• Some young employees have said that being respected and supported at work is more important than receiving 'trendy' perks.
  • This improves their sense of purpose.
  • There is a risk of businesses losing young employers if these needs are not adequately met.

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.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

One in four people will experience mental illness in their lives, costing the global economy an estimated $6 trillion by 2030.

Mental ill-health is the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people aged 10–24 years, contributing up to 45% of the overall burden of disease in this age-group. Yet globally, young people have the worst access to youth mental health care within the lifespan and across all the stages of illness (particularly during the early stages).

In response, the Forum has launched a global dialogue series to discuss the ideas, tools and architecture in which public and private stakeholders can build an ecosystem for health promotion and disease management on mental health.

One of the current key priorities is to support global efforts toward mental health outcomes - promoting key recommendations toward achieving the global targets on mental health, such as the WHO Knowledge-Action-Portal and the Countdown Global Mental Health

Read more about the work of our Platform for Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, and contact us to get involved.

“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.