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What Employees Want Most at Work

The volume of words, theories, strategies and advice about what conditions make employees happy at the workplace is staggering. At times, it seems that everyone who has ever held a job has conceived a theory about what employees “really” want from their employer.

The Most Successful Employers

Many companies discovered that, depending on the diversity of the workforce, pleasing their staff with “one size fits all” policies is an exercise in futility. Even those employers who enjoy consistent success can experience serious “bumps” in the road while trying to give their employees what they want most at the workplace.

Witness the strange case of Steven Slater, flight attendant for Jet Blue Airways. After becoming stressed-out and harassed by an unhappy passenger, Slater graphically told the unruly passenger what he thought of such a badly behaved traveler. The veteran flight attendant then exited the plane via an inflatable emergency exit slide.

While there is some humor, there is also a troubling aspect to this event. Jet Blue, known for its commitment to passenger and staff enjoyment, is a curious component. From the Jet Blue CEO throughout all levels of the organization, a focus on good will is job one. By extension, you could imagine stronger staff frustration at employers that are not as focused on customer and employee satisfaction.

Historically, the most successful companies are those that make strong efforts to make their employees happy at the workplace. The recent deep recession has generated formidable challenges to employers in their efforts to keep their employees happy and motivated. Yet, the equation remains: Company success equals a contented staff.

Example of One Successful Approach

Employees usually know what they want, so employers should listen closely to staff feedback. One technique that succeeded offers an example. Meddius CEO, Jeff Gunther, instituted a creative solution at this Virginia-based software company.

He established a “results-only working environment” for his staff. Calling it “ROWE”, for obvious reasons, he advised employees that they could work anytime and anywhere they chose, with only one principle caveat. Just get the work done on time and with high quality.

Gunther found that his staff enthusiastically embraced this approach. Employees became more productive and loyal to the company. Not only did this program work, it succeeded beyond management projections. While all employers could not adopt such a liberal concept, these results display that a happy staff still translates to success. Look at this consolidated wish list noted by many employees.

What Employees Want From Their Jobs

Purpose. Employees want to be given the opportunity to “make a difference” at work.

Goals and objectives. Workers want management to clearly state goals and make them attainable and easily measurable.

Responsibility. Employees want management to trust them to do their job well, injecting high quality into every task.

Autonomy. Workers want the freedom to work “their way”, which may differ from their peers’ approach to their specific job descriptions.

Job flexibility. Employees want input in deciding when they work, where they work, and the ability to construct a schedule that helps them perform well.

Recognition and attention. People often equate communication with respect, attention, and recognition. Employees want management to offer consistent feedback to help them understand and improve their performance level.

Freedom to innovate. Even those with the most “modest” job descriptions and authority often have innovative ideas worth considering. While Google is famous for offering staff a 20 percent creative time policy at the workplace, other companies should consider fostering innovation from employees – they want it.

Open-minded management. Workers want management to be honest with them and, at least, listen to their ideas. Employees usually understand that adopting their ideas is a management decision, but honestly listening to creative thoughts is important to most workers.

Clear understanding of employer objectives. A long-term employee desire always centers on employer goals and objectives. They want to be clear about company objectives and the specific results the employer expects.

Fair compensation. The best employers understand the value of “removing” compensation dollars from the list of employee dissatisfaction. Offering fair compensation, decent benefits, the opportunity to earn rewards and bonuses, timely performance reviews and merit increases create satisfied employees and effectively takes negative salary issues “off the table.”

You should consider these popular employee wants and decide which of these items concerns you. Evaluate how your current employer addresses your personal wish list. Give management the credit they deserve when achieve high scores for some of these items.

In those areas that you score your employer on the low side, think about how you might help them bring up their marks. Often, employers simply don’t know that they’re falling short of employees’ wants. Simply making them aware of one or more issues may generate a fast, positive response. In other situations, you may consider seeking a new employer that satisfies more of your workplace wants.


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