Many studies over many years have shown that employees seek more from the work environment than just a paycheck. Salary is not near the top of the list of employee satisfiers and motivators.

The literature and informal chat point to Engagement as a key concern of employers. All the evidence shows that employees value challenges at work and most will welcome the opportunity to learn new jobs or to enrich their own jobs. And it may be that, slowly, employers are beginning to realize – and occasionally act on – the notion that their employees are complex humans, and much more than rented resources.

One survey lists employee interest, in order:

1.       Achievement

There are very few people who do not take satisfaction from their achievements. A wise manager will provide opportunities to let employees achieve something concrete. It might be a project that has a defined outcome, or goals and milestones in a process oriented job. Achieving a goal or outcome is naturally satisfying. Of more importance – thanks and recognition translates the personal achievement into the warmth and satisfaction so appreciated by everyone.

2.      Recognition

“Great job, Susan – thanks very much”. Cost – zero. Recognition, and its close cousin Appreciation, goes a long way to cementing relationships with others. We are all drawn to situations where we experience some recognition and appreciation of our efforts and achievements. Recognition can come in a wide variety of ways, from public awards to simple thanks from a colleague or supervisor. Employees also value being recognized for their accomplishments both inside and outside the organization. It is hard to understand how managers who like to receive recognition (it is in our genes) don’t see how powerful and necessary it is to give recognition.

3.      Work Satisfaction

Work satisfaction can happen in many ways. Closely related to achievement, work satisfaction relates to doing something of value. It may be working for a company that, through its products, makes the world a better place. A company that has a vision of itself that extends beyond earning-per-share can be a source of employee satisfaction, and companies should look for ways to communicate their place in, and contribution to, the overall society. Employers should look for ways of organizing work functions to carry that satisfaction down to individuals and their localized job functions.

4.      Responsibility

Most of like to be responsible for something – to know that what we do will make a difference. Task force participation, work redesign projects, cost savings programs, and employee work teams enhance the sense of responsibility and promote engagement with the organization. Employees know their jobs best and can provide valuable insight into work redesign, cost savings and process improvement initiatives. Responsibilities also lead to challenges, and most of us welcome achievable challenges. We like to be told “You need to deliver XXX by next Thursday” – and most people step up to the plate and commit themselves to deliver what is needed. This ties directly into Achievement and Satisfaction – responsibility is a motivator, and delegating responsibility is one powerful tool that increases engagement, effectiveness and efficiency.

5.      Advancement

Most of us strive to succeed and progress. If we are astute, we recognize the best ways of achieving advancement – and that usually means satisfying our client or boss. Advancement tells us that we are successful in ways that move of our career forward or tell us in some way that we are not standing still or sliding backwards. Managers should recognize that everyone shares their personal desire for, and satisfaction in, advancement. They should recognize that helping their employees advance is a very effective way to build a team that has a healthy balance between individual interests and the common goals of the business – and that is good for business.

6.      Pay

Pay is generally not a major motivator – but many managers are slow to learn this lesson. The best goal is to get pay right – and get it off the table as an issue. Most people want to be treated fairly – in pay as in everything else. Everyone recognizes internal inequities, they have an uncanny sense about the external market, and they know what value they bring to the table. If they perceive and trust that their compensation is being handled fairly and competently – pay will decline as an issue and cause for dissatisfaction.

Many organizations do not treat their employees with respect. Everyone wants to feel that they are part of a team. A rewrite of some old wisdom applies here – treat your employees as you would like to be treated. That is the simple rule. We are all in it together.