New Research: The Top 10 Factors for Employee Happiness on the Job

Employee engagement and happiness is definitely one of the topics du jour for modern management and the future of work. Plenty of studies have already (and continue to) come out that show how low employee engagement is around the world (only 13 percent of employees are engaged and 87 percent are not!). Low employee engagement numbers correlate and oftentimes cause decreased productivity, waisted resources, and an overall toxic environment that nobody wants to be a part of… and why should they?

This is why it’s important to understand what employees around the world value in their jobs. So what do employees actually want and what do they care about?

A Tinypulse survey from 2013 revealed that transparency was the No. 1 factor for employee engagement.

A 2014 SAP survey found that compensation is the No. 1 factor that matters most to employees.

Another survey by the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) conducted in 2013 also found that compensation and pay was the No. 1 factor contributing to job satisfaction.

Several other studies have also emerged around what employees care about at work but the most recent one from Boston Consulting Group which surveyed over 200,000 people around the world is one of the most comprehensive. Unlike previous studies which may point to flexibility or salary

as the top factor for job happiness, BCG found that the No. 1 factor for employee happiness on the job is being appreciated for their work!

Based on the color-coded categories you can see above, out of the top factors the majority are grouped as either “work environment” or “job content and opportunities.” Perhaps what is more interesting is the contrary to some of the other studies which show compensation as the No. 1 factor for happiness, this report puts salary at No. 8. This reaffirms what I consistently see in organizations that I speak with. You can’t pay someone a lot of money, treat them poorly, and expect them to do their jobs well just because they get a nice check.

It’s important to remember that the “balance of power” is shifting away from organizations and towards employees. Today, we have a lot of choices to consider and several opportunities to evaluate when exploring how to make a living. Instead of going to work for a large established company that has more money, people can now:

  • join a small growing startup
  • become a freelancer on sites like odesk or elance
  • drive for Uber or Lyft
  • create their own products to sell on sites like Etsy
  • raise money through crowd-funding on sites like Indiegogo or Kickstarter
  • and much more
The war for talent has never been greater so in a world where cash is no longer the No. 1 factor attracting employees to organizations, these organizations must focus on other factors to create a more desirable and engaging place to work. What do you think of these recent numbers? Are you shocked or surprised to see that compensation is No. 8?


Jacob is an author, speaker, and futurist. You can learn more by visiting TheFutureOrganization.com. You can also subscribe to Jacob’s newsletter to get weekly content on the future of work and the first 30 pages of his new book, The Future of Work.