According to a new survey of more than a thousand knowledge workers commissioned by Kizen, respondents most frequently cite financial security and compensation as the most important aspects of their jobs. That’s not surprising.
Thankfully, businesses don’t need to offer the highest pay in order to offer the most attractive jobs. Our tech company pays well, but we can’t come close to industry-leading salaries. Yet we were still able to grow dramatically last year while being six times more selective than Harvard. Here’s how.
Work That Fits Your Schedule, Not a Schedule That Fits Your Work
Besides financial security, flexibility was the most consistently high-valued job attribute. Thankfully, flexibility is not a cost-prohibitive perk to offer. Whether by working friendly, flexible hours or working remotely, workers with this trait want to engage in a whole host of nonwork activities at all hours of the day-picking up kids from school, traveling to visit family, and pursuing unique hobbies, for example.
Businesses should cater to these employees by recognizing that the old model of clocking in and out wasted people’s time and by offering flexible and hybrid hours as working options. Workers are willing to embrace responsibility when it comes with flexibility and are also willing to work with reasonable hybrid arrangements, such as core hours or core in-office days, if they can see how it supports the mission.
The Mission Is Relevant for Everyone
Many people, myself included, are mission-driven. Even people who don’t claim to be mission-driven often are. They want to believe in the mission of the company or change the world through their work. That’s an obvious angle for a nonprofit fighting pollution or hunger. Our survey indeed showed that nonprofit employees were twice as likely to consider the opportunity to help others as important to their work.
But mission-related messaging should be front and center for all companies. If employers aren’t (at least proverbially) hanging a sign out front that says “heroes work here” and ensuring their team understands how vital their work is, they’re not doing their job.
Ownership and Freedom to Build
Mission-driven employees can be the first ones in the door for start-ups, but growing companies should not expect to fill their ranks with them. They should, however, market themselves attractively to another group: workers who want to work on interesting and new projects. These workers want an opportunity to lead, test their ideas, and demonstrate their capabilities in meaningful ways.
The ability to give employees substantial new or interesting projects-as opposed to small tasks or product tweaks-is extremely valuable. This may be a particular strength for smaller companies, whose employees were more likely to state that their work was interesting or fun and also cited above all other options the ability to try new things as central to realizing their purpose at work.
But companies of all sizes can better attract creative builders by eschewing calcified and rigid structures and by creating room for the experimentation and mistakes that drive growth. Careers that offer no paths for experimentation, by contrast, are almost always unattractive, even if the pay is good.
Ambitious Employees Want to Learn
Similarly, a strong subset of employees place a high priority on gaining experience and mastering skills to set themselves up for future success. These workers can find fulfillment by being plugged into important projects alongside more senior employees-a perfect recipe for growth and long-term development.
Companies should lean into this opportunity for workers who desire it. “Working less” may be widely attractive, but it is not universally attractive. Opportunities to hustle, in other words, can play an important part in attracting talent.
Care Must Be at the Center
The intangibles of work life are also absolutely critical. Among all survey respondents, culture trailed only paychecks as a source of dissatisfaction. And large corporations beware: Their employees were almost twice as likely to dislike “how things are done” than employees at small ones.
At the heart of the matter, management style makes the difference. Bosses at all levels should embrace what I call 360° leadership: Employees should know that you want them to have an awesome life and that you’re trying to make it happen.
This goes hand in hand with servant leadership. Beyond being cool or nice, which aren’t all that distinctive, managers should challenge their employees but also practice grace and understanding, relieving pressure and solving problems instead of creating them. Servant leaders recognize, unselfishly, that success is shared; if frontline personnel aren’t winning, the organization isn’t winning.
The Bottom Line
Recognizing and creating space for different workers to flourish is a surefire way to attract top talent and help a team achieve more than ever. Companies and teams that build a culture and functional structure that supports individuals according to their goals are uniquely situated to win the war for talent.