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Employers, Take Note: Here’s What Employees Really Want

Originally published on Forbes.

It’s no secret that employers are getting creative in recruiting and retaining strong talent. Amazon recently announced they’re testing a 30-hour workweek. Airbnb gives employees a $2,000 stipend annually to travel. Netflix recently began offering one year of parental leave to both salaried and hourly employees.

In what has been a tough job market over the past several years, many employers simply can’t offer employees the one thing that is most important to them: money. So employers that can’t pay but still need strong talent have started beefing up their benefits packages and offering various other incentives. And it seems that they’re on the right track—57% of respondents in a recent survey said benefits and perks play a major role when deciding whether to pursue a particular job.

So what matters most to employees when it comes to attracting new talent and retaining good employees? Here are the five top factors that employees say make or break their decision to take or leave a job.

1. It’s all about the Benjamins. Survey after survey indicates that the number one most important thing to employees about a job is salary. And why shouldn’t it be? We all want to be paid what we’re worth (and I could go on a whole coach-y tangent on how we are all worth more than a number, but I’ll spare you!). In fact, salary negotiation is a huge part of the work I do as a career coach. Employers that can afford to pay should do just that to keep the best and brightest on their staff, whether it’s in the form of a pay raise or periodic performance-based bonuses.

2. Good health insurance. This benefit was ranked as the most important benefit in recent research from Glassdoor. Providing employers with stellar health insurance options typically does translate into an additional expense for employers, but it’s an investment worth making not only to incentivize employees, but to ensure that employees are healthy and productive. Offering solid health insurance also demonstrates that the employer cares about its employees’ health and well-being, a good way to boost morale.

3. Work-life balance. Employees in a recent survey reported this as being the most important factor to them, other than salary, when it comes to deciding whether to take a new job or leave their current job. The best way to run an employee out the door is to overwork them. There are only so many hours in the day, and the more time that an employer demands of its employees, the less time the employee has available to spend pursuing their own interests and hobbies or with family and friends. And those extra hours aren’t necessarily worth all that much to the employer anyway, yet it causes the employee to build resentment and risks burning them out. Employers should ensure they are enabling—or at the very least, not preventing— employers from having rewarding and fulfilling lives outside of the workplace. Offering a flexible work schedule is one of the best ways to ensure employees are able to sustain good work/life balance, and it typically doesn’t cost an employer much to make such adjustments, like offering flex time or telework options.

4. Opportunities for advancement and professional development. In a recent Gallup poll, 87% of millennials said development is important in a job. When employees, particularly millennials, are satisfied with the programs for career development that are available to them, they are more likely to remain with an employer. An employee who feels stagnant in their role is much more likely to get restless and look elsewhere for opportunities, so employers should offer an array of programs to assist employees with improving and developing their skill sets. Offering opportunities for advancement within the company is also crucial— 93% of respondents in a Gallop poll reported that they left their employer the last time they changed positions. If employees have opportunities for growth and advancement within a company, the company has a much better chance of keeping them around longer.

5. A sense of purpose. Employees want jobs that have meaning and provide them with a sense of purpose. While employees still view earnings as the most important factor in taking a job, 50% of millennials would take a pay cut for work that matches their own values. This generation seeks to work for companies that are socially responsible and value a positive impact on society. Employers must be cognizant of that. This means being transparent in how they conduct business to gain the trust of their employees, especially the younger generation. This also means supporting initiatives that have a positive impact on society and contribute to the greater good.

Brownie points to employers who develop programs that allow employees to grow and make a meaningful difference in the world.

Employers need to ensure that they are fulfilling their employees’ needs. Why? Because rates of loyalty to employers are low, and the cost of replacing a good employee is steep. It’s that simple. There’s no better investment a company can make than in the people who keep the organization running and thriving. A significant pay raise is always a strong incentive to keep a good employee happy, but there are plenty of other ways to keep employees engaged in their current roles.

Employers, take note of the perks being offered by innovative companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Airbnb… And step up your game. Ten years ago, how many of us would have scoffed at the notion of negotiating telework days into your schedule with your employer? Yet today, such negotiations are par for the course. That, and then some.


Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.

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