Shawn Johnson’s Keynote:

Purpose and Meaningful Work

Younger generations demand purpose and meaning in the workplace. Unlike older generations who expected to “pay their dues,” younger generations are impatient to be involved in work that is linked to a greater cause. When asked, older generations say they want the same thing! Taking steps to come together for a common purpose and vision motivates all generations. This talk includes real life examples of what “creating meaning and purpose” looks like.

Research by Kelly Pledger Weeks discovered that while each generation wants work with intrinsic value, the definition of “meaningful work” varies a little for each generation. Boomers frequently define meaningful work in terms of their own personal development while Generation X may talk about “work life balance.” Millennials think of meaningful work as helping the community and making the world better.  Ironically, each generation “thinks the other one is in it for the money.”

My own research along with others indicates that when we all “come to the table” and talk about what work should look like, we find common ground. We all want to understand the purpose of our organization and how we help with that purpose. We all want to work in our area of strength, that zone where we are energized and productive.

When we look beyond generational stereotypes, there are many areas where we all agree about what “meaningful work” looks like. One of the most important areas is career development. There are 6 areas where all organizations can provide career development in their own workplace. Opportunities to grow and develop within the organization is much like “moving to the next level.” For younger generations, these opportunities are just as important as monetary compensation.

There are many ways to motivate including meaningful work and purpose. In today’s diverse workplace, extraordinarily successful organizations are creative and provide options that fit their people. Customizing motivation based on feedback is the best way!  This approach has also revealed that motivators are not necessarily costly. In fact, the best motivator of all is an organizational purpose that everyone wants to buy in to.

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