A Report from the Field
“I love coming to work here! I’m challenged. I contribute. And I’m fulfilled by both my job and my company.”
How would you like all your employees to say this? (And do you even know how they really feel about their job and their company?)
The Hay Group did a survey1 nearly ten years ago of one million employees and found some very interesting – and valuable – information. First, fully one third of those interviewed planned to leave their current employers within two years. Actually that’s not out of line with other times. But then they asked what they were looking for in a new job and employer situation. The answers are powerful: First of all, money was not the leading reason. High on the list included: the opportunity to use their skills and growth opportunities.
“The opportunity to use their skills!” Think about that. As I spoke on the subject of a New Work Ethic years ago at an annual conference of the European Baha’i Business Forum, I shared the Hay Group findings and observed, “This is a veritable Gold Mine for those employers who are willing to see what’s really going on.
Most executives and business owners want an energized work force, but they too often are stuck in old thinking about what motivates employees – especially today’s professionals.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking to an MBA class at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business. I introduced them to a business model that enables companies simultaneously to uplift their people and their profits. (My book about this business model, which I call Noble Enterprise, will be out this summer.)
The students are all employed – in banks, consumer goods companies, pharmaceuticals, investment firms, etc. and are seeking to advance their knowledge and their careers.
Before the class, I gave them a homework assignment with questions about what gives their companies a competitive advantage, and also questions about what makes their job fulfilling and their company fulfilling to work for, plus what they find lacking. (In the Noble Enterprise business model, employee fulfillment is a key dimension of competitive advantage and business success.)
Their answers (though but a small sample) provide a valuable window into the minds (and hearts) of the current generation of knowledge workers.
The Power of Money – or not
None of the students listed money as a source of fulfillment. That’s not to say, of course, that money is not important. We know from the Hay research, and from Herzberg and Maslow, that money is one of those “deficit needs” – if it’s not there, it is a powerful motivator.
Recognition as Motivation
The power of recognition for a job well done came through loud and clear. What mechanisms do you have in your company to provide recognition – for individuals, for teams?
Opportunity for growth
Those who felt fulfilled typically mentioned this dimension, and those who felt something was lacking also mentioned it. Take a look at your own company. Do you provide growth opportunities – not only educational but also via job assignments?
The Desire for Community
Several students, in identifying what was lacking in their job or company, cited community. They and others like them want a sense of belonging to a worthy group. Companies miss a good opportunity to help employees feel fulfilled when they overlook this dimension.
Several students found fulfillment in serving others – in making a difference in other people’s lives, i.e., helping customers, but also helping bring along other employees. What employer would not want a whole boat load of people like these students, who are motivated by the opportunity to make a positive difference in other people’s lives – customers and fellow employees? And just think what kind of team spirit they help engender within your company and what kind of loyalty they could help create with customers!
Learning from those who do not feel fulfilled at work
Besides learning from these Fordham students about what gave them a sense of fulfillment, we can also learn from what they identified as lacking.
One woman wrote:
I find a job enjoyable when –
- The company and brand are performing well, or we are making progress in turning a business around
- I genuinely like the people I work with – manager, peers
- I am learning and growing
- I have accountability and ownership over some of my work
- I am recognized for my efforts – whether by a simple “thank you” or “great job” from a manager or more publicly
- I am being compensated fairly for my workload and contribution
This makes a decent check list for any organization to use in making sure these qualities are built into jobs and the company’s management system.
Then, answering the question, “what is lacking, that if added to your job or company, would make you even more fulfilled to work there?” she wrote:
Early on in my tenure I liked the work, continued to learn, was recognized often, and had genuine friendships with peers and mentors. Since then, my entire department has turned over, the business results have weakened, morale is low, and (because I have the most tenure) I am often asked to take on incremental projects without added compensation. It has become far less fulfilling.
Here’s a list of other things that these future business leaders find lacking in their companies or their jobs. As you read these, think about your own company – and employees.
Some suggested that benefits be improved:
- Additional benefits, like more than two weeks vacation and 401K match
- A tuition reimbursement plan so we feel like the company is investing in us
But others pointed to what’s missing that reflect on how well these companies are led:
- Better management skills by the supervisory personnel will make my job more fulfilling and enjoyable
- Employee surveys
- An improved employee evaluation form that is taken seriously by upper management
- The company feels rather disorganized at times, which is frustrating for employees
- We lack a sense of unity and team spirit.
How many of these deficiencies might apply to your own company? Making improvements on these last suggestions will not only increase the sense of fulfillment of these particular MBA students, but will likely also result in improved leadership and company performance.
Think about it. Don’t you imagine that there is a close correlation between the level of fulfillment that employees feel and their contribution to their company’s success? When was the last time you took a survey of your employees? What did you learn and what have you done as a result? What can you do right now to improve any of the above dimensions of employee fulfillment?
1Here are 2 of the Hay Group reports as referenced above. Please go to the Hay Group website and look for: “Retention Working Paper Canada.pdf” and “Hay_Group_Insight_Selections_April_2007.pdf”