Compensation: What Do They Want?

Throughout the recession and continuing even today, many employers have found themselves doing more with less. Tough times led some of them to trim their staff back so far that only the very best employees remained. Retaining those valued workers took on heightened importance as they literally became the people who were keeping the company in business.

Compensating employees during – and immediately following – a recession can be challenging, as budgets make it difficult to pay the kind of wages that will keep top performers from jumping ship. While it’s certainly true that a generous salary can help make your company an employer of choice, it’s important to remember that compensation encompasses far more than just an employee’s salary. From health insurance and gym memberships to continuing education and opportunities to participate in corporate social responsibility activities, employees consider the whole picture when evaluating if an employer is giving them what they expect.

Employees who do not feel they are being fairly compensated are far more likely to be unmotivated and unengaged. They may grow hostile or they may simply jump ship. Either way, the consequences are undesirable. Thus, it’s important to ensure that your employees are receiving satisfactory compensation, through salary, perks, and opportunities.

The key lies in finding out what your employees value. Understanding what current and potential future staff members expect is crucial if your goal is to become an employer of choice. Your first step, therefore, is to ask them. This can be accomplished through a survey or in a series of departmental or town hall meetings.

When it comes to compensation, salary is always the first thing that comes to mind. Certainly, base pay is the centerpiece of any employee’s compensation. If they don’t feel they are receiving a decent salary, employees will always be looking for better opportunities. In today’s economy, however, it’s not always possible to “up the ante” for even the most top-notch employees. Still, it’s crucial to ensure that their pay is consistent with the market, so do your research and make sure you are offering competitive pay. 

Among the most popular components of compensation are opportunities for advancement. Few employees want to stay in the same position throughout their entire careers, so make sure you offer plenty of opportunities to move into new and exciting positions. Devise a system of career pathing so employees can easily see that they have a future with your company. Whenever possible, give employees access to continuing education, whether online, at company headquarters, or through a local college or university.

Studies have shown that employees place a high value on intangibles, oftentimes an even higher value than they place on base salary or benefits. These include interesting and challenging work; recognition and acknowledgement; a positive working environment; and a sense of job security. Remarkably, it is not hard to provide these factors to employees. Chances are you have already planted the necessary seeds. Now you simply need to tend to them and watch them grow.

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