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What Employees Value Most (and how to deliver that value)

How six undervalued workers recently cost Amazon $1.2 billion!

You’d think a business that tops $33million an hour in revenue wouldn’t need to prioritize its employee’s values.

Turns out not so!

Back in May 2020, Tim Bray, a former vice-president at Amazon, resigned in protest at what he called the company’s “chickenshit” decision to fire colleagues in the warehouse division who’d highlighted safety issues.

Amazon’s response was to silence whistleblowers by firing them.

A reaction that bit Bezos in the butt.

Fast forward to September 2021, Amazon has offered to cover college tuition costs of all its 750,000 frontline workers in the US.

An investment of $1.2bn!

And it’s not only Amazon. Walmart and Target had already offered similar free educational deal-sweeteners to their employees.

So, what’s going on?

Traditionally big corporations didn’t need to care much about retaining their labor workers. Now with post-pandemic labor shortages, they do.

Of course, smaller businesses and most leading entrepreneurs have known (or cared) about what employees value most for years.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”Henry Ford.

So, if you’re starting or running a small business, now’s the time to discover which benefits your employee’s value most?

Benefits of having employees feel valued

We all love to feel valued, and when your employees do, it increases their sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and job satisfaction. And those are key to building loyalty and morale, which leads to increased engagement and higher productivity.

And happy employees stay put, reducing staff turnover and the time and cost it takes hiring new ones.

And according to the research company Gallup, companies with disengaged employees have 18% lower productivity,16% lower profitability, and 37% lower job growth. In contrast, businesses with engaged workers receive 100% more job applications.

Smart bosses understand the benefit of knowing what their employees value most and prioritize their needs over their clients and immediate profit. Recouping the outlay ten-fold further down the line.

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.Richard Branson

The benefits to you and your business of having happy employees are beyond question; next, you need to know how to provide what your employees value most.

Fortunately, when it comes to work and values, we’re not individual snowflakes. Most of us want the same things, nine to be precise.

And we’ve got them for you:

#1 Salary, who'd of guessed it?

Eight of the nine benefits employees value most could be considered pliable and unique to your business. Salary, however, is not one of them, and of course, there’s a good reason.

Most employment positions have an average wage, give or take a few thousand dollars. And it’s only natural for employees to aim for the higher end of the scale. Its why salary will always be a pivotal factor in recruiting and retaining the highest quality employees.

And a recent survey by Clutch confirmed this, showing that – “fair pay is an essential workplace value for (55%) of full-time employees.”

The Salary Sweet Spot:

American analytics and advisory company Gallop identified $75,000 as the salary sweet spot for optimal employee engagement.

Why employment engagement?

It’s pretty simple.

When your employee’s wage creates a harmonious balance (the sweet spot) within their household, it removes their need to think about earning more money elsewhere. Resulting in heightened engagements levels with their current job.

What if you can’t afford the sweet spot?

Fortunately, high wages don’t always top the list of employee values. Recruitment, training, and management company Cornerstone surveyed 2,000 full-time American employees to find out their most important values. The highest being professional growth opportunities at 25% and flexible work schedules at 23%.

And those are unique to your business structure.

Enabling you to compensate for any wage shortfall by providing an unparalleled work environment.

Let’s look at how to do it next:

#2 Recognition for a job well done

You’d think every employer would be onto this one; after all, it’s so simple to implement, and the rewards are apparent.


  • Boss – Thanks, you did a great job; I appreciate your hard work.
  • Result – Employee feels valued, more engaged, and motivated. Giving them a reason to continue providing you the extra mile.

However accordin to further research from Gallop – The #1 reason most people leave their jobs is a lack of recognition. 

Fortunately, companies are beginning to catch on to costly mistakes (as employee retention is far cheaper than rehiring). And formal recognition programs are becoming an invaluable in-house tool for reducing voluntary turnover.

An example of formal recognition at work:

Lifetime healthcare Inc implemented a recognition program (named the lifetime way) to address in-house cultural challenges caused by changes in leadership.

It enabled employees to share a mutual appreciation of each other’s work. Building a culture of continuous recognition focused on promoting desired employee behaviors and business results that supported their short and long-term goals.

“Within the first year, Lifetime Healthcare saw incredibly high participation, with 94% of managers and 77% of employees using the strategic recognition platform.”

Lifetime healthcare’s investment in “recognition for a job well done” paid off ten-fold. Increasing net income by 0.7%, reducing administration expenses by $63 million, and creating a culture of continuous employee recognition.

