Looking Beyond Salary to Keep Employees Happy

Looking Beyond Salary to Keep Employees Happy

It is hard to argue against the fact that the number one contributing factor to employee happiness is salary. Earning a weekly paycheck is the whole reason people go to work. Yet it is also hard to argue that salary is the only thing workers are concerned about. It’s not. There are a number of other important things that go into determining whether employees are happy or not.

As someone who owns or manages a business, you have to be constantly thinking about employee happiness. You know that unhappy employees are the same employees who go looking for work elsewhere. As the labor market tightens in an expanding economy, the one thing you cannot afford is an office full of unhappy workers.

So what to do? A study recently released by Robert Half and Accountemps may offer a few solutions. The study explicitly names three things, above and beyond salary, that influence employee happiness.

Paid Time Off

Even without the introduction to this article, most of us probably could have figured out that paid time off is important to employees. We are talking paid vacation time, personal days, sick days, and even bonus time awarded for a job well done. People view paid time off as something extra their employers do for them – even if their paychecks do not grow by a single penny.

Interestingly enough, the Robert Half/Accountemps study showed that paid time off was more important in some cities than others. Cities where workers value their paid time off include Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Miami.

Corporate Culture

Next on the list is corporate culture and work environment. Both terms are used because there is a subtle distinction between the two. Corporate culture is systemic in that it permeates the entire business from the C-suite all the way down to workers on the floor. Work environment is more localized. You could have one department in a large company with a very good work environment and another with one that is pretty poor.

Corporate culture and work environment are important to workers because they affect how these workers feel at the end of the day. A person who believes he or she is not valued is someone who has little incentive to stick around. Employees fortunate enough to work in an environment that fosters mutual respect, encouragement, appreciation, and fairness are more likely to be satisfied with the work experience.

Career Advancement Potential

The third item on the list is rather surprising in light of the fact that it only showed up in three of the cities studied. What is this item? Career advancement potential. The fact that both paid time off and corporate culture were more important than career potential in all but four of the surveyed cities indicates an important paradigm shift. Workers are apparently less concerned with advancing their careers than other things they believe are more important.

What Can Be Learned from the Study

The data contained in the Robert Half/Accountemps study offers some very good lessons to employers. According to Texas-based BenefitMall, the first lesson is pretty simple: salary is still the most important factor in retaining employees. If you want them to stay, you have to pay them what they are worth.

The second lesson is that career advancement is no longer as important as being able to take time off. Modern workers want a better work/life balance as demonstrated by the desire for more paid time away.

Now you know what to do in light of a tightening labor market. The only question is whether your company will actually do it or not.