What Do Your Employees Really Want? Get Ready To Read Their Minds

Depending on the size of your company, replacing a single employee can cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to a CAP study. While employees leave for a variety of different reasons, it usually has something to do with the organization failing to meet their needs.

The key to being a successful manager who retains employees is understanding how each individual is different depending on age, gender, and life experiences. Knowing specifically what an employee wants to get out of their job, how interested the employee is in career advancement and what motivates the employee overall can reduce turnover and help you build a team that’s in it for the long haul.


Millennials are portrayed as job hoppers. You hire them, they work for a few years (if that!) and then they leave. According to the 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce Study, 53% of hiring managers report difficulty finding and retaining Millennial talent. In fact, 66% of Millennials report that they expect to leave their current job before 2020. Contrary to what you might assume, this absence of loyalty is not due to a desire for a bigger paycheck, but rather a lack of skill development.

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 63% of Millennials left their job because they felt their leadership skills were not being fully developed. The study also found that Millennials who stayed at their job for more than five years did so because they were actively encouraged to aim for leadership roles. This means that managers who support leadership ambitions and offer leadership training are more likely to retain Millennials than those who overlook leadership development. Show your younger team members that they have room to grow within your organization and they’re more likely to stick around.

Generation X

Generation Xers entered the workforce just before the dot-com bubble burst, started buying homes in a great housing marketing only to see real estate values later plummet, and were the hardest hit generation in the Great Recession. Their reputation for cynicism is well-deserved! A retirement study found that Gen Xers lost nearly half of their wealth in the economic downturn of late 2007. With their home equity, life savings and retirement funds nearly cut in half, Gen Xers understandably feel unprepared for the future. This uncertainty bleeds over into their professional lives.

2015 generational research study by Financial Finesse discovered that Gen Xers report having high stress over finances and feel like they are unable to reach their financial goals. Another study from Scottrade found that Generation X is most concerned about job security, financial gain and saving for retirement. The study also found that Generation X is actually less confident than any other generation that they will be able to make ends meet in retirement. If a Gen Xer’s job appears to be in jeopardy or they feel they are not being compensated fairly for their work, they may go looking for other employment opportunities. To keep them from jumping ship, make your Gen X employees feel valued and respect their need for stability by being transparent about challenges facing the organization and how they affect your team.

Baby Boomers

By 2030, all Baby Boomers will have passed age 65, but not all will be contemplating retirement. The Annual Transamerica Retirement Study found that 65% of Baby Boomers plan to work past the age of 65 and 52% said they plan to continue working even after they retire. Boomers don’t want their age to be a factor in determining their career future. If employers try to nudge older Boomers into retirement to make way for Millennials, they risk alienating this segment of their workforce.

Similar to Generation X, Baby Boomers were hit hard by the Great Recession and are worried their standard of living will drop once they retire, according to a study by Wells Fargo. Many have not saved up enough to retire comfortably and fear they will experience a decline in promotional opportunities and earnings as they approach 65. As a leader, don’t make the mistake of assuming your older employees are simply dreaming of a work-free future. Because they plan to continue working past 65, Boomer employees may be every bit as eager for promotions, raises or added responsibility as those half their age.

Men & Women

study on gender differences in the workplace found that what men and women value at work is generally the same, with only minor variances. Both men and women value pay, benefits, power and status equally, however, women ranked relationships, communication and fairness higher than men did.

It is often assumed that women, especially those in their 20s and 30s, leave their jobs to start families and raise children. In fact, a study discussed in the Harvard Business Review actually found that the number one reason women around age 30 leave their jobs is perceived low pay. The same study found that the number one reason men leave their jobs is due to a lack of opportunities for learning and development. The lesson for team leaders here is to think beyond antiquated gender stereotypes when you’re working to keep top talent.

Trying to retain and motivate employees, no matter their age, gender or background can be challenging. If you make an effort to understand how your team members’ professional priorities are affected by their life stage and their experiences, however, you’ll be taking the right steps to build and nurture a future-focused team.