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Employees Want Stability, Money

by
Todd Raphael
Jul 15, 2010, 2:27 pm ET

“Give me a job, give me security, give me a chance to survive. I’m just a poor soul in the unemployment line. My God I’m hardly alive.”

When Styx first sang that 32 years ago, the Netherlands went to the World Cup finals, Iran was killing 122 protesters, Afghanistan was in turmoil, unemployment was spiking in Cleveland, and a fleeing filmmaker was in the news — by the name of Roman Polanski.

Sound familiar? After decades of sophisticated, expensive corporate campaigns to tell employees about their missions and brands and purposes, old standbys like money and security still top employees’ wish lists.

Here’s what employees value most, according to a new Robert Half study of 1,453 working adults:

(1 is less important, 10 is most important)

Working for a stable company: 8.8

Having a strong sense of job security: 8.8

Work/life balance: 8.7

Working with people I enjoy: 8.6

Working with a manager I can respect and learn from: 8.6

Having a short commute: 7.5

Working with state-of-the-art technology: 7.1

Working for a socially responsible company: 7.1

Having a nice office space: 6.7

Employees were also asked what’s most important when evaluating a job offer (1 less important, 10 more)

Salary: 9.0

Benefits: 8.9

Company stability: 8.9

Opportunities for professional growth/advancement: 8.6

Company location: 8.4

Company leadership: 8.0

Company reputation/brand recognition: 7.8

In-house training programs: 7.2

Job title: 6.7

Diversity of company’s staff: 6.1

Tuition reimbursement: 6.1

Company’s charity/philanthropic efforts: 5.8

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Brian Kevin Johnston

    Todd- Great info… “money and security still top employees’ wish lists” This confirms how “shallow” our culture is… The folks that break down walls/barriers/status quo, are the ones who have fulfilling careers/lives, and the peole I personally choose to hang out with…

    The is no such thing as security… It’s a LIE, to get the massess to conform…

    Best, Brian-

  2. Beverly Wilcox

    It’s not accurate to call people stuggling to provide for families “shallow”. Not sure where you have been the last 2 years, Brian.

  3. Stephanie McDonald

    Brian, I have to respectfully disagree with your comment. I work to not only live a comfortable life, but because it also allows me to be charitable. If I didn’t make money, I couldn’t donate anything, not even my own time. I agree that the perception of security is a false one, I’ve been unexpectedly laid off too many times to think there is such a thing. But I don’t think humans can be happy without some false sense of security. If you woke every day expecting the worst things to happen to you and those you love, is that a life? I think not. I’d rather remain somewhat blissfully happy, and deal with the realities as they come up. If a parent knew their child would die, do you think they would give up the chance to be a parent at all? Some would, but many many wouldn’t. Because they believe that good things happen to those who try.

    People come to this country (legally and illegally) to make a better life. Yes, they want money, security and jobs that just aren’t offered in their country. People want what we have. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and the money I EARN. I don’t think we should hang our heads in shame for being successful, as long as no one was hurt along the way.

    Best of luck to you.

    Stephanie

  4. Ron Todd

    Good Post! For those too young to remember or appreciate it, the song referenced in this post is titled “Blue Collar Man”. Are these survey results reflective of the non-exempt “Blue Collar” workforce, and if so wouldn’t it be interesting to see how the exempt middle to upper management ranks compare…

  5. Todd Raphael

    Ron, these respondents generally had college degrees. Some of the younger ones, 21-31 years old, in some cases were working on their degrees. Brian – I’m not convinced our culture (depending on what statistics you look at, the U.S. is the world’s most charitable country) is so shallow. Charity aside, I don’t see what’s wrong with wanting to have money, a retirement, education, entertainment, and so on.

  6. Keith Halperin

    It’s ironic: so much talk about corporate branding lately- very little talk about making sure your company offers decent money, benefits, and stability.

    I do agree with Brian in one aspect- I don’t believe that people should trust that as long as they work hard, are capable, and loyal, their employers will continue to provide these.

    It will be interesting to see what the probable continuing high unemployment rates will do to people’s work expectations. I saw what it did to folks in the “Greatest Generation”- made many of them REALLY security-conscious.

