Science & Technology

Young workers want good communication, not perks

Some of today’s young workers, those ages 21-34, place more value on having respectful communication in the workplace over trendy work perks, a study finds.

“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 meaning in a respectful way to their employees,” says Danielle LaGree, an assistant professor of strategic communication at Kansas State University, who earned her doctorate at the Missouri School of Journalism.

LeGree and colleagues identified this shift in workplace values for young workers after surveying more than 1,000 full-time workers who represent 18 different career areas, including the service industry.

The team analyzed how participants rated, on a 1 to 5 scale, how each of the following workplace culture aspects were representative of their current place of employment—respectful engagement, autonomous respect, occupational resilience, job satisfaction, employee loyalty and retention, and job engagement.

While previous studies have reported leaders and managers spend 70-90% of their time communicating, LaGree believes this study shows more emphasis needs to go toward training leaders and managers on how to be effective communicators and convey respectful communication with their employees.

She believes that even though the study was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic began, their results continue to be relevant in today’s workplaces, which may have adjusted to more of a hybrid workplace split between work and home offices, or gone entirely remote.

LaGree acknowledges the extent to which leaders and managers can foster supportive cultures and outcomes is still unclear, yet she believes their study strongly contributes to the concept that workplaces are intensely social experiences.

“As we see here with our 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,” LaGree says. “I think that’s especially relevant today, even though this study was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic.”

Margaret Duffy, executive director of the Novak Leadership Institute and a professor of strategic communication in the Missouri School of Journalism, believes employers risk losing younger employees if they don’t make an effort to use respectful communication in the workplace.

“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 engagement,” Duffy says. “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 coworkers.”

The study appears in the International Journal of Business Communication. The study had partial funding from the Novak Leadership Institute.

Source: University of Missouri

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