Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want. So, tell me what you want, what you really really want.
From “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls

Are financial rewards the best way to motivate employees?

In employee/employer survey after survey over the last 70 years, there has been a continuing disconnect between what employers think employees value most and what employees actually value most. The trend continues up through today.

Here are the survey results ranked in order — 1 being the most valued and 10 being the least valued:

What Employers Think Employees Value Most

  1. Good wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion/growth opportunities
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work
  6. Personal loyalty to workers
  7. Tactful discipline
  8. Full appreciation for work done
  9. Sympathetic help with personal problems
  10. Feeling “in” on things

What Employees Actually Value Most

  1. Full appreciation for work done (ranked #1 over the past 70 years)
  2. Feeling “in” on things
  3. Sympathetic help on personal problems
  4. Job security
  5. Good wages
  6. Interesting work
  7. Promotion/growth opportunities
  8. Personal loyalty to workers
  9. Good working conditions
  10. Tactful discipline

As you can see, many employers mistakenly identify financial reward as employees’ most desired job attribute, but, in reality, employees value job appreciation and job security, as much, if not more, than wages.

What lessons can employers take away from the survey results?

  1. Never underestimate the power of a “thank you” for a job well done. Consider recognizing top performers regularly.
  2. To ensure employees feel “in” on things, attempt to be transparent about decisions that may impact employees on a day-to-day basis, such as changes in policies or benefits. Change is better accepted when it’s anticipated.
  3. Display sympathy when employees are in need or experiencing personal issues. If employees view you as a coach, rather than “the boss,” you may have happier and more productive employees.

Here is the key takeaway — The traits that employees desire do not cost employers anything. There is no secret to improving Employee morale and decreasing turnover. It can be easily done and done without breaking the bank.

*Special thanks to Thomas Raine, who assisted in the drafting of this post. Thomas is a second year Juris Doctor Candidate at the University of Miami School of Law.