Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 8.51.34 PMEmployee engagement and happiness is definitely one of the topics du jour for modern management and the future of work. Plenty of studies have already (and continue to) come out that show how low employee engagement is around the world (only 13% of employees are engaged and 87% are not!). Low employee engagement numbers correlate and oftentimes cause decreased productivity, waisted resources, and an overall toxic environment that nobody wants to be a part of…and why should they?

This is why it’s important to understand what employees around the world value in their jobs. So what do employees actually want and what do they care about?

A Tinypulse survey from 2013 revealed that transparency was the #1 factor for employee engagement

A 2014 SAP survey found that compensation is the #1 factor that matters most to employees

Another survey by the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) conducted in 2013 also found that compensation and pay was the #1 factor contributing to job satisfaction

Several other studies have also emerged around what employees care about at work but the most recent one from Boston Consulting Group which surveyed over 200,000 people around the world is one of the most comprehensive. Unlike previous studies which may point to flexibility or salary as the top factor for job happiness, BCG found that the #1 factor for employee happiness on the job is get appreciated for their work!

Based on the color coded categories you can see in the sidebar, out of the top factors the majority are grouped as either “work environment” or “job content and opportunities.” Perhaps what is more interesting is the contrary to some of the other studies which show compensation as the #1 factor for happiness, this report puts salary at #8. This reaffirms what I consistently see in organizations that I speak with. You can’t pay someone a lot of money, treat them poorly, and expect them to do their jobs well just because they get a nice check.

It’s important to remember that the “balance of power” is shifting away from organizations and towards employees. Today, we have a lot of choices to consider and several opportunities to evaluate when exploring how to make a living. Instead of going to work for a large established company that has more money, people can now:

  • join a small growing startup
  • become a freelancer on sites like odesk or elance
  • drive for Uber or Lyft
  • create their own products to sell on sites like Etsy
  • raise money through crowd-funding on sites like Indiegogo or Kickstarter
  • and much more

The war for talent has never been greater so in a world where cash is no longer the #1 factor attracting employees to organizations, these organizations must focus on other factors to create a more desirable and engaging place to work. What do you think of these recent number? Are you shocked or surprised to see that compensation is #8?