    Happy Friday,

    Keith

  7. Bruce Kestelman

    What employees say they want, and what actually correlates positively with employee engagement are often different. While some might view engagement as something that the company values and not the employee, that is not necessarily true. Often with engagement employees feel a sense of ownership and alignment between purpose and meaning and the work that they are doing.
    Money matters, benefits matter, but only when they are “out of whack.” When they are OK, paying people more, benefiting them more doesn’t make the work experience any better.
    Security on the other hand does matter. In times of low security, like now, job security can be one of the very top drivers of employee engagement.
    The construct of employee engagement may also be separated into at least two complementary types of commitment. Often, one building on the other. First there is rational commitment, it makes rational sense for me to work here. An example of this in the items above is the length of commute. The other is emotional commitment. Emotional commitment is what drives that sense of ownership and discretionary effort. Rational commitment is a driver of intent to stay or turnover and emotional commitment is a driver of discretionary effort.
    Pay and benefits tend to be in the rational commitment camp.
    The fear that is now being expressed about talent leaving organizations may be driven by rational commitment being low among talented employees due to the recession and actions taken by employers to stay afloat. If however, during the recession employers also made significant efforts to create a high level of emotional commitment on the part of its talented employees there might be less concern. There would still need to be concern, but not as much.

  8. Brian Kevin Johnston

    I have read your comments and sincerely appreciate your points… My opinion was taken out of context, but I will try to clear it up a bit…

    I believe TOP performers look at there careers differntly than Average performers…

    Money and Security comes to those who take risks…. (Trump, Fords, Gates, etc)

    These STATS prove that people a chasing there tails, because there is ZERO security in LIFE… It is a manifestation to get folks to conform… (People are desiring something that is not real)

    I own a business, I am a capitalist, I give to my Church, and Community generously with time and $.

    EnJOY your weekend’s

    Best, Brian-

  9. Wayne John

    It’s different things to different people.

    20-year olds think differently than 40-year olds. The younger ones typically don’t yet have mortgages, kids or other serious responsibilities.

    Retirement isn’t routinely considered for 40-year olds but they understand that socking $$ away in IRA’s, 401k’s, children’s college funds, etc. are a part of life.

    Now ask a (working) 60-year old what’s important to them and the answers will vary greatly.

    Few of us business owners run it as a charity and we do this because we can have a way of life of living comfortably and giving back to help others.

    Making money is not a bad thing.

  10. Meredith Hatton

    Interesting article. I’d be interested to see how these rankings compare with those from 10 years ago (if the study was done then). I would bet that the results from the late 90′s/early 2000′s would be different, with stable companies and job security ranking as less important and advancement/titles/stock options and the like ranking higher. For many employees, for whom this recession is the first they’ve lived through, their priorities have recently had to change.

    Security is more important now, because a decade ago, having a decent job was a given for most people. After seeing so many co-workers, friends and family members lose their jobs recently, people are now realizing the value of a secure company and a job that will still be around tomorrow (and not eliminated or outsourced to some other country). Maybe our parents generation was smarter than we thought by staying in one company for most of their lives. It’s just too bad that a decade or two ago most companies began looking at their employees as costs to be cut, through layoffs whenever needed, rather than valuable resources to be retained and retrained whenever possible. These companies have reaped what they have sown as most employees now have no loyalty to their employers, and will leave for an offer of a couple of thousand dollars more. Why shouldn’t they? — as the companies have shown no loyalty to them.

    Let’s hope that companies will learn something about the the value of employees and stop treating them as a commodity. Then, maybe employees will elect to stay with them for the long term. Both sides will benefit and the costs of recruiting will decrease significantly for these forward(backward?)thinking companies.

  11. Keith Halperin

    @Kevin:

    You mentioned Money and Security comes to those who take risks…. (Trump, Fords, Gates, etc):

    Malcolm Gladwell Punctures the Risk-Taker Myth http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/running_small_business/archives/2010/01/malcolm_gladwell_punctures_the_risk-taker_myth.html
    Posted by: John Tozzi on January 13, 2010

    Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in this week’s New Yorker (subscription required) deflates the conception of entrepreneurs as risk-takers. The entrepreneurs who succeed, he says, get ulcers worrying about potential losses and do everything they can to minimize their risk.

