It’s no secret that being happy at work is a significant contributor to longevity and success in our careers. And yet there’s a fundamental disconnect in what we prioritize in our workplaces and what research shows actually brings us joy. There are myriad sources offering insight on how to improve salaries and benefits packages, create opportunities for advancement, and provide job security to ensure employee engagement and well-being. And don’t misunderstand: those things are very important and must be factored into a healthy work environment.
However, consider the results of a recent logistics management salary survey: when asked what made them happy at work, the majority of respondents (63%) cited “feelings of accomplishment.” In second place, at 51%, we found “relationships with colleagues.” That’s a significant finding, demonstrating that employees care most about a sense of meaning and accomplishment in their work and strong collegial relationships, which we categorize as “soft” issues. The survey showed less concern about the “dollars and cents” or “hard” issues that most companies focus most (or all) of their attention on. Salary did rank third on the list, with 47% of respondents listing it as a source of happiness, so it should certainly not be discounted as a significant concern for workers, but it is not the most important thing to most employees.
The same survey investigated what breeds unhappiness at work, and once again, a “soft” issue topped the list: at 46%, company politics was the primary concern for respondents. In a similar pattern, we see three of the top five concerns reflect “soft” issues, including high stress levels (27%) and lack of recognition (26%). The “hard” issues that were most cited are a lack of advancement opportunity (35%) and insufficient salary (30%), which are already issues that companies are largely aware of and committing resources to.
Considering that nearly 25% of employees in the United States were recently looking for a different company (according to a 2021 report by NPR), these findings are significant to both employers and employees everywhere. Companies who want to recruit and retain top talent, and candidates who want to achieve long-term job satisfaction, would do well to consider what type of workplace provides the best opportunities for employees to not just perform, but thrive.
What we have come to find is that companies who truly understand the primary drivers of happiness at work provide more than a job to their employees - they provide a home. There are four components of a workplace where employees feel at home.
#1: The company has a vision for the future.
Planning for and working toward long-term goals is a key part of satisfaction at work; employees need to believe that their team is working together toward a common goal that they are all invested in. In addition, a company that plans ahead provides more stability and job security than those who get bogged down with short-term concerns, and job security contributes to a feeling of safety and well-being among employees.
#2: The company consists of a “curious community” of people.
Learning new things is not only an imperative strategy for business’s survival in a rapidly changing world, but it’s an activity that builds confidence, fosters a sense of community, and delivers a sense of accomplishment (the most-cited source of happiness in our report). Filling a company with avid learners at every level is an important way to encourage continuous learning and provide space for employees to ask questions, take risks, think innovatively, and embrace failure as a necessary part of the learning process.
#3: The company has enough leaders and supporters to deliver on their goals.
A company might have the best intentions when it comes to delivering on both “soft” and “hard” workplace priorities, but without adequate leadership and support staff who are invested in the process, they will likely fall short. Identifying, training, and empowering leaders to be difference-makers in your workplace community is a key part of creating a “home” at work. And companies must also provide those leaders with sufficient on-the-ground support staff to put plans into action and deliver on both internal developmental goals and external profit-making goals.
#4: The company has enough financial and technical resources to make the right things happen.
It’s simple: a company without capital and technical resources cannot perform at an optimal level in their marketplace, nor can they provide employees with the job security and learning opportunities that are key factors in employee fulfillment. Investing a company’s resources wisely and staying up to date on industry-specific technology is a necessary part of building a business where employees can feel at home.
Whether job-seekers are gainfully employed in jobs that do not fulfill them or unexpectedly unemployed and contemplating how best to maximize their career potential, they will benefit most from finding a company that offers more than a job - it offers a home.