What Employees Really Want (No, it's Not About Money) Hint: It doesn't cost anything

By Pooja Singh

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Ask a human resource (HR) manager and you will know how hard it is to retain employees, especially the high achievers. Given today's competition and the increased demand for talent, keeping an employee happy and productive is no easy feat. Monetary incentives, of course, matter but they don't necessarily turn into happily ever afters.

What possibly could work is more meaningful work.

The real demand

Six in 10 workers would like to ask their boss for more meaningful work than for a raise (61 per cent versus 34 per cent), shows a survey of 2,001 office workers at companies with 500-plus employees. Conducted by the American cloud computing company ServiceNow, Inc., the "Quest for Meaningful Work Survey" was conducted between 2-7 November via a 15‑minute online questionnaire. Workers also say they spend 40 per cent of their time on mundane, routine tasks that do not have a direct impact on core job goals, leading to loss of productivity.

The survey defined "meaningful work" as "work that feels impactful or important to you, and where you feel you're contributing to a larger goal such as your own career goals, your company's goals, or society", while "menial" and "mundane", used interchangeably, translated to "tasks that are less interesting, less important and require less brain power."

"Employees today want to know that they are realizing their full potential at work, and companies need employees to be their best. Creating digital workflows that make routine work easier, simpler and faster frees up people to focus on the more challenging, essential and fulfilling aspects of their jobs," says Pat Wadors, chief talent offficer at ServiceNow, in a press release. "That's how value is created. Great experiences unlock productivity, for people and companies."

The balance of work life

The survey came out with some interesting findings. For instance, 45 per cent of the respondents said they would rather clean their bathroom than figure out HR benefits, while 37 per cent revealed they would rather be stuck in traffic than troubleshoot a broken printer by themselves.

Employees are also not interested in issues related to information technology (IT). Almost 40 per cent said they would rather stand in line at the DMV than troubleshoot an IT issue, and 30 per cent would rather take a call from a telemarketer than set up a new company computer.

Empathy counts too

Last year, a survey by tech company Businessolver showed that 60 per cent of workers would be willing to take a pay reduction to work for an empathetic company. The 2018 State of Workplace Empathy revealed that 96 per cent of respondents rate empathy (defined as "the ability to understand and experience the feelings of another") as important for companies to demonstrate, and chief executive officers overwhelmingly link their company's financial performance to empathy in the workplace.

Their reason is understandable. An empathy index published in the Harvard Business Review found that the 10 most empathetic companies increased in value more than twice as much as those at the bottom of the index, and they generated 50 per cent more earnings defined by market capitalization, from one year to the next.

"Whether it's inspiring innovation from motivated, engaged employees or fueling profit and business performance through excellent productivity, empathy can positively impact all facets of our workplaces by making employees feel that their employers understand and care about their needs," says the Businessolver study.

Pooja Singh

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific


A stickler for details, Pooja Singh likes telling people stories. She has previously worked with Mint-Hindustan Times, Down To Earth and Asian News International-Reuters. 

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