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What Do Employees Want Most: Money, Time-off, Involvement?

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PictureIs a pay raise a better motivator for employees than better work conditions? Or is a better working relationship with a supervisor or manager more important than a pay raise to motivate an employee? Whatever your view on this topic, you can probably find a study that supports your position.

For example, the staffing firm OfficeTeam released results of its survey of nearly 600 U.S. employees showing what they wanted most from their employers. Topping the list: 48 percent said a bonus or raise. Second, at 24 percent, was “more time off.” And third, at 17 percent, was “more help at the office.”

In another example, a Salary.com poll taken online had 39 percent of employees saying that, given a choice, they would want time off more than an equivalent boost in pay. However, most of the 4,600 respondents still preferred a bigger paycheck.

But two other studies reveal that the question of what motivates employees to perform their best and stay at their jobs is more complex than just “more money.”

A long-term study done by the Gallup Organization found that the No. 1 reason affecting an employee’s length of stay on a job is the relationship with that person’s immediate supervisor.

And one employer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, reached the same conclusion in a study of causes of its turnover problems. Their study found their employees consistently listing relationships with their direct supervisors as the most important determining factor in their levels of satisfaction and engagement in their work. The employees who liked their supervisors were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and to stay in their jobs.

Still Another Study

Then there is an even more definitive study. It’s the BlessingWhite, Inc., Employee Engagement Report. And it found that 42 percent of employees responding to the survey planned to stay in their jobs because they liked the work they do. Of the 31 percent of respondents who would possibly leave their jobs, and the 9 percent of respondents who definitely would leave their jobs, most would leave for better opportunities. Few would leave because of pay issues.

Following are some of the key findings in the BlessingWhite study. The study was an online survey, with 990 respondents, 80 percent from North America and 17 percent from Europe.

Sixty percent definitely planned to stay with their current employer while 31 percent would probably stay in their present job. Nine percent definitely planned to leave their job.

Major factors causing employees to leave: Of those employees who had decided to leave their jobs… only 3 percent said money was the reason. And only 3 percent said job conditions. But 14 percent said “my manager,” 28 percent said “my work,” and 36 percent said “my career.” The BlessingWhite report stated: “Career and work are the top considerations [causing employees to leave]… Money doesn’t appear to be a huge driver of departures…” The report did add: “A closer look at the demographics suggests, however, that smaller organizations (less than 999 employees) might want to step back to revisit their pay packages.”

Employees leaving their managers: The BlessingWhite report stated: “Respondents who plan to leave jobs in IT departments actually chose this as their number one reason (29 percent). This data is in line with the findings of other workplace research, which indicate that managers are often a key driver of employee dissatisfaction.”

Major factors causing employees to stay: Of those employees who said they planned to stay in their jobs, only 7 percent cited money as a reason. Eleven percent said “my career,” 16 percent said “my job conditions,” and 42 percent said “my work.” The BlessingWhite report’s comment on these findings included this statement: “This comes as no surprise to us, since [our] annual career research consistently indicates that employees are searching for interesting and meaningful work. Those who have work that ‘works’ for them don’t need to look elsewhere.”

The BlessingWhite report also noted that “… our data indicates that intrinsic motivators, which are satisfied through ‘the work,’ matter more than extrinsic ones. This represents a challenge for employers, since it’s harder to use a blanket approach to meet employees’ intrinsic needs. Organizations can’t create custom jobs for employees, but managers and employees working together can shape jobs for a better fit.”

A clue to why some employees leave: 14 percent of those leaving their jobs indicated a connection between increased job satisfaction and more challenging work. And 34 percent indicated they wanted more opportunities to do what they do best. Combined, that’s nearly 50 percent of employees who planned to leave indicating a mismatch between their potential and their daily jobs.

The Manager’s Role

The BlessingWhite report stated: “Plenty of research, including our own, indicates that managers are key drivers of employee dissatisfaction, and employees rarely acknowledge the positive influence their managers have on their commitment. Yet our analysis indicates that the manager-employee relationship represents a crucial ingredient in the employee engagement formula.”

Following are suggestions from the BlessingWhite report for what managers could do to increase the odds that employees are satisfied and will stay in their jobs:

Build a strong partnership with each employee. “Employees can’t succeed on their own, and their relationships at work (especially with you!) can be the grease that keeps the gears running smoothly or the wrench that brings work to a grinding halt.”

Recognize the power of intrinsic motivators. Help employees connect what’s important to them with what’s important to the organization.

Put conversation into communication. Conversation is a dialogue between two or more people. It helps prevent misunderstandings. So… talk to your employees.

Give employees feedback. Employees deserve information that can help them achieve their goals and the organization’s goals.

Good relationships with between employees and managers won’t pay the employee’s bills, but they can add to overall satisfaction and peace of mind, and therefore, productivity. That can lead to better financial results for everyone involved.

“What About Your Employees?

What’s important to you and your company are these questions: What is it that our employees want more? More money? Or more time off? Or more challenging work? Or some other benefit or reward?

And the only way to find out the answers for sure is to offer employees choices in incentives and rewards when it is possible.

For example, some types of work allow measuring an employee’s performance or productivity. For employees in these types of jobs, an employer might offer employees the choice of two incentives for completion of work assignments or for achieving a production goal. The two incentives given to employees to choose from might be:

1. A bonus.

2. Additional time off.

The reward the employee actually chooses will most likely be the reward the employee prefers, regardless of what the employee might tell someone in a survey.