Five of the Most Important Things Employees Care About

Apr 15 , 2016


It’s Not All About the Money

How can we get our employees to become committed, motivated and engaged? This is a question which business owners, managers and consultants often ponder. The answer is surprisingly simple: give them what they care about.

The inevitable follow up question is: “What do employees care about?” This is where most employers go wrong. They think that what employees care about is a paycheck. Basically, they assume that if they can pay employees huge salaries, and generous benefits, then they will become motivated, committed and engaged.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Granted, people do care about money (they have bills to pay). However, money is often way down on the list of what is most important to employees. There are far more important things which no paycheck, no matter how big, can compensate for. Five of the most important things which employees care about are the following.

1. Purpose

Human beings are wired to seek meaning in their labor. As such, there is nothing more demotivating than purposeless labor. If employees feel that their work is meaningless, the size of the paycheck will not go far in soothing their feelings of emptiness.

How do employees find purpose in their work? Simple, by feeling that they are contributing towards something worthwhile they realize that they contributing to something bigger than themselves.

The best way this can be achieved is by clearly articulating the vision of the company or organization the employees are working for. Then it is important in making employees believe in this vision. After this, it is a matter of making every employee understand how their work contributes towards the overall vision.

This understanding will cause employees to develop a sense of pride in their work. This will in turn arouse commitment and devotion. Such devotion can inspire employees to remain loyal even when an organization hits a rough patch and employees have to take pay cuts.

2. Appreciation

Everyone craves to be appreciated. This is just human nature. Employees are no exception. When an employee has done a good job, they expect to be recognized and appreciated for it. If such appreciation doesn’t come, they can become demotivated and disengaged.

The appreciation doesn’t have to be something big, like a huge bonus or a gift at the end of year party. Something as simple as “Thank You” can be sufficient. If the “Thank You” is delivered in the presence of other team members, it can be more motivating.

The lack of appreciation is among the most cited reasons for quitting. The most extreme form of this is when a manager or supervisor takes credit for an employee’s impressive results. Many employees can bear being unappreciated (at least for a while). However, someone else taking credit for their performance often just pushes them to leave.

3. Growth and Development

Employees want opportunities to grow and develop. There are very few employees (if any) who want to remain at the same level forever. Most employees want to keep moving forward. They want to grow and develop in terms of knowledge, skills and responsibilities.

In most cases, they look to their employers to provide them with the opportunities to grow. Employers can provide such opportunities in three ways. The first is through regular feedback and counsel from managers. This enables employees to make small improvements on a continuous basis.

The second is through providing training opportunities. The training can be conducted either internally or externally. Such training enables employees to expand their knowledge, skills and competencies and thus become better at their jobs.

The third is through creating opportunities for advancement and promotions. The availability of such opportunities can be a motivation for hard work. If employees know that their efforts will be rewarded with promotions, they stay focused, committed and hard working.

4. Autonomy and Respect

Every employee desires to be treated with respect. In fact, many expect it. One of the most often cited reasons by employees who quit their job is lack of respect from their bosses. In these cases, the bosses are rude, abusive or fond of embarrassing employees in front of their colleagues.

When employees constantly feel disrespected, no amount of money can be motivating enough. They may remain for a while because they have bills to pay. However, as soon as they sniff an opportunity elsewhere, they will quit.

One of the ways employees feel respected is through being given a level of autonomy. There are few things employees hate like being micromanaged. Having every single decision dictated upon them is a sign that their manager doesn’t trust and respect them.  At a minimum, employees desire to control how they perform their key tasks. They also want to be consulted on some key decisions regarding their work.

When employees feel respected, they realize that they are important to an organization. This feeling of importance can motivate them to work harder, stay engaged and remain committed. The reverse is also true.

5. Challenge

Employees seek feelings of accomplishment in their work. They desire opportunities that push their limits and show what they are capable of. Few employees want tasks which offer no challenge at all, tasks which they can perform while half-asleep.

Most employees want tasks which can enable them to show off the knowledge and skills that they have acquired. Performing such tasks well can provide them with a sense of pride and joy in their work.

Besides challenge, employees also prefer clear-cut goals. They want clear targets to pursue, targets which they can know when they have hit. Going after such targets can be extremely motivating. Hitting the targets can be exciting and invigorating.

In a nutshell, employees care about than more than just money. This is because most employees consider their jobs as more than just opportunities to earn a living. They also find purpose, meaning, self-worth and a sense of accomplishment in their work.

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