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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

Compensation Isn’t the Biggest Factor in Keeping Employees Happy

Workplace fulfillment is strongly tied to a culture of belonging, which you can create with these two key ideas.




I’M PART OF A SMALL team that compiles and evaluates the data of our annual employee survey. We share the results with management at our various locations so they can deliver the findings to their teams. I always find this to be a fascinating and informative process. As is the case with employee surveys administered by businesses all over the world, compensation is never the most important factor when determining whether an employee is happy in their job. To be fair, it’s always “a thing.” A top three or four “thing,” but never the most important.

As I reflect upon the countless employee surveys in which I’ve participated over the past several years – both as an employee and as the employer – I believe an individual’s level of workplace fulfillment is tied most closely with their company’s culture. The businesses that are most successful at accomplishing high levels of employee happiness create what I call a “culture of belonging.”

It’s simple human nature to wish to be part of something that’s moving in a positive direction. Most of us want to feel like we’re contributing to the success of our organization. A culture of belonging ensures that employees feel like they’re a valued member of their team – that their contributions and opinions indeed matter. Here are two key ideas to consider when building a culture of belonging.

Foster Open Communication: It’s best if team members can communicate openly and freely. That goes for all levels, whether you’re providing positive feedback or constructive criticism to your manager, to your peers, or to team members you manage. The open communication dynamic really only works if your entire management team is on-board and comfortable with open dialogue. If they become defensive or dismissive of feedback given – or just plain ignore it – then the process will simply shut down and communication is stifled.

Think about it. Most people are fairly comfortable giving advice to someone they manage or even to a peer. But providing constructive criticism to a superior does not come naturally to most. This becomes successful when a manager is open to and accepting of the process. Only then will open communication flow within your organization.

Establish Rewards and Recognition: Most staff members want to belong to an organization where they can be recognized and rewarded for their successes. This holds true for all levels of acknowledgment, whether it be big-splash, company-wide, public acclamation, or simply pulling someone on your team aside and letting them know how much you appreciate their contribution to the organization.


Don’t overthink this. It’s easy to set up opportunities for your employees to be rewarded. It could be something as simple as a gift certificate for an employee of the month for the entire company or perhaps for each department. It could be an anonymous appreciation box with comments to be shared about other employees at staff meetings. The most important action to be taken is to ensure there are ample opportunities for your team members to receive rewards and recognition for a job well done.

Providing employees with fair compensation is a very complicated and critical process. But as managers we sometimes exert so much energy and effort to it that we forget about the things that matter every day to each of our employees. By creating a culture of belonging, you can ensure your employees will feel like they’re part of an organization where they can communicate freely, where their opinions are heard and valued, and where they’re recognized and rewarded for their positive contributions. Create this culture and you will inevitably experience great success.



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