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What Do Employees Want Most?


Is 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, 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

Major factors causing employees to leave: Of those employees who had decided to leave their jobs… very few said money was the reason. But most would say that “my manager,” “my work,” and “my career,” were huge factors on why the leave. Career and work are the top considerations [causing employees to leave]. Money doesn’t appear to be a huge driver of departures.

Major factors causing employees to stay: Only a small percentage of employees who plan to stay in their jobs cite money as a major factor. Other factors include, career growth opportunities, ideal job conditions, and the actual enjoyment in the work that is being performed. Employees are truly searching for interesting and meaningful work. Those who have work that ‘works’ for them don’t need to look elsewhere.

A clue to why some employees leave: It’s been shown that those leaving their jobs indicated a connection between increased job satisfaction and more challenging work. In addition, employees have also indicated that they wanted more opportunities to do what they do best. This is telling us that employees who planned to leave indicated a mismatch between their potential and their daily jobs.

The Manager’s Role

Plenty of research, 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 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 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.

Contact VonLehman’s Human Resources Consulting Group at 800.887.0437 for guidance related to this topic.

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