My dream job — senior Blizzard taster at Dairy Queen headquarters — always seemed just out of reach.
So I settled for “America’s most-beloved workplace advice columnist,” a notable step down but not a bad gig in total.
The truth is, most of us will never land that mythical dream job. And many who do will get there and realize the job’s not quite as dreamy as they envisioned.
If we’re lucky, we find a place to work that gives us a sense of purpose and makes us feel wanted. A paycheck is nice as well.
A new survey conducted by Bright Horizons Family Solutions found that a dream job may be overrated when compared with a “dream company,” a place that provides the aforementioned purpose and overall sense of caring.
The company, which provides employee-sponsored child care and other services, found that people working for dream companies have lower stress, greater engagement at work and lower odds of leaving the company than people who say they have a “dream job.”
A dream company, according to the survey report, has these three qualities, as defined by the employee: my organization really cares about my well-being; my organization provides me with opportunities to learn and grow in my career; and my organization promotes work-life balance.
David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons, summed it up this way: “Basically, I’m doing work, I’m doing work that motivates me. It may not be my specific dream of what I’ve always hoped to do, but I feel so good about the company I’m working for that I’m going to pursue my career here.”
I’ve written previously about the growing importance — particularly among millennial workers — of employee-friendly policies and clearly defined missions that workers can relate to and appreciate.
What Lissy’s company found doesn’t surprise me, and it actually seems to be something of a pendulum swing back to the attitudes people had decades ago when America’s economy was based more in manufacturing and workers often had long-term loyalty to their companies.
“If you think back to the ’50s or ’60s when there was much more company loyalty, people thought, ‘I want to go to company X and work there and retire there, and they’ll take care of me,’” Lissy said. “I think that was followed by a period of time where children of people in that generation looked at their parents getting laid off and sort of lost faith in the organizational security that generation had always aspired to. So they came to look at themselves more as free agents. Now I think it’s a bit of a return. Not a full return, because people are still very much focused on driving their own careers.
“What we find is that once people are in great companies or great places to work, they’re willing to be more engaged by the mission of the organization and the atmosphere than maybe the specific job they’re in. And they may work for longer periods of time for that organization.”
This isn’t to say millennials are dependably loyal — they’re known for job-hopping in their early work years — but if a company wants to invest in a younger worker and keep that person around, the best bet is to focus on the cultural attributes that will make staying desirable.
The Bright Horizons survey found that employees in dream companies are a whopping 192 percent less likely to say they’re planning to leave their company in the next year. People working dream jobs were only 50 percent less likely to make that statement.
People in dream companies reported job satisfaction that was 52 percent higher than people in dream jobs.
One significant problem with all this is that most people who run companies probably already think theirs is a dream company. (Most would likely be wrong.)
Lissy said evaluating the dreaminess of your company requires a willingness to ask for honest feedback and figure out where you’re failing your employees.
“I think great companies are constantly on a quest for information from their employees about how they can be better,” he said. “If there’s a genuine interest to listen to people and listen to people on all levels, that’s really the key to improving.”
So you gather information, do some honest self-reflection and then find ways to make your company a place that people want to call home, at least in a work sense. Key to accomplishing that, I believe, is authenticity.
A buzzword-filled mission statement and some generic perks aren’t going to do the trick. Workers, particularly younger ones, will smell the insincerity a mile away.
Companies have to commit to figuring out their heart and soul — what makes them tick, why they tick, who benefits from that ticking.
“Many organizations have all sorts of statements, but the problem with many of them is they reflect aspirations instead of realities,” Lissy said. “The best value statements are real and unique to that organization. If it’s aspirational and full of gobbledygook, nobody will care.”
I return to this subject of the importance of company culture now, and will undoubtedly do so again, because I think its importance can’t be overstated. This survey isn’t the first to show the logical advantages of making a workplace a happy and healthy environment, and won’t be the last.
The beauty of these strategies is they’re not difficult or costly to implement. It takes a willingness to accept criticism, the ability to listen and the courage to step away from a “that’s how we’ve always done things” mindset.
That’s not asking too much.
By taking the right steps, companies might be able to show workers that their dream jobs are actually the ones they’re already doing.
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Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @RexWorksHere.