Corporate Eye

Money and Happiness: It’s Complicated…

Greener Pastures 3

According to this story from CIOZone, a recent study by staffing firm Robert Half asked 150 senior executives (from among the 1,000 largest U. S. companies) how they would be most likely to spend money on employee-related priorities.  New hiring was the top choice for 31%, followed by salary increases (21%), bonuses (15%), and training (9%).  Just 5% chose enhancing benefits.

But is it really all about money?  In a related blog post, commentator Ellen Pearlman says:

It’s time for managers and HR executives to identify the various needs their employees have and to craft reward systems that are more personal . . . One worker may need a flexible schedule to take care of an aging parent, another may need to leave early on Wednesdays to get to a class, and still another may want to work four days a week and have a day off to pursue other interests. Some may welcome a special assignment overseas or the opportunity to work with a skunkworks group researching a new product.

As Pearlman points out, this personal approach is much harder than just adding a little to everybody’s paycheck.  It may carry a lot of added value, though, especially among employees who have lost their passion for the company.  And that group is apparently growing.

CIOZone notes that the annual U.S. Strategic Rewards survey from consulting firm Watson Wyatt  and HR non-profit WorldatWork finds employee engagement levels falling 9% from last year’s survey—and “top performers” were even more likely to be disengaged (a 25% topple).   There was also a 14% increase in the number of employees who have already started a new job search.

With so many people unemployed . . . it seems like having a job is a reward in itself.  But in many cases, pay cuts or freezes, shrinking opportunities, and/or increasing workloads are sapping employee satisfaction.  When hiring picks up, these folks may bolt for greener pastures–so now may be the time to find ways of rewarding them without spending more money.

Relevance for the corporate Careers site?  Employees disengaged from their companies are perfect passive candidates.  If they aren’t actively looking, they may start any minute, and if they stumble across an interesting opportunity (or receive just the right email) they may be persuadable.  So it’s a good time for the Careers site to highlight content that promotes engagement—rewards, opportunities, culture, and support for the pursuit of happiness.  It’s also a good time to enhance communications and work on building connections.  When the hiring money flows again, having a good candidate pool will be a significant competitive advantage.

(Thanks to eye of Einstein for our greener pastures.)

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.

Interesting thoughts! I believe it’s not possible to make a general statement on whether money makes people more or less happy. Money comes with a whole set of new elements that may have good or bad impact on our happiness, and depending on how susceptible we are to every one of them, the conclusion will go one way or the other (i.e. different from person to person). I recently made an effort to provide a more comprehensive picture of what these ad- and disadvantages are. I invite you to have a look at Money and Happiness and tell me what you think!
Thank you, Nick

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