What employees want: It might not be what you think

People stress about being unemployed, but stressing on the job can be just as bad or worse. According to an important work study by Watson Tower, companies cited job stress as their number one workforce risk.

The survey said employers and employees agreed on one stressor: “inadequate staffing.” Employees’ second-highest ranked source of stress was “low pay or low pay increases.” Ultimately, the results showed that employers and employees are often not on the same page about job concerns.

In one surprise for employers, the study revealed that they often do not know what employees want out of their jobs. Do you know what your employees want?

Knowing what employees want

The study illustrates a common human shortcoming: we tend to be overconfident in our judgments and beliefs. We might think we know exactly what it is that employees want, but sometimes we’re wrong.

To help make better decisions about how to improve your workplace, tap into the opinions and insights of the very people you’re trying to engage. Here are four ways to clarify what your employees want from your company:

1. Ask your staff

The simplest way to better understand your employees — from what frustrates them to what motivates them — is to ask.

The next time you have one-on-one meetings with your staff, set aside the routine agenda of operational updates and project statuses. Instead, use the time to invite feedback on the work environment. Ask your employees questions such as:

  • What do you like most about working here? What do you like least?
  • What are you concerned about?
  • Would you recommend working here to a friend? Why or why not?

Take note of the themes you hear across your team, and make sure that problem areas find a place in your management agenda.

2. Survey your staff

We’d all like to think that our employees are comfortable sharing feedback with us, live and in-person. The reality, however, is that it can be difficult for the staff to do so, especially if they fear that their feedback might put their manager on the defensive.

For this reason, it’s wise to complement live conversations about what an employee may want with more anonymous feedback instruments, such as employee surveys. Soliciting input from employees once or twice a year in this fashion can be an effective way to highlight issues and ideas that might not otherwise come to light. Online, mobile-friendly survey tools make it easy and economical to conduct such surveys.

Keep the survey short, to help maximize response rates, and be sure to include at least one open-ended question so employees are encouraged to not just numerically rate your workplace, but to also explain why they feel the way they do.

3. Shadow your staff

Sometimes the most interesting insights about what employees want are revealed not by asking them, but by observing them. There may be aspects of a person’s job that, while they wouldn’t think to mention it in a survey, could still be a significant source of aggravation or stress for them.

By spending time alongside your staff and watching the hurdles employees must clear to do their job, you can identify meaningful workplace improvements that employees might never have thought to ask for and just unconsciously accepted as part of their routine.

4. Learn from hires and departures

With every new hire and every voluntary departure, employers have an opportunity to learn more about what employees want.

As part of your new hire onboarding process, take some time to ask or survey employees about what drew them to your company. Why did they take the job, perhaps even choosing it over other alternatives? Was it the salary, benefits, advancement opportunities, company culture, or something else?

By asking, you can begin to spot the most common reasons why people join your company, providing yet another data point on what current and prospective employees want. Note that it’s also valuable to ask these questions in an exit interview. What was missing for them at your company? What attracted them to their new employer?

As you try to discern what your employees want and how you can better engage them, don’t just rely on what the management gurus say, or even what your own intuition tells you. Instead, go right to the source and let your employees be your guide.

How can you boost your workforce? Think like employees, think like Monster

Ask what employees want, then give them what you can. It can relieve a lot of stress in the workplace and boost not only performance but also recruiting. With expert employment guidance and resources, Monster Hiring Solutions has the cutting-edge resources to take your business to the next level.