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Talent Management

Why Employers Are Wrong About What Employees Want

August 13, 2015
5 min read
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There’s long been a fight between what employers think employees want, and what employees actually want. It’s possibly the least fun game of cat and mouse in our known universe, and it’s consistently one that leads to problems at every step of the hiring process. If employers don’t know what candidates want to hear at an interview, and approach them with the wrong emphasis, they’re not going to score promising employees. But why do employers make these sorts of mistakes? Why can’t employers and their employees get on the same page when it comes to certain topics? Let’s take a look at the symptoms, then work our way to the cause.

Compensation Over Work

The biggest disconnect between employers and employees comes down to the answer to a simple, but important question: what matters most about your job? For employees, it’s compensation: 31% of employees say the money they make at their job is the most important part of their job, followed by the kind of work they do. Employers have it backwards: 37% of them believe employees value the work they do most, while 24% say it’s compensation.

This misunderstanding makes talent management difficult for employers. When they assume people are working primarily because they have pride in what they’re doing and derive value from work, it can lead to exploitation on the part of the employer, who may falsely believe passionate employees will want to work harder no matter what. This exploitation will eventually lead to a number of conflicts in the workplace, lower employee morale and increased turnover (eventually).

CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01See how you can avoid difficulties in talent management by knowing what employees want!

A Demographic Problem

Why does this disconnect exist? Perhaps the biggest reason is that, for a while now, the conversations on the future of work revolved around Millennials, who will make up over half the workforce by 2020. Following that, the conversation surrounding what Millennials want from the workplace, and early surveys said they wanted more freedom and meaning from work:

  • 74% of Millennials in 2014 wanted flexible work schedules.
  • 72% wanted to be their own boss.
  • 64% said making the world a better place was a priority for them.

These stats painted a picture of a generation that thought more freely about work, wasn’t tied down to concepts about financial well-being, and wanted to work someplace they love. Eventually, this image stuck in employers’ heads, and employees were convinced Millennials would only work somewhere they enjoyed thoroughly, leading them to believe they most valued the kind of work they did.


Do you know what matters most to your employees? You could be mistaken. Here's why:

Changing Desires and Regional Differences

Now, however, we’re seeing a shift towards a desire for financial stability and career advancement. While workplace perks like flexible hours are still in high demand among Millennials (59% chose this trait as their most valuable), this is coupled by a strong interest in working longer hours if it meant advancing their career more quickly (42%). This tells us that Millennials do indeed want to derive value from their work, but they’re just as likely to derive value from a leadership positions or a promotion as they are the very nature of their work.

We can then tie in this desire for career advancement into what employees across every generation want most: compensation. The desire for career advancement may come from a place of pride, but for many people, it comes from a desire to retire earlier in an economy plagued by instability. If we think about it that way, what employees want most is stability by way of compensation. What can employers do help? If they cannot directly offer higher compensation, they can instead offer them stability by helping them sort through their investment options, and offer them the chance to gain financial independence by working at your company.

Employers may be wrong about what employees want, but that doesn’t mean they can’t adapt to their needs. As employers, we need to not only recognize what they really want from work, but why they want it. If they can figure this out on a per-employee basis (which could prove difficult), both employer and employee will be set to have a much better relationship in the long run.

ClearCompany’s goal-tracking and alignment will make sure everyone is on the same page and contributing to building a better work environment. Take a tour of our software and features and we’re sure you’ll choose us for your performance management needs.

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