    Gladwell writes that successful entrepreneurs are

    businessmen whose insights and decisions have transformed the economy, but their entrepreneurial spirit could not have less in common with that of the daring risk-taker of popular imagination. Would we so revere risk-taking if we realized that the people who are supposedly taking bold risks in the cause of entrepreneurship are doing no such thing?
    He focuses on two dealmakers — Ted Turner’s acquisitions and hedge fund manager John Paulson’s now famous bet against the housing market that earned his fund $15 billion in 2007. Both recognized profitable opportunities with minimal risk. Paulson paid pennies on the dollar to buy credit default swaps — essentially insurance policies that would pay off if mortgage-backed bonds soured — only when he was certain that housing prices were inflated. Instead of being gamblers, entrepreneurs are “predators” who recognize opportunity and act on it, Gladwell writes, citing research by Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot.

    We explored entrepreneurs’ attitudes toward risk in two posts over the summer. From the comments and my discussions with business owners, I don’t think Gladwell’s conclusion will surprise people who actually run their own businesses. When people have their own livelihood on the line, they’re obviously going to be concerned about managing the downside.

    One interesting nugget from the piece: While entrepreneurs want to minimize their financial risk, they’re often more willing to take social risks. During the housing bubble, people thought Paulson was crazy — including the people on the other side of his trades. Sam Walton, another of Gladwell’s examples, borrowed money from his in-laws rather than go to a bank. The willingness to risk reputation and social standing is “just another manifestation of their relentlessly rational pursuit of the sure thing,” he writes.

    =====================================================

    IMHO, it sounds as if you don’t care much about ordinary people, just the “top performers” whoever they may be.

    You mentioned you go to church:
    Mark 10:21-25

    21 Jesus looked upon him and felt love for him and said to him:

    One thing is missing about you: Go, sell what things you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.

    22 But he grew sad at the saying and went off grieved, for he was holding many possessions.

    23 After looking around Jesus said to his disciples:
    Jesus Christ ––––– apostles
    How difficult a thing it will be for those with money to enter into the kingdom of God!

    24 But the disciples gave way to surprise at his words. In response Jesus again said to them:

    Children, how difficult a thing it is to enter into the kingdom of God!

    25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

    ………………………….

    Also:
    “What you do to these, the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”

    ……

    Here endeth the lesson…..

    Happy Weekend Everybody!

  12. Brian Kevin Johnston

    Keith- Thanks for the details/feedback… I care deeply for ALL people.. CORPORATIONS want the BEST of the BEST… There is not anything You/I can do about that, this is a fact…

    I truly appreciate your intelligence, insight, and honesty… It is quite refreshing…

    Thanks again for the lessons, Brian-

  13. K.C. Donovan

    One has to be very careful as to the validity of these types of surveys…just look at the wide array of polling differences we see during elections! The way a question is asked is a huge indicator as to the type of responses one will get… Also, was this a national survey or a regional one (imagine how different Detroit residents would respond verses folks in say a place where the economy is better), or the % of respondents who were currently employed vs. those that were not – certainly this could also skew the results.

    From a substantive point on these results, where is the question asked about the way people feel about the actual work they do – it wasn’t asked as far as I can tell – pretty important isn’t it?.

    Interestingly, if all things were equal, then these responses clearly seem reflective of the times (stability ranking so high does seem a bit odd when you consider the average length of stay in a job has decreased hugely in the last five years…). Anyway, very different than we’ve seen pre-Recession surveys of this type – thanks for sharing!

  14. Sandra McCartt

    Hmmmm. Has it occured to anyone else that the human condition is that people always want what they do not have.

    In a period of high unemployment who isn’t looking for stability.

    In a period of economic growth and business making money, who isn’t looking for the opportunity to make more money.

    If the money is reasonable and the company is stable..NEXT..

  15. Kendall Knox

    I would have to agree with Wayne. Looking at the outcome of the survey the needs affiliated with young adults coming right out of college are not as apprehension as someone who is looking to retire in the next 5 years. Looking at the survey through the eyes of someone one who has been in the working world for 30+ plus years the response will be poles apart.

    http://bit.ly/couSJX

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