Bringing us nicely onto #3:

#3 Company culture means a lot

We all love a bit of culture, and no more so than in the workplace, right?

OK, perhaps company culture isn’t up there with hiking the Inca trail, but if you want to retain your employees, you’ll need one. 

What’s company culture?

Often defined as – “A set of shared values, attitudes, goals, and practices that characterize an organization.” Or how your employees feel about you, your business, the work they do, the values your company believes in, and whether they align to their own.

What’s good company culture?

You don’t need a good company culture; you need a great one that every employee understands and buys into.

You create one by supporting employee involvement, providing positive recognition, workplace education, and development.

And it pays off:

Results show that when employees understand a company’s strategic direction, agree with it, and understand the importance of their role within it, they experience a greater sense of purpose with their work.

And that’s positive!

  • Almost 50% of employees look for a new job when a company has a poor culture
  • But when companies have a strong culture, their quality rating increases by 20%

Netflix has its company culture:

Netflix‘s recent company culture document encapsulated its “people over process” philosophy.  Netflix spelled out its values: non-judgment, selflessness, communication, inclusion, curiosity, courage, innovation, passion, integrity, and impact.

They left nothing to chance!

The three top definitions of defined company culture:

  • A culture experienced by all employees.
  • A culture with a purpose and vision that ensures employees know their jobs are important.
  • A culture that not only says but proves it cares about its people.

Creating a company culture that promotes communication, free speech, shared opinions, and values build trust, loyalty, and an environment where employees thrive.

And a crucial element in that is having the right (not the best) people for the job.

I’ll explain:

#4 Job fit, fit for the job!

Do you know the saying, “the right tool for the job”?

It’s equally applicable to employees and their suitability to their position.

Because when you hire the right person for the role, it decreases turnover (both involuntary and voluntary). Improving employee retention rates and significantly reducing your recruitment costs. 

And it makes sense, as when we’re happy in our role, we’re more productive, which positively affects morale and ultimately company profit.

How to find the right fit:

Managers should regularly hold meetings with employees to discuss which elements in their role are least or most satisfying.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean employees can stop fulfilling roles they don’t like. It’s about making managers aware of employees who might suit new roles or responsibilities, enabling in-house promotion, and increasing productivity.

You can use employment personality tests to assess numerous personality traits associated with job fit and find the right employees for your positions.

The takeaway is – Enable your employees to thrive by choosing those that suit a role they can excel in and improve their skills.

The perks of the job, what exactly does it mean?

Let’s find out:

#5 What about the perks?

Before COVID, obtaining a work-life balance had become increasingly difficult to achieve. Now it’s become a crucial employee value.

Making it more important than ever to provide perks that enable people to find that all-important balance between life and work.

According to a recent FlexJobs survey – “84% of working parents said work flexibility is the most important factor in a job.” And work-life balance coming in a close second at 80%.

And a LaSalle survey found that – “50% of respondents said a work-life balance ranked third in importance when considering a new role.”

The fact is, people, want perks that’ll enhance their work-life balance and career development.

Popular company perks are:

On-site daycare – For the little ones. Because private daycare not only costs a fortune, it isn’t easy to find.

Flexible hours – To accommodate a work-life balance, resulting in increased productivity.

Work-from-home – Especially now!

Free gym memberships – That few of us ever use, but it looks good.

Parental leave – Traditionally, US employers didn’t do much to help new moms and dads. However, industry leaders such as Microsoft, Netflix, Deloitte, KPMG, and Snap, are changing the landscape. With lengthy full pay time off (Netflix provides a full year) for both moms and dads.

Continuous education – We all want to improve and advance ourselves. And it’s now becoming the norm for businesses to provide (often free) further education opportunities to retain their staff.

Perks are important, but approachable leadership is essential:

#6 Approachable leadership

One of the most common reasons for spontaneous resignation is poor management.

And human resource consulting firm Robert Half Inc confirmed this in their 2019 survey – “49% of professionals quit a job because of it.” 

But lousy management practices carry other long-lasting effects that could result in a toxic work environment, undermining your company culture, and ultimately your business.

Serious adverse effects of poor management:

  • High Employee Turnover
  • Reduced Morale
  • Decreased Productivity
  • Poor Employee Health
  • Damaged Company Reputation

What we have here is a failure to communicate:

One recurring trait of poor management is a lack of communication.

Proven beyond doubt when a recent Interact/Harris Poll showed that – “91% of 1,000 employees surveyed said their bosses lacked this one critical skill.”

