5 Things Employees Value More than Salary

July 6, 2017

employee happiness

What’s important to employees? As it turns out, salary has little to do with employee happiness.

“Money isn’t the driver of job satisfaction,” says Shawna Clark, founder and executive coach at Clark Executive Coaching. Clark, who has over 20 years of experience working in human resources, says that employees value other things – things that drive employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

And there are several recent studies and statistics that show that while money is important to employees and job candidates – it isn’t necessarily the most important thing to keep an employee happy.

Here are five things (in no particular order) that today’s employees and job candidates look for in a job – other than money.

#1 – Company Culture and Mission

“People are looking for a healthy culture with values that are aligned to their own,” says Clark.

Staffing provider, LaSalle Network, surveyed 6000 recent college graduates about the most important factors they consider when evaluating a company to work for. And while 69 percent ranked compensation as the number one factor, a surprising 61 percent listed company culture as the second most important factor.

According to a Harvard Business Report article by Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at jobs and recruiting site GlassDoor, the culture and values of an organization takes top spot as a predictor of job satisfaction repeatedly in Glass Door reviews and surveys – regardless of income level.

In the article Chamberlain suggests that once you determine fair pay for a role,  you’ll improve your odds of attracting the best talent and keeping the great talent you already have by promoting and refining  “positive culture and values” within your business.

Related Content7 Ways to Boost Employee Happiness

#2 – Approachable Leadership

Another important aspect of a job that today’s employees consider more valuable than money is the approachability of the leadership of a company. Not only does this refer to the top positions, but an employee’s immediate supervisor.

Approachable leadership lets employees talk to their bosses about everything from work issues, to future career plans and even non-work issues.

“People leave or stay for their managers, not jobs or companies,” says Clark. This idea matches the Gallup report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, which found that the 62 percent of millennial workers who feel they can talk to their managers about anything expect to still be with their employers one year from now.

Phillip Wilson, president and general counsel of HR consulting firm Labor Relations Institute Inc. agrees that leader approachability is critical to employee happiness.

“Our research finds that this one factor alone is correlated to 89 percent of employee satisfaction, 88 percent of willingness to go above and beyond at work, and a 71 percent decrease in turnover intention,” he says.  Yet if an employee feels that their managers aren’t willing to listen, they’ll look for a job with a manager who will.

“Employees quit managers, not companies,” says Wilson.

#3 – Opportunity to Grow in the Workplace

Employees today also value the opportunity to develop and grow – maybe even beyond the role they were hired for. This is especially true of millennials, as shown by a number of studies.

According to the Gallup report, 87 percent of respondents said development opportunities are an important job feature. Additionally, the LaSalle survey found that 71 percent of respondents said opportunity for growth was the number one factor when considering a new role. And Pew Research Center’s 2016 Report on The State of American Jobs states that 87 percent of workers believe they’ll need additional training and skills to keep up with current and future changing technology in the workplace.

In evaluating professional development offerings and opportunities to grow, employees may look for employer-offered online training or onsite workshops, and company support as they pursue additional work-related education.

“People feel valued and rewarded when their company makes an investment in their growth,” says Clark.

#4 – Flexibility for Balancing Work and Life

Flexibility at work for balancing work and life is another key feature today’s employees consider over salary.

Although people of all ages and life stages may value the option to work a compressed four day work week, an earlier or later start date, or the opportunity to work remotely, it’s particularly important to parents.

In fact, a survey by the popular online job board FlexJobs found that 84 percent of working parents said work flexibility is the number one most important factor in a job, with work-life balance a close second at 80 percent. And 50 percent of the LaSalle survey respondents said work-life balance ranked third in order of importance when considering factors of a new role.

Related Content: How Mobile is Transforming the Workplace

#5 – Recognition

It’s natural for an individual to want recognition for an outstanding performance, and in the workplace this recognition can be more important than money.

“People desire to be appreciated for the personal value they bring,” says Clark. In fact, a 2016 Gallup analysis found that this desire is so strong, workers are twice as likely to quit within the next year if they feel their work hasn’t been recognized.

Vincent Nero, VP and general manager of online rewards and recognition business Successories.com, believes that recognition is the number one thing employees crave.

“Outside of performance awards, which continues to show a huge bump in employee happiness and engagement, years of service or anniversary awards make employees feel valued,” says Nero.  “Our studies have shown [that] companies with years of service awards retain employees an average of two years longer than companies that don’t.”

As with several of the other things employees value over money, Nero says that recognition has an “amazing ROI” compared to doling out bonuses and salary increases. 

“Our partners and surveys have continuously reported that money is easy but ineffective at delivering engagement, productivity and retention,” says Nero. “An employee might say they want more money, but what they need is to be recognized.”

As you can see, there are at least five different things that are more important to your employees than salary. So although money is still a significant factor when it comes to a job, it simply doesn’t compensate for an unhappy work environment.  


Sarita Harbour is a business and personal finance writer who comes from a long line of business owners. When Sarita isn't writing, she's homeschooling her younger kids and encouraging her older children as they continue the entrepreneurial family tradition.

Category: HR Tips & Trends, Zenefits, Benefits, Culture

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