Money v culture: what your employees really want

I’m going to make this easy on you…it’s both.

There is no employee alive who wants EITHER money or a great work environment. And if I’m wrong and that’s you, please call me, because we have an AMAZING work environment here and I’m happy to pay you less than what you’re worth.

Crazy, right?

So why debate on money versus culture when the tough reality is that if you’re running a company today that wants to attract top talent, you better have both.

If you’re talking to potential employees right out of college, you’re dealing with individuals who are (generally) ready to put in their time doing hard work for a company that will help them pay their bills and build their respective personal brands. Some of them may be willing at first to take a higher pay working for a company they don’t necessarily enjoy to get their foot in the door and/or make ends meet.

If you’re talking to potential employees who are highly qualified and are applying for mid- to senior-level roles, they know their worth and can be choosy. But they’ve also been around the block and know that not all that glitters is gold, and may be more interested in working for a company they believe in and provides them with a feeling of satisfaction when they leave the office everyday.

All this said, what attracts an employee to your company and what keeps them there can be two different things. After all, employees are people, and what motivates people can vary greatly. On top of that, those motivators can change at different life stages. So, while attracting an employee with a nice salary may work up front, that same employee may leave if your benefits suck when they’re about to start a family.

Conversely, an employee who came to your company when it was bootstrapping because it believed in your vision will be looking for new work quickly if a life change requires them to be more financially sound—say getting married or trying to qualify for a home loan.

So what’s a company to do?

The answers are simple:

First, recognize that most people want to earn a fair wage doing something they enjoy with people they like. Knock one of those legs of the stool away and the employee satisfaction balance can get wobbly.

Then talk to your people. Be flexible. Train your HR managers and recruiting folks to ask the right questions and treat people like individuals. You’d be surprised how far that can go in keeping good people around.

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