Approachable leadership is all about communication. Because when managers communicate effectively with employees, they successfully convey the company’s goals, issue clear instructions and orders, and allocate the right people to the right roles.

But more importantly.

When employees have approachable leadership who actively listen to their concerns/ideas, they feel appreciated and part of the organization, rather than just a cog in the industrial wheel.

The result being:

  • Less than 22% of employees with poor managers/leaders intend to stay with their employer.
  • However, 89% of employees who work in a company with outstanding leadership are committed to staying.

Richard Branson had this to say – “Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess.”

So, if you’ve got a high turnover or falling productivity, you should probably look at your manager!

Coming up, the #1 strategy for retaining your employees:

#7 Opportunities to grow

No one likes feeling stuck in a dead-end job; it kills the soul and sucks the joy out of life.

Especially those employees who work in low-paying manual labor jobs, such as warehouses, delivery firms, and national low-cost stores. Fortunately, industry leaders like Walmart, Target, and Amazon are beginning to recognize the importance of these workers and are acting accordingly.

However, providing opportunities to grow is essential in every business:

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report – “94 percent of employees said they’d stay with a company longer if it invested in helping them learn.”

It’s because employees want pathways that enable them to learn, improve their skills, and move up the ladder. And it’s the employers who provide these pathways that promote from within and retain their workforce.

What the next generation have to say about it:

LinkedIn surveyed Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) and Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2010) and found that 27% said the number one reason they resign from a position is lack of opportunities to learn and grow. And just under a quarter said learning is what makes them happiest at work.

So, if you want to secure a quarter of your workforce, enable them to blossom.

Did you know absolute balance doesn’t exist?

Yep, it’s a myth.

It’s because whatever appears in balance is actually in a continuous struggle keeping it that way. And the same goes for work-life balance; you’ve got to help your employees keep theirs.

#8 Work-life balance

Work-life balance is no longer just some wistful terminology; it’s now an essential employee value.

23% of US employees now favor jobs that offer flexible hours. Such as earlier start times, working remotely, and the ability to finish projects at home. And flexible schedules are increasingly valuable to employees with families and other out-of-work commitments.

According to Statista – “72% of people looking for a job believe that work-life balance is an important factor to consider.”

Why Work-Life balance is important:

Work-life balance is crucial for numerous reasons. 

Employees without a work-life balance burn out more quickly – But those with a healthy work balance report having more motivation, increasing productivity at work. 

A healthy work-life balance is essential for your employee’s well-being –  94% of US workers in the professional service industry put in over 50 hours a week. Resulting in decreased downtime and an increase in stress-related medical issues.

A healthy work-life balance gives employees more time with their family – If we learned anything from COVID, it’s the importance of family and doing things that we love that improve our mental well-being.

    And the statistics don’t lie:

    A 2018 survey found that “80% of people would take a job that offers flexible hours over one that did not.” And that 30% of employees resigned because their company failed to provide a work-life balance. 

    But employers are catching on:

    A 2020 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that –“57% of organizations now offer flexible schedules, up from 52% in 2015.”

    Last but not least, something we’d all like more of:

    #9 Healthcare benefits

    When it comes to what employees value most, quality healthcare benefits regularly top the list.

    After all, your health is your wealth, and we’d all like the assurance of adequate coverage if something should happen. It’s why employees place such a high value on healthcare.

    Some benefits employees value most are:

    • Health insurance
    • Dental insurance
    • Paid sick leave
    • Paid maternity leave

    And according to a Metlife study – “61% of employees attributed healthcare benefits as the main reason they were “satisfied” with their present company.”

    Recent percentage statistics of what employee’s value most:

    • Almost 80% of employees said they’d prefer additional/new health benefits to a pay raise.
    • And 90% of millennials said they’d prefer health benefits over a pay increase.
    • While 82% of women said they’d prefer new/additional benefits compared to 76% of men.

    Providing healthcare can save you money!

    The cost in the US of providing health benefits for employees is pretty expensive. An average price is $6,435 for single coverage, rising to $18,142 for family coverage. 

    However, healthcare benefit programs are proving their worth. Not only in providing a healthy, happy, productive work environment but an ROI of $3 to $6 for every dollar invested.

    Why do we value employees?

    “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people – Steve Jobs.

    Your employees are your team.

    And if you treat them how you’d want to be treated, your employees will play their hearts out for you.

    All it takes is recognition, fair pay, opportunities to grow, a healthy company culture, some perks, benefits, and balance.

    Isn’t that what we all want?

    Let us know your thoughts on what employees value most.

    Until next time, work happy!

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