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Beyond The Paycheck

February 15

As we close out another year, it is not unusual to reflect on the year gone by and to start thinking about new goals to set for the New Year. Late this year, I marked my ten-year anniversary here at TMP Worldwide and this milestone made me reflect on my own work experience. I spend a lot of time asking employees at client organizations what keeps them connected to their employers and I wondered what has kept me engaged and committed to TMP for this length of time.

I believe that my answer to this has changed since I first joined TMP. This prompted me to review a white paper we had published recently based on research that TMP had conducted over the last five years. The paper focused on the importance of understanding attributes but also provided insight into how tenure affects the attributes that people seek out in an employer. I wondered how this related to my personal experience.

The research showed us that benefits and compensation were the most important attributes candidates seek out in an employer and beyond this — advancement opportunities were the next most important attribute. I could say that is true for me too, but compensation, benefits and even advancement opportunities are things that could be offered by any organization. I believe that what makes an organization unique is much deeper than these three attributes. Over the years, we have identified a total of 30 attributes that are important to employees and most of these vary per job segment and age group but what is interesting to note is that tenure in itself also affects what attributes people seek out in an employer.

When I first started out in my career at TMP ten years ago, things that were important to me were, (in order of importance) compensation, advancement opportunities, work/life balance, benefits and stability ... this was almost right on benchmark...ten years later compensation still tops the list but what has become more important is work/life balance and benefits. Advancement opportunities are no longer as important but other things have become more important like interesting and meaningful work.

So, what else is there beyond these attributes? Just like the top three, even the top five would be hard to message against. Ultimately, it is important to understand what the work experience delivers on beyond these basic attributes. This is what will begin to define that signature work experience that makes a company unique. In focus groups, we often ask participants what their reasons are for staying committed to their organizations. Most often responses included the people, the work and the product. Sure, I like the people I work with, I like the product I work on and the work is varied and interesting.

Stability has kept the same priority although stability in itself can almost be a perceived attribute these days since there has been so much change in the last ten years. In most organizations, employees put up with a lot of change, especially in recent times, and as the economy improves, we should consider how to message to employees at various levels of tenure to continue to keep them connected and committed. A "one size fits all" message is not always appropriate.

The Conference Board published a research report last year that focused on job satisfaction...it indicated that a large part of the American workforce is unhappy but the one thing they noted that really rung true to my own experience was that challenging and meaningful work is vitally important to American workers. I can definitely say I get this in my work and I am happy for that - knowing that my work is challenging and that it makes an impact on my clients and their employees helps me to understand what I get back from work...that all important value exchange beyond the paycheck and this is what will continue to keep me connected and committed through next year and most likely well beyond that.

So, as this year ends and you begin to think about the new one ahead, I leave you with these thoughts: do you know what keeps you satisfied and committed? Do you know how your employees feel? Do you know how to keep them engaged as they seek an answer to the question "What keeps me dedicated to my work?".... How are you responding to feedback from your engagement surveys and what is your organization actively doing to keep people happy? How does this fit into your communication plan and how do you reward success? Are you actively building your signature brand experience to create loyalty, to create the willingness for employees to apply that discretionary effort that will drive success into 2011 and beyond? Lastly, does your message evolve so that you are communicating to your employees and candidates in a way that keeps them engaged throughout their tenure as their goals change and their life stages and needs evolve? These questions answered will bring you and your employees into 2011 as more knowledgeable and in sync with employee and company drive to succeed.

Click to read TMP Worldwide's white paper "Monetary Value of Discrete Employer Brand Attributes".

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