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What Employees Really Want in 2018…

What Employees Really Want in 2018…

What do employees really want? It seems that the first, gut-level response to this question is always – MORE MONEY!

I know this is something I hear from my clients a lot. They have a problem employee and one of the main contentions from the employee’s perspective is that they aren’t paid enough.

Have you ever given a raise to a problem employee? (By the way, “problem employee” is someone who you have determined has an attitude problem, not a skills, knowledge or behavioral limitation.) Do you know what happens when you do?

For a little while, they are appeased. You seem to have scratched where they itched. But within a very short time, the grumblings start again. Now it’s something else. Their attitude goes back to where it was and in short you haven’t solved a problem. Now you’re just paying more for it.

The reason for this – and it may be hard to accept at first – compensation and job satisfaction rarely have little to do with each other. This isn’t to say that people don’t want to be fairly compensated for the work they do. It’s just that there are more important things nowadays that lead to job satisfaction.

In 1995, a survey was conducted of Fortune 100 employees. It asked what individuals were motivated by. (Stay with me here…we’ve got more current data coming.) The results were ranked in this order:

1. Wages/Benefits

2. Recognition

3. Task/Job interest

4. Good management

5. Workplace flexibility

This survey was conducted again in 2005 and the results were very interesting. While Task/Job Interest moved up to #1 and Recognition remained at #2, Wages/ Benefits were a distant third.

When this study was conducted again in 2015, with more than 500 organizations and 200,000 respondents, the research found that the number one thing employees cite as their strongest motivator at work is Peer Motivation: the drive to help their team succeed.

Here is what rounded out the top five…

1. Peer motivation

2. Opportunities for growth

3. Strong work culture

4. Engaging, interesting work

5. Being involved, being in on things

When I worked for a consulting company prior to starting my own company, I was hired at a salary about $10,000 less than I wanted to make.

This company was very focused on the professional and personal development of their employees. They gave me many opportunities for advancement, a great working environment, and flexibility in my work schedule.

Do you think I harbored resentment because I was making less than I wanted? No, I actually felt blessed to go to work every day.

Then after September 11th of 2001, when the company had to make a 10% pay cut across the board, do you think we became a bunch of disgruntled employees?

No again. We all recognized what a good thing we had and committed to pulling together to improve the financial situation of the company.

On the flip side, I have a client who has continued to pony up money for an employee who – while technically gifted – has a very bad attitude.

From concessions they’ve made for her to perks in compensation, nothing has changed her attitude.

I finally asked my client if they thought giving her an extra $200 per week would make her happy. They had to admit that, no, in the long run, it wouldn’t make much difference.

So what does this mean as an employer?

First and foremost, stop throwing money at employees who have attitude problems. Wouldn’t your money be better spent on top performers, incentives, and compensation for performance? Look at the people in your organization who are performing well despite all the conditions the “bad eggs” are complaining about.

That’s the beautiful thing about top performers. They will outperform low performers even with worse conditions, no resources, and bad information.

Second, perhaps 2018 should be about getting more top performers in your organization and weeding out the low performers. You can’t make them happy anyway. It’s actually doing both of you a favor to let them go.

Remember – it’s rarely the people that you let go that cause you problems. It’s the ones who you let stay, claiming they are underpaid, who drag others down.