While competitive pay and generous perks are key to employee satisfaction and retention, a new global study* reveals that the ability to make a meaningful contribution to the job is just as important.
Dubbed The Contribution Effect, the study reveals that while employees want to retain the agency and flexibility they gained during the pandemic, feeling appreciated and motivated for their contributions are two of the top three predictors of retention and satisfaction today (the top predictor being working in a positive environment).
“Given our collective new ‘workplace normal’, we set out to assess the key drivers of employee satisfaction, retention and advocacy amid today’s unprecedented war for talent. We talked to nearly 2,800 office-based, front-line and trade/manufacturing employees in seven countries, and discovered that across this diverse sample, a strong employee experience rests on opportunities for workers to do valued, fulfilling work,” said Kate Bullinger, CEO, United Minds.
The Contribution Effect and Employee Retention
While flexible work and innovative benefits are dominating the conversation about how to retain talent as companies navigate the Great Resignation, that’s not the only discussion companies should be having.
“Our research shows employees want a fair deal. They want a culture that’s inclusive and safe. And they want agency to do their work on their terms. However, often the missing link in building a loyal and thriving workforce is empowering people to do work that enriches their lives. This is the moment for companies to re-imagine their employee experience for a much different employee-employer relationship in the future,” Bullinger said.
In The Contribution Effect, employee experience (EX) was considered from two perspectives: stated importance and derived importance. Stated importance addresses what employees say is most important to them in an ideal job – what is top of mind and often discussed at the negotiation table. Derived importance gets under the hood using correlation analysis to understand how well each of the 79 factors determines what actually drives satisfaction, advocacy and retention.
In evaluating EX in this manner, four key findings emerged, which collectively form a comprehensive picture of the mutual contributions necessary for shaping a best-in-class employee experience. Furthermore, they provide a roadmap for executives seeking to evolve and elevate their employee experience.
Pillar 1 – What’s non-negotiable: Fairness and safety
Employees expect to be treated fairly, feel supported, secure and included regardless of role or background. Getting a “fair deal” at and from work is more than pay equity and job security. Yet, there’s a troubling threat to fairness. According to the research, 1 in 3 employees report experiencing unfair treatment, including discrimination and harassment at work – and unfair treatment represents the single largest negative influence on EX. At the top of the list of those reporting unfair treatment are people who are non-white, ages 18-34 and cultural/religious minorities – with top reasons being age (35 per cent) and sex (22 per cent).
Pillar 2 – What I give: Employee contributions are as important as company benefits
Feeling valued for purposeful contributions is a strong predictor of employee satisfaction, which means getting this driver right is especially important. Simply put, people want to do good, purposeful work and in turn, get recognised for it. Among the findings, 70 per cent of employees who report feeling motivated are also satisfied with their jobs, versus 6 per cent who are not. Yet, three in 10 employees (30 per cent) are not energised to do their best work.
Pillar 3 – What I get: Employees appreciate agency and balance
The ability to work remotely does not rank highly in the factors that truly drive retention (#58 out of the 79 factors). What does rank highly is achieving work/life balance (#5), indicating that flexibility is important but only as a driver of true balance.
“What matters in the long-term is what workplace flexibility symbolises. Giving people the autonomy to self-manage demonstrates trust and confidence – and it conveys a willingness to listen and to meet employees where they are,” said Stephen Duncan, executive vice president, EMEA, United Minds.
Pillar 4 – What we create together: Employees seek meaningful fun
Having a positive work environment and a fun place to work rank number one and four, respectively, out of the 79 factors driving derived satisfaction. More notably, employees who consider their work environment to be positive are more than 7X more likely to stay, while employees who experience fun at work are more than 5X more likely to perceive their organisation as among the best.
In this instance, fun and positivity are about getting people immersed in solving problems that are original, hard and important. It’s about creating deeper affinity to peers – and ultimately, to the employer.
Contribution Quotient Scores Organisational EX, Shows Leaders Fare Better than Others
To assess the degree to which an organisation is offering a superior employee experience, the researchers created a Contribution Quotient (CQ) score that analyses performance across all four pillars above to assign an overall rating. The higher the CQ, the more likely an organisation’s employees will stay, advocate for the company and feel satisfied.
The average CQ across organisations in the study is 72 (out of 100), with only 17 per cent of the data set achieving an “excellent” score of 90 CQ or above. Leaders fare better than individual contributors, with a 76 CQ compared to 70 CQ, respectively. From an industry sector perspective, professional services outperforms all others at a 75 CQ.
Harassment and discrimination create the greatest divergence, with a 16-point CQ reduction from those who have experienced unfair treatment versus those who are treated fairly.
United Minds Launches nexus Model & Employee Survey
Aligned with the key findings in The Contribution Effect, United Minds developed a universal, predictive EX model – nexus – that can predict over 50 per cent of an employee’s experience, regardless of geography, job type or level. Using the nexus diagnostic, United Minds can either issue a 10-minute employee survey or work with client data to compare their EX performance against the benchmark data.
United Minds’ employee experience, culture and engagement advisors use tools like nexus to counsel dozens of Fortune 500 and other large organisations on best practices for building stronger workforces.
“Our first-of-its-kind, predictive model provides a framework for any organisation to better understand how their current EX impacts retention and advocacy – and how it can be improved,” Duncan said.
*Research by Weber Shandwick management consultancy United Minds and KRC Research