12 tips on what employees want

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Do we really know what an employee wants from their job? According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the Gallop Organisation, they want many things. Gallop asked 80,000 managers and more than a million employees about the things that are important to them at work and distilled the answers to 12 requirements of a great workplace. Employees generally want the same things out of their workplace, which means they face some common issues at work.

Sales and negotiating expert, Mike Schoettler of Sales Sense, says the findings are a good reminder about the investment we’re prepared to make in our own people. He takes us through the 12 questions asked in the survey. Both the questions and answers give you some good food for thought about your staff.

1. What’s expected from me at work?
It sounds basic, but in truth it’s easily overlooked.
You probably know someone who’s always busy and says they’re constantly being told what to do, but they don’t really have a clear picture of what it is they’re supposed to be doing. This has happened to most people at some stage or another.

2. Do we have the materials and equipment we need to do our work properly?
Employing people means you have to start at the basics first. If people really don’t know what’s expected of them, and don’t have the tools to get it right, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to be really happy and satisfied trying to do this. These first two questions formed the foundation of the survey.

3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?
They use strong, extreme language in these questions so that the people answering the questions have to answer specifically. The Gallop survey has a one to five rating. To get a five is really an outstanding result – they didn’t expect to see a lot of fives. Of course, they got them in some groups.

Most of us have the ability to think back to different positions we’ve had, different organisations we’ve belonged to, where you would say you were really keen to go there and it was really exciting to show up and you probably felt like you could do your best every day.

4. Have I received recognition or praise for good work in the last seven days?
See how precise that is? In the last seven days. We like to think that we’re in a good environment and it would be easy enough to say that we do get to hear about the things we do well and people do mention it, sometimes publicly, sometimes not.

When you specifically say in the last seven days, as you can imagine it separates the groups that have the atmosphere of receiving praise from the ones who really do. There are not a lot of people who would actually say they really received recognition or praise for their good work within the last seven days. 

5. Does someone at work care about me as a person?
Generally, people talk about joining a company and having a real opportunity to get involved in an exciting industry, or doing something for a company that’s really moving ahead. But typically if you talk to people when they’re leaving an organisation and going elsewhere, they say they’re not really leaving the company. Frequently, they’re leaving the person who they work for.

So the common expression is, “we join companies and leave managers” and that fifth question in the survey – “Does he/she care about me?” – indicates it is not a question of whether you are getting correction or praise, it’s a question of whether or not you think they are really involved in your result. 

6. Is someone encouraging my development?
This is a similar question to the last, but it’s not necessarily referring to your supervisor. Historically, we used to have personnel departments that were supposed to help people in their developments and we had senior supervisors who were supposed to come around with certain training opportunities.

Now, we’re not sure who the person might be, but we just want to know if there is somebody there, a mentor, if no-one else, who’s actually taking an interest in our development. That’s part of being really happy and feeling like you have an opportunity.  

7. In the last six months has someone at work talked with me about my progress?
This reminds me of a joke I heard once. A fellow slipped into a bar and used the pay phone to ask if there were any openings in a company and he hung up. The bartender said to him, “Were you looking for a job?” and he says, “no, I just wanted to find out what they thought about my work”.
All too often we have to go out of our way to find out whether or not things that we are doing, our opinions, our views, anything we’re working on, actually seems to matter to the people around us because they don’t incorporate it, they don’t seem to respond officially. We are just lacking feedback and some people will go to those extremes of asking other people to find out.

8. Do my opinions count?
If you don’t believe that you have a say, you’re being deprived of that sense of belonging that most of us want. You don’t have to be the decision maker, but if somebody will at least believe that you are worth listening to, they can lift your view of yourself.

If they start behaving as if they don’t care what your opinion is, it can work the other way very quickly, too. You have to feel sorry for people who work in that environment and you certainly understand why their retention rates are low.

9. The mission purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
When we talk about the importance of a vision or values for the company, we’re talking about the part that says what we’re doing is actually worthwhile. If you don’t feel like you are producing something, it’s hard to believe in what you’re doing.

There’s a stage in life where we are not actually working for the money — most people have a desire to feel like that what they are doing actually is worthwhile.

10. Are my fellow employees committed to doing quality work?
It’s tough to work in an environment where other people are trying to slow you down or discourage you. We’ve all heard stories where people come back and say, “The people around me don’t want me working so fast, or doing this so well”. That can really sap your spirit.

The reality is most of us want to have a group around us that encourages us to lift our game and even when we have been there a while there’s always something we can learn from people around us and we’re hoping it’s something positive. The question is sure. It’s there to specifically identify those situations where even with a great leader, the team around you can pull you down. 

11. Do I have a best friend at work?
Some people actually seem to show up at work and don’t get involved. If you do get involved, you’re bound to have relationships. You’re going to develop some friendships. You work there for a while, certainly a new person probably would say, “No, I don’t have a best friend”. Someone who’s been there for a while should say they do. 

12. In the last year, have I had opportunities to learn and grow at work?
This is extremely important because it has a total effect on each individual’s self development. Not talking to people and not developing isn’t good for the business. It isn’t good for any of the measurements we talked about.  

The fact that a survey of this size was run shows in itself how important it is to be mindful of how your employees are thinking and acting. As Mike Schoettler says, “We need to be reminded of the investment we make when we take on staff and we need to look after that investment”.

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