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5 Things People Want Most from Their Jobs: Does Your Company Measure Up?

By Candace Coleman, CultureWise Content Manager

The U.S. Labor Department’s recent job growth report brought good news to the embattled employment market. Companies notched a whopping 528,000 jobs in July, more than twice the number that analysts forecasted. Does this surprise surge signal that the Great Resignation is on the decline?

Experts caution employers to temper their enthusiasm. The numbers are very encouraging, but they don’t necessarily point to the end of the turnover trend. Widespread uncertainty about the economy may be behind many workers’ recent decisions to keep their jobs or take new ones while they’re still available.

But the workforce emerging from the pandemic has evolved. As people choose to remain with their employers or take the plunge with new companies, they have fresh criteria about what they want from their careers.

Top 5 Must-Haves for Employees

Many employers started offering bigger paychecks as multitudes left their jobs over the past year. While attractive salaries and benefits always get people’s attention, today’s workers want much more from their careers than monetary compensation. To attract and retain top talent, companies need to rethink their employee value proposition and supply the things that workers now deem essential.

Beyond fair compensation, current and future employees prioritize five things as they evaluate their jobs. Based on numerous studies, their criteria are:

  1. Work-life balance
  2. Respect
  3. Trust
  4. Growth
  5. Purpose
1. Work-life Balance

Companies can’t dictate a specific work-life balance policy because the formula won’t be the same for every staff member. But leaders should adopt one primary quality to help employees find the harmony that works for them: compassion.

Employees want to know that their organization sees them as human beings, not cogs in the machine. Leaders should be willing to generously listen to their people to learn what matters to them and contributes to their well-being. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in this area.

For example, mental health issues that seemed to snowball during the pandemic have been festering in the workplace for decades—but no one talked about them. COVID also highlighted the benefits of increased flexibility derived from remote or hybrid work models, but many organizations withdrew those options as the health crisis receded. Unsurprisingly, lack of compassion and rigidity have been driving factors behind the Great Resignation.

But empathetic CEOs who prioritize their employees’ welfare give them the tools to achieve balance. Moreover, these leaders show they genuinely care about their people by hearing them out and offering solutions.

In Gallup’s most recent survey asking what people want from an employer, over 60 percent of respondents said work-life balance is a top priority. And companies that help employees achieve it are much more likely to earn their loyalty.

2. Respect

Gallup’s survey also showed that over 40 percent of people want to work for diverse organizations that welcome people regardless of their color, gender, sexual orientation, background, or physical challenges. Workers are more vocal than ever about wanting substantial improvement in equity for all workers, and not just on a policy level. They are scrutinizing how thoroughly companies demonstrate and promote inclusivity so that everyone feels respected and welcome.

Another important way leaders can convey respect is to make the workplace a psychologically safe environment. Employees want to know they can speak openly about their opinions, concerns, questions, and ideas—without retribution. They want leadership that refrains from casting blame and cultivates a solution-focused team instead.

Leaders can also demonstrate respect by regularly providing meaningful acknowledgment to people for their contributions. Employees feel “seen” and appreciated when their boss recognizes them for their achievements and contributions to organizational goals. And when leaders publicly applaud someone’s good work, they set the tone for the team and help foster respect throughout the workplace.  

3. Trust

A workplace grounded in respect generates trust, which is foundational for any organization to flourish. However, trust needs to flow in two directions to satisfy workers looking for reliable employers.

First, people require transparency from their bosses. Workers want to know their employers are telling them the truth and not concealing information that would impact them. Leaders must be transparent about pending changes and relay all pertinent news to their staff—good and bad. They also want to work for people who walk the talk. They don’t want a boss whose actions don’t mirror their words.

Secondly, employees want their leaders to entrust them with the responsibilities associated with their jobs. They want managers who believe what their team members tell them and show confidence that they’re fulfilling their commitments, even when they are working remotely.

Setting clear expectations is instrumental in establishing this kind of trust. When leaders ensure that everyone is working from the same set of assumptions, they empower their people to do their best work.

4. Growth

Employees don’t want to be stagnant. This is especially true of younger workers, but veteran staff also derive significant satisfaction from improving their skills or expanding their expertise. According to a LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report, 94 percent of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.

But people rarely stick with jobs that don’t offer personal and career growth.

If they’re in a dead-end job, people scout for organizations that offer support programs, career counseling and development, workshops and training opportunities, mentoring and coaching programs, and educational assistance.

And while workers are keen to hone their technical abilities, they also want to develop soft skills that will lead to advancement. So they gravitate to companies that help staff build communication skills, be more strategic problem solvers, collaborate effectively, and develop better work habits. Employees thrive in an atmosphere that encourages continuous improvement.

5. Purpose

The pandemic caused most of us to reflect on our priorities. As a result, an increasing number of people are looking for more meaningful work and want to be part of organizations that reflect values that align with their own. In addition, they want assurance that their company tangibly makes the world better and that its staff is instrumental in achieving this goal.  

In his book, Your Extraordinary Why, Brett Pyle discusses the power of finding meaning and significance in life. The Founder of the Global Executive Group zeroes in on why having a sense of purpose in one’s work is critical for employees’ self-worth and discusses how leaders can help their staff develop it.

Most companies produce goods or services that benefit others in some way, and many also actively support charitable initiatives. Pyle contends that the challenge for leaders is to convey to its workforce the positive things the company does and then help each employee understand their role in making them happen. They can also organize opportunities for staff to make a difference in their communities.

Meaningful, fulfilling work helps workers enjoy their work more and deepens their engagement with their employer. And when people derive purpose from their work, they’re proud of what they do and where they work.

Driving Success While Delivering What Employees Want

Some business leaders may wonder how they can deliver the things employees want and still generate a profit. How do work-life balance, respect, trust, personal growth, and purpose factor into running an efficient, competitive company?

The answer is that by providing these underpinnings, leaders are forming the basis of an extraordinary workplace culture. They are creating an environment that draws exceptional employees and gives them the means to thrive. Then they can cultivate this culture and inspire their staff by defining and coaching behaviors that breed success.

A robust, high-performing culture infuses an organization with energy, innovation, precision, and dedication. It consistently has a more positive influence on a company’s bottom line than any other factor. Giving employees what they need and want from their jobs and creating an exceptional culture is the best way for leaders to build a resilient enterprise.

Visit the CultureWise website to learn more about developing workplace culture that motivates employees and leads to organizational success. And then, book a call with a CultureWise specialist to discuss your company’s unique needs.

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