Clearly people work for organizations expecting support to fulfill their aspirations (e.g. financial, professional and personal). If they feel they are on the right track (environment, job, supervisor, career projection, level, salary and others), they will feel engaged and are likely to stay. However, when critical pieces are not in place they tend to passively or actively look for a way out. Unless you are forced by present and usually “transitional” circumstances, no one wants to stay in a bad situation.
It’s important for organizations to understand that employee’s expectations depend on where they are in terms of their career. Although these stages may represent different moments in one’s career they are not sequential or guaranteed. For example, there is no assurance that progression will take everyone to managerial or senior level roles.
They most likely will be concerned with their work environment, their work conditions and benefits. Their conversations may be largely focused on free parking, convenient location and facilities, good workmates, subsidized cafeteria and end of year celebration. They are concerned largely on the stability of their job and the health plan offered by the employer. At the onset of the career one is more concerned about the basics, so that’s where the focus is. Many remain in this level (for a variety of reasons) and there is much frustration with not being able to aspire to the focus area of the intermediate level. With limited likelihood that they will accomplish them, consequences may be negative for engagement.
For those who make it to a second level, they’re mostly focused on how well they are compensated and if the organization is a place that allows for their growth. They are looking for career moves, training, development and progression. They want to be noticed and differentiated from the larger population. At this stage there is likely comparison with peers and they want to make sure that they are doing as well or better. If that is not the case, it will certainly impact engagement and they may become a flight risk. Organizations hopefully recognize talented individuals at this level and provide them with fast track and investments in their career that will ensure satisfaction and retention. These individuals want to validate that they are on track to accomplish that progression. If that is the case, they will likely make the investments required for success.
Here the roles individuals occupy, becomes the most relevant consideration. They manage people or functions (if individual contributors). This is the validation of advancement and success. Recognition needs increase and they look for opportunities for involvement with the right individuals and right situations as a way to make that happen. They want to have exposure, so others know that they’re on solid track and they are well considered by senior level individuals. If these needs are not met, they tend to frustrate, disengage and are open to external opportunities. It is very costly for organizations to lose individuals at this level, where there has usually been an investment and where an exit would imply organizational vacuum of experience and knowledge.
At this level there’s increased need for ownership of functions, country, regions, global or the organization as a whole. They look to be valued by their accomplishments, how they support the success of the business (which guarantees their own success) and how they influence others. They generally look to leave a legacy, their footprint. Here the personal aspirations are around very private compensation issues such as bonus and stock options. There is less evident concern from others at that level to how they’re engaged or not with the organization, since they tend to know how to filter their own frustrations and may be sufficiently stable financially to make bold decisions.
It’s important to keep in mind what people want and what motivates them as we try to engage and retain them. Otherwise we may be investing in things that are not as appealing.