To be fair, there are probably more than three things all employees want. Most employees would probably take a million dollars if you felt like giving it to them. Or a jetski, the ability to talk to animals, telekinetic powers – the list goes on. But in this article we’re going to talk about three things all employees want that you can pretty easily give to them.
#1 – Flexibility
To be clear, flexibility does not necessarily mean the ability to work from home. A lot of people do want that, but some jobs don’t allow for that, and some people don’t actually want to work from home. (Specifically people with young children in the house, like me, but I digress.) But what every employee does want, however, is to know that they won’t get punished for leaving work an hour early because their kids are sick and need to get picked up from school. They want to know they themselves can afford to get sick, miss work for a few days, and not have it held against them. Flexibility comes in a lot of different forms, and the best employers are (wait for it) flexible in their thinking about what flexibility looks like. But if you’re offering one way to work and won’t entertain any approaches other than the one you’ve established, odds are your employees are actively thinking that there are probably better places to work.
#2 – Community
With the exception of full-blown sociopaths (whom you probably don’t want to employ anyway), pretty much everyone wants to belong to something – a family, a group of friends, a fantasy sports league, you get the idea. And since most working people spend most of their waking hours working, it follows that pretty much everyone would like to feel connected to their colleagues, at least in some way. (This is also true of remote workers, by the way, which is why most businesses are adopting a hybrid model post-pandemic rather than a fully remote model, since fully remote workers have a hard time feeling like a full part of the team.) Again, it helps to be flexible in your understanding of what ‘community’ involves. It could be regular happy hours, or occasional lunches; it could be attending a conference or trade show together; it could be birthday celebrations, inter-office competitions, volunteering together on the weekends, or almost anything else you can think of. As long as you’re working to give people a place where they can feel connected, you’re giving them a reason to want to show up every day.
#3 – Meaning
Having a pointless job is neither fun nor motivating. People want to feel as though the work they do is important in some larger way, that it is helping to make a worthwhile difference somehow. Most of our interactions with one another involve talking about what work has to get done, and comparatively little involves talking about why we do the work in the first place. To get paid? That’s all well and good, but people can get paid anywhere. So don’t forget to talk occasionally (or more than occasionally) about why you do what you do, what value it brings beyond hitting your numbers or checking items off a to-do list.
Focusing on these three areas will almost certainly improve your employees’ drive and engagement. And none of them should cost you a thing – except maybe a few cupcakes now and then, but I’m pretty sure you can afford them.