Employee Retention

Great Employees Don't Work Just for Pay. They Need Much More.

Great Employees Don't Work Just for Pay. They Need Much More.
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People work for two reasons. One is the paycheck, of course. But there’s another reason that is equally -- if not more -- important than a paycheck.

Related: How to Keep Good Employees From Looking for Other Jobs

The thing is, we expect to be paid for that work. Pay is a given. And higher pay, while certainly nice, doesn’t automatically lead to higher levels of happiness, or fulfillment, or self-worth.

For example, say I quadruple your salary: You now make four times what the average person doing your job earns, industrywide. For a day you’ll be ecstatic. In a week you’ll still be thrilled. In a month you’ll be pleased. But in time, no matter how relatively overpaid you might be, you’ll start to rationalize that number. It will make sense to you. You’ll adjust and adapt and in time come to expect it.

Why? You have to. Being an honest and ethical person requires you to believe you are fairly compensated, and that works both ways.

So, next year you’ll expect a salary increase, because getting a raise is like buying a bigger house: Very soon, “more” will become the new normal, as you rationalize the amount of money you earn. . . and decide you need more.

Yet “more” doesn’t mean you’ll be happier. A Princeton study by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found that making more than $75,000 per year does not significantly improve your day-to-day happiness. Once you earn that sum, your emotional well-being, and the pleasure you get from daily experiences, doesn't get any better. 

That’s why higher wages won’t cause employees to automatically perform at a higher level. Higher pay won’t make people want to work for you. Commitment, work ethic, motivation and, most importantly, job satisfaction are not based on pay.

To truly care about their jobs – and your business – your employees need other things (assuming you pay at least close to the industry average for the job performed, to take low or high pay out of the equation).

Take our company, Geneca, for example. We’re a growing, midsize business, and as a result can’t afford to be the highest-paying software-development firm. But we can afford to do things that matter.

And so can you:

1. Provide opportunities for employees to achieve their personal goals.

Everyone’s goals are different. . . but then again, in some ways not. Show me an employee who doesn’t love to take ownership of a project or initiative (and I’ll show you a person we don’t want to hire). Great employees love to come forward and say, “I’m going to make (this) happen: Here’s what I’ll do, here’s what I’ll accomplish, here’s how we’ll measure progress, here’s what I need and here’s what I don’t want from you."

Great employees love to take ownership. They don’t want to be given accountability -- They want to own responsibility.

So, give employees the freedom to do interesting work that not only drives your organization forward but also drives personal satisfaction, and you’ll become the employer of choice for great people.

The key is to ensure those employees' goals align with your company’s goals. Not just that they are the same. They align.

Related: Employees Are Happier at Work, But Plan to Quit Anyway

2. Provide a unified vision.

Everything you do in your organization attracts some people and repels others. That’s okay; you don’t really want employees who don’t embrace what you do and how you do it.

If you don’t create a unified vision that people can decide whether to embrace (or opt out of), you'll be left with a number of different visions. . . and your company will have no vision at all.

Working for a company like ours gives “Genecians” the opportunity to work in a field they’re genuinely interested in. Mobile technology, the app economy: To Genecians that’s really fun stuff, and knowing we’re on top and leading the way makes a huge difference.

3. Provide opportunities for ideas to flourish.

One of the main attractions of working for an entrepreneurial company is the opportunity to turn ideas into reality. Few things are worse for employee morale than having an idea -- and proving a business case for that idea -- only to see that idea stifled by egos or agendas or an attitude of, “That’s not the way we do things around here.”

Employees with an entrepreneurial mindset like to move fast, create new things and make things happen. Provide those opportunities, and employees will love their jobs. (Don’t provide those opportunities and you won’t have to worry about keeping great employees. In time your company will stagnate and fail.)

4. Show you genuinely care about each employee as a person.

Every employee is different, and that means doing little things specific to that individual. Of course, that means actually knowing each employee as an individual, which requires building a relationship.

One way we do that at our company is try to make every employee's hiring anniversary special. I write each card myself and talk about things the person has done and what’s happened in the last year. I include some personal touches; each card is different. Recognizing each individual personally is some of the highest-leverage work I can do because it further strengthens the relationship between the employee and the company. (It’s so important that I’ll put other duties aside.)

I also meet with every employee on his or her first day. The day you’re hired, you become part of the family, and I want you to feel that way. That’s why we have champagne celebrations for project wins and present awards for content contributions. If you’ve done something awesome, we want to celebrate it -- publicly. Did I mention that we send flowers to the employee's spouse on the couple's wedding anniversary, thanking the recipient for his or her support?  

Sure, pay is important, but your employees will never care about your business until you show you care about them.

So, work hard to find ways to make your employees feel appreciated and valued on a broader scale; and work extremely hard to make them feel valued as individuals.

Related: Why You Should Supercharge Your Workplace With Gamification