Let’s be candid here for a moment. When people having recently quit their jobs attempt to explain their reasons for leaving – “God, the hours were terrible”, “the work culture just wasn’t my cup of tea” or “I didn’t really see a future with the company” – isn’t there a voice in the back of most people’s head listening and thinking “I bet it was actually the bad pay”?
This is without a doubt one of the industry’s, nay, mankind’s most commonly made assumptions (an employee must be unhappy because they feel that they aren’t getting paid enough) and unfortunately one of the greatest hindrances towards getting to the root of a company’s attrition problem. When money is viewed as the source and the end-all of an employee’s sense of dissatisfaction with their company, it makes introspection or delving deeper into a company’s core elements, seem like an unnecessary course of action.
But let us put some statistics on the table. A 2010 meta-analysis study revealed that the association between an employee’s salary and job satisfaction was, in fact, very weak; the overlap between the measured pay and job satisfaction levels was as low as 2%! Another US-based research revealed that nearly 40% of the respondents were willing to give up as much as $5000 (Rs. 3.2 lakhs) a year in salary to be happier at work.
So, I suppose the point I’m trying to drive home here is that perhaps it is time for professionals, employers and organizations everywhere to dethrone ‘money’ from its position of Supreme Prime Motivator and shift their focus to something less tangible, more personal and far more intrinsically essential to their workforce – happiness. Employee salary is an element just like any other to attain employee satisfaction. It doesn’t anymore hold more power over other factors like employee recognition, employee engagement activities, employee satisfaction, etc.
Happiness, of course, is variable, elusive and most certainly more difficult to understand than a bank statement. But all it takes is an initiative, a perceptive mind and a sensitive ear to know what exactly makes people tick – you see, people actually want their problems to be heard, provided they feel like someone’s listening. To anyone paying the slightest attention, the problems that employees communicate are the gateway to realising and resolving all the issues that the company needs to work upon.
So, let’s revisit the complaints we had heard earlier that would otherwise be brushed off under the “it’s the bad pay” assumption. Although the rat race is about making the big buck, many are quitting the race to find employee satisfaction at work. This time let’s lend a perceptive ear to them and try to truly understand what that means for the employee and the company.
When an employee says “God, the hours were terrible”, they most likely mean that their organization clearly did not place priority on the work–life balance of their employees and the employee did not feel like their time was being valued.
“The work culture just wasn’t my cup of tea” possibly means that their company was clearly lacking a comfortable, friendly or supportive element in their work environment or that the work culture was not conducive for the employee to be able to create any positive interpersonal relationships at work resulting in stress or a feeling of isolation.
In the same vein, an employee who “didn’t really see a future with the company” probably came to the realization that their personal goals were clearly not aligned with those of the company’s and that they did not feel inclined to take ownership of the work handed to them.
Hence, when we move past the elementary judgments and make an attempt to truly, unconditionally listen to the concerns of our employees, we end up with ample data to be able to determine what makes our workforce happy. (Hint: it’s definitely not just the money). Since ‘bad pays’ do not lie at the root of employee dissatisfaction, regular happiness-oriented feedback tools are truly the need of the hour to uncover and analyse all the elements that determine employee satisfaction. It’s time to move over the general money-oriented assumptions and move towards true workplace happiness. As the old saying goes, “money can’t buy happiness!”
There are things that your employees might not feel comfortable talking about – while it does speak about a shortcoming in your work culture that you must overcome – it needs to be dealt most efficiently with the aid of regular, anonymous surveys, questionnaires or feedback forms.
No matter how genial an employer you might be, there will always be factors that your employees just do not feel comfortable sharing with you as a direct, negative feedback.