What was the best company you ever worked for and why? Stop for a minute, have a think and reminisce on your career journey up until this point. Regardless to the type of industry you work in, or roles you have fulfilled, which company really stole your heart and made you feel proud to be part of that workforce? With a significant shift towards an era of human-focussed company culture, I am willing to bet that the financial compensation you received was not a reason why that company came to mind, and it was likely due to the culture the company possessed. If this is the case, you are not alone. According to Andrew Chamberline, Chief Economist at Glassdoor, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay. Instead, it is the culture and values of an organisation. This is further confirmed, as per a study by Gallup who found that an enormous 95% of employees stated that company culture is more important than financial compensation. It does seem counterintuitive, however. We work to pay our bills, to provide for our families, to travel abroad and to treat ourselves, so why is it that a majority of our population place other factors ahead of pay as a motivator to work for a company?
The golden answer to this is found by analysing the motivations behind why we need the money and what the money allows us to achieve. Money gives us the freedom (to go on well-deserved vacations), the self-empowerment (to buy our own property) and the purpose (to look after our loved ones) in order to live our life in a way we see fit.
To help better understand this, we can refer to one of the oldest, most accepted models of motivation – Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. The model includes five levels of human needs: psychological needs (air, water, food, shelter) followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualisation and is depicted in the form of a pyramid. Maslow posits that individuals are motivated to fulfil the needs at the bottom of the pyramid, first psychological) and then are able to work their way up, once each need is met, eventually arriving at self-actualisation. As you’ll find, the model does not suggest that the financial compensation offered by a company is not important. Of course, employment allows us to fulfil our need of psychology safety, so we satisfy the immediate necessities of life. However, given that this factor is found at the bottom of the hierarchy, it suggests that this in fact, is the least important need for human beings. Individuals aspire towards higher goals, which enable them to feel safe, loved and empowered leading to their personal growth and self-actualisation.
With this in mind, and as the rising ‘War on Talent’ continues, gone are the days where business leaders can throw money at a problem. Business leaders are now required to refocus their attention and fine-tune their company culture to meet the expectations of professionals who are seeking more than just financial benefits. Money talks, but feelings of belongingness, freedom, growth, progression, meaning and purpose scream much louder and are the winning tokens as competition to attract talent heats up.
The burning question: What is company culture and what are professionals seeking?
Company culture cannot be defined by the comfortable furniture you have in your break-out rooms, or the fancy coffee machines found in your communal kitchens. Company culture is not a material concept or a quick fix like changing the colour of the walls. It is the sum of the company’s people, their behavioural patterns and their attitudes towards you as an employer and what you are doing within the organisation. According to the Global Talent Trends 2022 report by LinkedIn there are key leading elements that protrude when it comes to what professionals are seeking from their employer: flexibility and well-being.
In the wake of the pandemic, professionals are revaluating the meaning and purpose of work. According to Gartner, 65% of workers claimed that the pandemic has made them re-examine the place that work should have in their life. Further, LinkedIn states that employees now want flexibility in where, when and how they work and are 2.6x happier when this is offered. This is no surprise given that the last two years have been defined by remote and hybrid working environments. Employees want to conserve their freedom and control and will almost expect this when choosing the right company to work for. Equally, employees will happily walk out of the door if their organisation is not providing this. Therefore, whether a company is offering flexible hours or remote working conditions, allowing your employees to work in ways that suit them will be advantageous to everyone. Of course, not all jobs can be fulfilled remotely, however the concept of flexibility can span across various factors including the offering of job shares and compressed work weeks. Flexibility allows work to be tailored around individual’s personal lives, shifting the focus towards a human-centred company culture. It is no longer viewed as a fancy benefit; it is now serving as a necessity to attract and retain talent.
Well-being has become a popular buzzword in the world of work. According to the Cambridge dictionary, well-being can be defined as ‘the state of feeling healthy and happy’. Ever heard of ‘the happy worker’ hypothesis? It states that the happier an individual is within the workforce, the more motivated they will be, resulting in greater employee engagement and productivity. In short, it is extremely important, and companies will only be building a rod for their own back by turning a blind eye to the importance of work life well-being. As cliché as it may sound, a company’s product is their people and so investing in employee well-being can unlock untapped potential boosting overall business performance – sounds like a win-win solution! To mitigate against low levels of employee well-being, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2022 report states that employers must demonstrate care and compassion. This can come in all shapes and sizes, from offering employee assistance programmes (EAPs) to putting an end towards glorifying the ‘workaholic and 1am hero’. As we have seen, employers are now tailoring work around their personal lives and so historic efforts to overwork employees are no longer and will in fact encourage decreased employee retention.
Other areas of focus required
According to LinkedIn, 59% of employees have selected professional development opportunities as a key factor when choosing amongst multiple job offers or choosing to remain within a company. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Professionals are seeking opportunities which will allow them to reach self-actualization, the realisation of a person’s full potential. It is not surprising, therefore, that professional development opportunities are pivotal in the refocus of company culture. Offering employees perks such as pool tables and comfy sofas will only last so long until an employer realises the potential they have and will embark on a journey in order to meet this… unfortunately that journey could lead them to walk out the door and find a company who will invest in their professional development. With this in mind, it is crucial that business leaders make the professional development of their staff an integral part of their company culture. Embedding opportunities for mobility within the workforce (allowing the movement of employees across positions within the company) will allow staff to gain new skills, understand the process of more than one specific business unit, and potentially fuel a new interest that they wish to pursue within that company (employee retention!) A job mobility programme encourages fluidity and flexibility, a key element found by LinkedIn when it comes to what professionals are seeking from their employer. Other areas where a business can fine-tune their professional development opportunities would be to invest in relevant courses and workshops that will further employees career development. It is no secret that as inflation rises, businesses are tightening their belts with regards to budgets, however investing in affordable educational opportunities will provide a greater return on investment for your business – perspective is key.
- As we move towards an era of human-centred company culture, employers must refocus and fine-tune their culture to attract and retain talent
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can help us understand why financial compensation, alone, is not the answer to retaining and attracting talent – humans aspire towards self-actualization, something money cannot buy
- Encouraging flexibility within the workforce will make employees 2.6x happier in turn improving employee retention. Companies must focus their attention to ways in which they can promote flexibility within the workforce e.g., remote/hybrid working conditions
- Initiatives towards increasing employee well-being will result in increased employee engagement, and in turn improved business performance – care and compassion should be at the forefront of an organization
- Job seekers are more likely to choose a company based on their professional and career opportunities. Encouraging job mobility programmes and investing in courses and workshops will provide a greater return on investment for businesses.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, contact me on [email protected]
Gabriella is a MSc graduate in Clinical Psychology from London, who has worked within the Recruitment and Talent Aquisition industry for 4 years. Topics of interest surround Global Talent Trends including but not limited to Company Culture, the Candidate Experience, Diversity and Inclusion, Employee Well-being and many more! Gabriella holds a deep interest into Psychology and Human behaviour and how these can be best applied to the world of work.