Retaining the Free-Spirited Employee

Technology is making the world smaller. With the swipe of a finger, images and videos from all over the globe can appear on a smartphone in a matter of seconds. Satellite and internet radio have opened listeners to thoughts and ideas about anything and everything. Now more than ever, the free spirit’s adventurous nature is whetted with temptations and passions to discover these places for themselves. Younger generations are finding that work should revolve around their lives, shifting the mindset that has driven workplace thinking for decades. This, mixed with the itch to experience new and exciting things, has left employers with a retention problem. Generally, Generation Y workers leave at the two-year mark and Gen Xers move on after five years, compared to the Baby Boomer generation that averages seven years at each position. This descending trend, including younger people’s desire for adventure, has created a revolving door of sorts in which go-getting, creative individuals are hard to come by.

Why Adventure-Seeking Workers are Immensely Important
A great team is made up of a diverse group of people. Hard workers, go-getters, followers, leaders, free thinkers, and self-starters all create an atmosphere of symmetrical synergy.  Though some employees may be extremely loyal, they may lack the creativity and spontaneity needed to stay relevant and innovative. Enter the dreamer. This person may be hard to cooperate with and find commonality in work ethic, but this is exactly the catalyst needed to spark passionate creativity in the workplace. Adventurous people are constantly searching for the next big thrill, wanting to experience life in new and exciting ways. This mentality can easily be harnessed as a strength, not a weakness, as employers understand the potential that sits below the surface.

How to Corral the Untamed World
Utilizing people’s personality and character traits as tools to carve out high productivity is one of the best things a leader can do to bring balance in the workplace. To begin, creativity needs to be the number one focus. Whatever it takes to keep this delicate entity alive and well is paramount in engaging the roaming employee. This is by far the main reason why companies hire these types of individuals. Thwarting this gift by being overly rigid is the quickest way for your top talent to walk out the door – or even worse, for them to continue coming into the office after they have checked-out mentally. If an employee has a case of restlessness, companies could offer to send them on trips to conferences or office visits in other parts of the country. And if there are several branches or franchises affiliated with a company, a manager could send the employee for a temporary transfer to one of the other offices. Though, more often than not, the easiest way to achieve employee engagement is by offering this type of worker the ability to work remotely.

Loyalty Begets Loyalty
One misconception about younger generations, especially Millennials, is that they aren’t loyal to any particular company and are eager to leave and move on to greener pastures should the opportunity arise. In truth, workers who are pegged with this mentality are actually a product of the times. They saw their parents and older siblings lose their jobs during the Great Recession, along with their pension plans, investments, and benefits. Younger workers have devalued work tenure and have become less loyal as large companies have become less loyal to them. Employers view Millennials and some Gen Xers in the wrong light. With a few changes, adventurous, creative workers can be retained and help bring companies into the future. 

The Journey is the Adventure
Adrenaline and travel junkies would be the first to say that how they get somewhere is just as important as where they are going. This is the most important thing to remember when wanting to retain and use creative, adventurous people. They want to know that it’s not just a means to an end, but that the means are as exciting as the goal itself. One can use these opportunities to make a shift in mindset. Though not everyone is going to be this type of person, everyone can learn from their spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants approach. Who knows, it could be the beginning of innovation unforeseen by their leaders.

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4 Responses to Retaining the Free-Spirited Employee

  1. Kris Cook November 6, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Rigid, not ridged.
    Good article.

  2. Skizer November 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    As a baby boomer and one who lives in a recreation paradise, I’ve worked with a few of those individuals who couldn’t wait to leave the office to go mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, etc. I noticed that most, but not all, exhibited rather short attention spans. Heck, I am a PSIA ski instructor and enjoy engaging in all of my sports as often as I can too, but have an obligation to pay the bills and a responsibility to my staff and company to be a good leader and team player while completing work objectives, with practical creativity too. Of those I’ve worked with, one was especially creative and had some good ideas. The only problems were she became very adept at delegating her own work (her staff were afraid to tell HR)…..she would often leave the office to do field work, and would instead go mountain biking or hiking and then falsify her documentation on what she was supposed to have been doing. An internal audit eventually caught up with her which was timely, as an outside audit would have cost my company a huge fine and possible loss of its contracts which would have shut down operations at the branches in my state causing hundreds of people to lose their jobs, including me. She was fired at the relief of all who had to work with her, as she was the “darling” of corporate management for so long. I have yet to work with a “free spirited” adventurous individual who could responsibly balance and integrate their lifestyle with work without “work” suffering.

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