Want to Motivate Employees? Aim For a Better Workplace Connection

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Dearest Employee:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I give you a fair wage. I give you competitive benefits. I give you a safe workspace. I give you freedom to work at home, and innovative tools to communicate. I give you beer bashes and company events. I give you a professional title. I give you a team, a staff, a department. I give you the work you love.

But it’s just not enough, is it? It’s never enough. You just keeping taking, and taking, and taking.

What else can I do? What’s that? Oh, I see. It’s not you, it’s me — is that it?

Not feeling the love

Even the most gracious, modest employers can develop this kind of benevolent hubris. But competition for top talent is continuing to heat up, and people are losing interest in lukewarm relationships with their employers.

Combine that with the fact that the world of work is getting more stressful for us all — from CEO to freelancer — with blurred lines between professional and personal life.

So, what more will it take to win employee hearts and minds? Based on the results of a recent new U.S. employee survey by workforce wellness pioneer Virgin Pulse, here’s the good news:

Less than 2 percent of respondents say they hate their company and want out. Even better, 75 percent say they either “love” their company because it’s a great place to work, or they feel “pretty good” about it. At first blush, that looks like a win for employers.

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But here’s the rub — only 25 percent of respondents say they feel love in return.

What matters to employees

This gap signals a major opportunity for companies to develop stronger relationships with their troops. But how? The same survey asked employees to rank what they wish mattered more to their employers:

  • My financial well-being –– 44 percent;
  • My career development — 40 percent;
  • My work-life balance — 39 percent;
  • My emotional health (e.g. reducing stress) — 35 percent;
  • My overall well-being and quality of life — 29 percent.

You can see where this is going. Other recent research echoes these sentiments. We want a better life overall — and that doesn’t mean just more pay and health coverage. We want employers to invest in us as complete humans.

The 2 things that motivate employees

So here are two things that get to the heart of what motivates people in the workplace:

  1. Aim deeper — Surface perks like nap rooms, chair massages, and ice cream socials are nice, but there are more meaningful, practical options. People respond to things like flexibility to manage their schedule. They need to take care of business and family without compromising either — whether they work in a corporate office, at home, or both. They don’t want to feel guilty or take a financial hit when they’re tending to a family member’s health, or their own.
  2. Aim wider — People want to feel better about themselves while loving the work they do. They respond to programs and resources that improve their overall health and well-being — not just health club reimbursements, but on-site gyms and stress management support, healthy cafeteria options, even financial planning assistance. If they’re being asked to contribute “the total package” to their job, they want to know their employer has a similar commitment to therm.

So, how do I love thee? Let me count the many healthy ways.

This was originally published on Kevin Grossman’s Reach West blog.

Kevin W. Grossman is the Talent Board president of global programs responsible for all aspects of the Candidate Experience Awards worldwide, the first nonprofit research organization focused on the elevation and promotion of a quality candidate experience. He also produces and hosts multiple “world of work” podcasts including The CandEs Shop Talk and WorkingTech. A certified Talent Acquisition Strategist (TAS) and Human Capital Strategist (HCS) by HCI, he has over 19 years of domain expertise in the human resource and talent acquisition industry.

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