Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Do You Want – More Money Or More Meaning?

As the economy recovers, will you stay in your current position or will you go? What would make you want to stay? More pay or more meaningful work? How do you think the majority of employees in your team or organization would respond?

Recent reports across global news sources offer conflicting points of view:

  • According to the Corporate Executive Board, more employees intend to stay in their current job and give more discretionary effort in that role. This is largely true globally, with the exception of Asia where employees indicate the lowest levels of "intent to stay" – an indicator of the strength of the labor market.
  • In Australia, though, professionals in their 20s and 30s (arguably, GenY) are looking for new opportunities for meaningful work, better work-life balance, and recognition for their efforts. 
  • According to SBR Consulting research (reported in TLNT), 70% of millennials in the US may change jobs once the economy improves, citing compensation, a flexible work schedule and an opportunity to make a difference as primary reasons.

Whether you're confident your employees are "intent to stay" today or are secretly plotting their next move, generally employees cite three reasons for seeking new opportunities elsewhere:

  1. More Money – In the short-term, this may be necessary to correct pay levels that may have slipped during the recession, as Ann Bares (our founder and editor here at Compensation Café) reported in her own Compensation Force blog. Once those corrections are made, however, continuing to throw money at employees will not resolve their other needs. As the Australians reported, more compensation isn't at the top of their list, even now.
  2. More Balance – Work/life balance certainly went by the wayside in the recession as fewer employees took on the work of those who were laid off. For the last year, company leaders have rejoiced over that improved productivity, but are now seeing employee patience wearing thin. Leaders will need to adjust work loads through additional headcount or other means to keep productivity at sustainable levels without disengaging employees in the process.
  3. More Meaning – All organizations, regardless of the state of their balance sheets, can give employees the greater meaning they crave in their work. Some argue that all jobs can't be meaningful. Someone has to empty the wastebaskets, clean the spreadsheets, manipulate the PowerPoint presentations. Wait – those jobs are meaningful. I know I like my workspace to be kept clean, and I'm grateful I have Excel and PowerPoint experts I can turn to for help when I need it – among a myriad of other jobs and functions some may see as less glorified.

I believe all jobs are valuable and meaningful, but we simply do a poor job of expressing our appreciation for those who do those jobs. Such appreciation – given in the context of why those jobs or tasks are essential to team or company success – helps other see the meaningfulness and importance of their efforts.

Yes, pay people appropriately for the job role. Yes, help them balance work and life commitments, creating methods to accomodate various needs depeneding on your industry and job function of the employee. But don't dismiss the importance of "meaning."

In the end, which is harder, more time consuming, and more costly to your organization? Recruiting, hiring and training to fill positions vacated by those who left to seek more meaningful work? Or taking the time to sincerely and specifically say "thank you" to all those who make your work day flow more smoothly?


As Globoforce's Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston.

Thanks to Compensation Café


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