What 2,700 U.S. Workers Want from Their Work

December 26, 2017 in HR Best Practices, News



As we inch closer to the end of the year, it’s natural to reflect on what we are grateful for in life. Many workers, it turns out, are not including their job on their gratitude list this year. How do we know? Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found more than half (51%) of workers are actively searching for new jobs. This year we saw an all-time high in U.S. job openings according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So not only are employees ready to leave, they have plenty of options when it comes to making their next career move.

The holidays can also be inherently difficult for retaining people. CEB found career satisfaction drops 2% and job searches increase by 16% after a major gathering of friends and classmates. Be wary of those high school reunions!

With so much choice and willingness to jump ship, what will it take to foster workplace cultures that that empower, grow, and truly appreciate our people? Most importantly, how can your company stay competitive for years to come?

Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute annually surveys full-time U.S. workers to answer some of these questions and give HR leaders a better sense of employee sentiment and motivation. This year we surveyed more than 2,700 professionals and gleaned three high-level findings:

  1. Employees are increasingly searching for meaning in their work and values-based recognition is one of the best ways to meet that need.
  2. When it comes to performance, employees are looking for more frequent check-ins, which ultimately can enhance the manager-employee relationship.
  3. As organizations become places of shared community, workers are craving a sense of belonging and celebration of life events in the workplace.

A more in-depth look at the data makes a clear case for bringing more humanity to how we recognize, grow, and celebrate our people.

Recognition Experience and the Human Workplace

It’s easy to assume that money is the primary driver in an employee’s decision to stay or leave your company. But the data tells a different story. We asked workers, “What makes you stay at your company?”

The top answer from nearly a third (32%) of respondents was, “My job. I find the work meaningful.” Perhaps surprisingly, compensation ranked as the third most important reason for staying, behind, “My team. I really enjoy the people I work with.”

How can people find meaning in their work? One way is through frequent validation and recognition that what they do day-to-day matters in the context of the greater goals of the organization. Ninety-three percent of workers recognized in the last six months agree their work has meaning and purpose. Of workers who have never been recognized, only 72% agree their work has meaning and purpose.

A New Paradigm for Employee Performance

Is your company re-thinking its performance management process? Regardless of where your company is headed, it’s important to understand what actually drives better performance from an employee’s perspective and how team dynamics are changing.

Sixty-five percent of workers surveyed believe their co-workers know more about their day-to-day work than their manager. This might explain why 56% of workers say recognition crowdsourced from everyone – senior leaders, their manager, and peers – is more motivational than recognition from just a manager or senior leader.

Having more frequent communication about growth and development is also linked to better manager-employee relationships. In companies where performance management is a quarterly or ongoing process, workers are more likely to trust their manager and believe they are better partners and strong collaborators.

Bringing Life to Work

More than ever, workers are craving an emotional connection to their company and their work. We asked workers how many close friends they have at work. Nearly half (42%) have three to more than five close friends, and a majority said they would like more opportunities to celebrate life events (such as having a baby, getting married, buying a house, etc.) at work with their co-workers. The more life events celebrated, the more likely workers report a sense of belonging and agree their company has a human work culture.

What’s more, when workers agree, “My company has a very human work culture – fostering recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals,” they are much more likely to exhibit a positive connection and feeling toward their career and their relationships. They are:

  • 112% more likely to feel appreciated for the work they do

  • 2x as likely to feel like they can grow in the organization

  • 30% more likely to feel like they fit in with co-workers

The Bottom Line

The data shows a fundamental shift away from traditional workplace trends – like top–down, infrequent recognition, traditional performance reviews, and boundaries between work life and home/personal life.

Workers are much more likely to be engaged, to recommend your company to a friend, and to work harder when their work culture is grounded in appreciation.

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Editorial Note: The content of this blog originally appeared in the December, 2017 edition of ABR Employment Services e-newsletter,  HR Insights. It was written by Sarah Payne, a writer for Globoforce,