. You’ll reap the benefits as they bring their best energy and effort to the table.
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