What do you work for?

When I quit my day job and took up independent writing as a career, I was terrified. The reason was when I weighed against what I was earning at the day job versus what would give me individual satisfaction, I realized that the rewards that are more intrinsic in nature mattered more to me than the a very welcome salary packet. I followed through on sage advice by a mentor who said: Do the work you would do for free. What do you work for?

What do you work for

Then I happened to read an interesting article called “The 4 intrinsic rewards to drive employee engagement” reflecting on the changed motivational dynamics with one major change being the rise in importance of psychic, or intrinsic rewards, and the decline of material or extrinsic rewards.

An article that set me thinking on what is it our generation works for. A very relevant topic in today’s corporate world where the current generation is not just happy with pay raises every year but have a different set of ambitions to focus on like designing a life where they can work and follow their passions at the same time, or where their individuality is not crushed under the prescribed behavioral fit set for their organizations.

Today, we have young people in early 30s taking up early retirement to spend time to focus on their passions or just have leisure time to spend with family.

They later decide to come back to work redesigned to suit their new way of life. So, what makes successful lawyers, bankers and financial consultants give up 6 figure packages and a jet-setting lifestyle with a range of material benefits? 

We all look forward to our salaries at the end of the month and count of our bonuses as the reflection of how well we have performed in the year. But do we just work in order to meet our basic needs.

I personally think we have progressed to higher needs, needs that go beyond survival alone. We look to improve on our lives, to make them better and to make ourselves happier, for the privilege of living a fulfilling life.

In a Fortune article from 1994, there is a phenomenal story that reflects this principle:

IN THE DAYS of misty towers, distressed maidens, and stalwart knights, a young man, walking down a road, came upon a laborer fiercely pounding away at a stone with hammer and chisel. The lad asked the worker, who looked frustrated and angry, “What are you doing?” The laborer answered in a pained voice: “I’m trying to shape this stone, and it is backbreaking work.”

The youth continued his journey and soon came upon another man chipping away at a similar stone, who looked neither particularly angry nor happy. “What are you doing,” he asked? “I’m shaping a stone for a building.” The young man went on and before long came to a third worker chipping away at a stone, but this worker was singing happily as he worked. “What are you doing?” The worker smiled and replied: “I’m building a cathedral”.

If we are to look at the last century the entire emphasis and reward of a professional life was the most obvious and acknowledged material rewards like pay raises, bonuses and a range of others health, travel benefits. For a lot of old timers, the salaries and a good retirement package at the end of the corporate tenure was the ideal. They preferred to stay with the same company and retire well as part of their legacy.

The change at present is that employee motivation is being increasingly driven by factors that are not material or can be effectively measured and given out. We all look forward to our salaries at the end of the month and count of our bonuses as the reflection of how well we have performed in the year.

But the psychological rewards based more on the a internal satisfaction they feel drawing on their experience as employees and as individuals plays a critical role today in defining work/career satisfaction.

What are the key factors that play a role in professional satisfaction for the Millennials?

Or, as a millennial, what do you work for?

1. The meaningfulness of the purpose

Measured by the organizational culture a person has to perform in. Are the vision, mission, purpose and individual job responsibilities well defined? Does your organization give people freedom to identify their passions or utilize their strengths in a relevant manner? Is an employee made to feel ownership of his product or service?

2. The freedom of choice

Measured by the how empowered you feel in using your judgment to accomplish a task. What is the level of trust and authority an individual enjoys. IS there a fear of retribution for not achieving success or is there applause for creativity and effort. Do you have all the information and resources made available for you to give your best.

3. Sense of satisfaction, pride in doing high-quality work

Measured by positive feedback about what is working well, validation by peers and superiors about successful projects, recognition of skills and abilities along with confidence to allot demanding tasks based on the same, and encouragement in expanding knowledge and experience.

What is importance for organizations is to empower employees by allowing them to use their intelligence and experience to direct their work with ownership as well help them add value by designing their jobs to expand their capabilities of innovation, problem-solving.

It is very critical for the workforce today to help each other succeed, celebrate milestones together and figure out how to better the individual and team performances. Employees are no longer drones to follow orders but seek to go beyond multi-dimensional personalities both in life as well as work. It is preferable that the divisions of professional versus individual personalities do not exist or if they do, the line is very thin.

The Millennials are no longer happy with financial sops, company funded vacations and health benefits. The need of the hour is for them to be creative, successful and specially validated in their sphere.

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