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Making Employees Happy: Not Just About Money

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Most of us wake up in the morning, curse at the alarm clock, and punch the clock in an effort to make money.  Money, then, is the ultimate goal of employment, right?

Of course not.  Nobody works simply to have more money.  They work so that they can have what money buys.  Money is simply a currency that can buy happiness comfort.  What you really want is the food, clothing, shelter, or entertainment that money can buy.  Even Scrooge McDuck only wants money for the pleasure of swimming in it.

Today's article is geared toward employers and focuses on what employees value in terms of non-financial aspects of a job.

Location flexibility

I work for one of the largest financial services companies in the country.  Twelve years ago, I asked for the ability to change locations from corporate headquarters to a smaller office closer to family.  I am still in the same role, and all my team members are back at corporate headquarters, but I work remotely from a satellite office that houses about a dozen people.  I'm perhaps even more productive as a result, because I don't have to walk to meetings, but can attend via audio conference.  My company's Systems department has about 5000 people located at corporate headquarters, so a non-trivial amount of time can be spent walking to meetings in other parts of the complex.  Many people can work effectively from any location that has high speed internet.

Flexibility in the work

If your employees find the work they are doing interesting, they will likely be more productive.  It's still work, and it's not always possible to align people with work they find interesting - and sometimes a person's interest don't match up well with their actual skills.  This is why I'm not currently the cleanup hitter for the Colorado Rockies - I have a great deal of interest, but lack "some" of the necessary skills.

However, if Amy and Bob both dislike the work they are doing and are interested in the work the other person is doing, it may be beneficial to have Amy and Bob switch roles.  An added benefit is that Amy and Bob can now back each other up when one of them is absent.

Time flexibility

People in my department also have time flexibility.  Some people start at 5 AM, some people work 6 PM, and some people work four day weeks.  There's a core set of hours for which people are expected to be available (and may of us are on call during off-hours), and a specific team should ensure adequate coverage to handle any issues that arrive.  However, the teams have a lot of autonomy in deciding who works which hours.

Clothes make the man

Just before I joined the company, corporate employees had to wear a suit and tie every day.  That was changed to business casual - Dockers and a nice shirt.  About five years ago, the dress code was relaxed even further. Jeans, t-shirts, and running shoes were now perfectly acceptable, as long as they were clean and in good condition.  When meeting with customers or other outside entities, business casual would still be required.  However, if you're an IT geek buried in a cubicle all day (yep, that's me), then Wranglers, rainbow Asics, and a T-Rex t-shirt was now acceptable work attire.  I nearly cried the day the announcement was made. I'm much happier - and much more productive - in casual clothes.

The key takeaway is that you'll still expect the same work product from the employee.  However, you'll be giving the employee more control over their evironment

Posted on June 2, 2015.

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4 Responses to “Making Employees Happy: Not Just About Money”

  1. Money Beagle says:

    I’ve heard these things many times along the way and there is certainly value. What has been the most frustrating for me is one organization that took it too far, they did nothing but the non-monetary stuff. At a certain point, you appreciated it but a raise or bonus mixed in sure would have been nice as well!

  2. Big-D says:

    @Money Beagle – Yes companies can take it too far with only going for the non-financial rewards, however it depends on where the company wants to be in terms of paying people in their field. When I worked for Microsoft, they wanted to have great benefits, but pay you in the 65% (which means they pay better than 65% of other companies but 35% will pay more for the same role). It was a culture thing.

    Companies change cultures and management philosophies all the time. They might say the 5 year plan is to get from 75% to 50% of industry and use the soft “bonuses” to make most people not notice they are not getting huge raises.

    @Lazy – I have found that if a company is flexible, and able to treat professionals like professionals, are the best ones to work for. If you have to be in at 8 and leave at 6 because that is what the manager expects, that is one sort of corporate culture. I prefer those that the manager gives me the list of things that I need to do, and a date that they need them, and I can work at my own pace.

    I prefer business casual over casual because I hate wearing Levi’s … They are too darned hot during the Midwestern summers. I miss the days when I could wear shorts/t-shirts to work. I was not any less professional, but I felt so much better than being all hot and stuffy in long sleeves (pants or shirts).

    The biggest thing I think you missed was the work from home thing. I am not talking working from home 5 days a week, but a day or two a week? Oh my that would be great. I can do anything with a fast internet connection and in my own comfortable office. I would be 5 times more productive when I can blast my own music, have it dark, temperature controlled how I like it, no disruptions, etc. However most companies think of that as the person is not doing their work, or have not implemented the technology to allow that to happen. Sad, as that will only drive down costs and help productivity.

  3. Kosmo says:

    Hey, now. Lazy Man didn’t write the article – I did :)

    I would recommend a company using these in addition to financial incentives, not as a replacement.

    Work from home can be tricky, as not everyone is suited to it. I do agree that a lot of people can be more productive from home, as there are often far fewer distractions.

    I’d rather wear jeans than pretty much anything in the world, but I definitely wouldn’t force anyway to wear them if they prefer Dockers :)

  4. Big-D says:

    Sorry Kosmo .. missed that when I read it. I read the article in my RSS feed, and for some reason it didn’t show you as the author :)

    I prefer the working at home and wearing shorts. If I sit in an office and sweat all day, it doesn’t help me work better, it just makes me uncomfortable. My office is 75 degrees and even with light dockers, and light shirts and fans, I just sit and sweat. The gal next to me is freezing and complains to turn up the heat (or a/c). That is my problem with working in the office.

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