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Explore 20 things employees value most in all organizations. Contrary to what most people think, when it comes to job satisfaction, financial reward is lower on the list of what employees value most at work.

20 Things Employees Value Most


By Catherine Adenle

Do you know the 20 things employees value at work? If you are an employee, what do you value most at work? Can you put what you value at work in an order of importance to you? I bet you can.

Ironically, most employers believe that compensation is at the top of most employees’ lists of what they value most at work. So, intuitively, they think that a higher pay at work should produce great motivation, lots of happiness and better results at the end of their financial year. That is why some leaders get frustrated when they think they pay their employees well and yet, the level of engagement is noticeably low. However, scientific evidence indicates that the link between compensation, happiness at work, motivation and performance is much more complex than we think.

In fact, research suggests that even if organizations let their employees decide how much they should earn yearly, they would probably not enjoy their job more than employees who get paid what the organizations think they should earn. When it comes to the things employees value most at work, even those who highlight the motivational effects of money accept that employees valuing pay alone is out of the question.

See Employee Motivation Goes Beyond Salary Increase

Company’s Culture and Value

For all employees, especially highly talented ones, workplace values are the guiding principles that determine how they perceive satisfaction at work. These employees use these deeply held principles to choose between what they value or see as right and wrong ways of how an organisation should function. Then, they use their beliefs to make important career decisions and employer choices.

For any organization, their values are deeply set in their culture, and they identify what the organization as a whole, cares about. It’s crucial that employees’ values align with these organizations values. The reason for this is that when there’s an alignment, employees love and value where they work. They are passionate about the work they do, they understand one another, they see everyone doing the right things for the right reasons. This common understanding and purpose help employees to build great working relationships. Values alignment helps an organization as a whole to achieve its core mission.


A well structured and a compelling study titled, ‘The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the literature by Timothy Judge et al., published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior by Elsevier indicates that other things are more valued by employees. The authors painstakingly reviewed 120 years of research to synthesize the findings from 92 quantitative studies. The combined data-set included over 15,000 individuals and 115 correlation coefficients. The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is indeed very weak. The reported correlation (r = .14) indicates that there is less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels.

20 things employees  value at work

This is a list of the 20 things employees value at work:

  1. Appreciation
  2. Inclusion
  3. Trust
  4. Development
  5. Autonomy
  6. Connection
  7. Rewards
  8. Empowerment
  9. Mentoring
  10. Promotion
  11. Fairness
  12. Respect
  13. Challenges
  14. Career opportunities
  15. Being heard
  16. Security
  17. The flexibility of working hours
  18. Clear goals and expectations
  19. Growth
  20. Responsibilities

“Far from being considered just a fad, many organisations are now keen to get employees’ engagement as they know it has a real impact on bottom-line results. A fully engaged employee is broadly one that says positive things about their organization to others, wants to stay with their organization, and exerts extra effort in their role.”


1  Appreciation

This is a key piece of the 20 things employees value. Employees recognition is the timely, informal or formal acknowledgement of their behaviour towards work, effort or business result that supports an organization’s goals and values, which has clearly been done beyond normal expectations.

Show employees that you appreciate them and the value they contribute to your organisation through timely feedback, you can trust that employees will feel valued. Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms that their contribution is indeed needed and valued. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rise, and they are motivated to maintain or improve good work.

Praise and recognition are essential and present in outstanding organizations. It helps such organizations to feel a sense of achievement for any work well done or even for a valiant effort. Everyone deserves a ‘pat on the back’ to make them feel good if they have done a great job. For an organization to continuously succeed, their leaders need to be effective in the need to understand the psychology of praising others for their good work.

See 4 Reasons Employee Appreciation Matters Year-Round

 2. Inclusion

When employees feel part of a team, it gives them satisfaction and confidence. They know they matter because their feedback, contributions, work and all are given the same focus as everyone else’s. When employees feel isolated that they cannot be themselves at work, they will not engage fully as part of a team or partake well in assigned work.  Organizational leaders play an important role in setting the tone for the shift towards increased inclusiveness in organizations. Open, effective communication, as well as clear channels for feedback, optimizes the opportunity for discussion of issues related to inclusion.

3. Trust

This is another essential one of these 20 things employees value at work. Like other values, trust is something that will be gained over time. Employees and employers are not “entitled” to others’ trust; they have to work to earn it. Other people make the determination about our trustworthiness; it is not ours for the asking. However, why should leaders spend time developing and nurturing trusting relationships in the workplace if they don’t actually trust their employees? Put simply, trust in the workplace is critical to organizational success.

Leaders cannot optimize results by themselves; they need employees’ support and assistance. Exceptional leaders know they must rely on those who share their vision and goals; they cannot carry the load alone. Therefore, trusting employees enough to ask for their help is essential to business success.

4. Development

Most employees value learning and development. They want to learn and develop new transferable skills. I know of companies who lost top talents by not paying attention to their development as much as they do for tasks, projects and business results. When an organization develops its employees, they help them shape the future direction of their careers.

For this, employees are more engaged and productive.  Yet for a variety of reasons, this valuable activity is often ignored or handled as a bureaucratic exercise or as an afterthought.  Companies pay a high price for failing to develop their employees, especially the highly talented ones because they leave.

5. Autonomy

I know that I work better when I am left to get on with things. Most employees do too. They know exactly what to do and how to get on with their work without having anyone breathing down their necks! It is essential for employees to make calculated decisions without having to get approval for everything.

Autonomy in the workplace refers to how much freedom employees have while they work. For some organizations, autonomy means employees are allowed to set their own schedules. In other organizations, autonomy means employees can decide how their work should be done. No matter which concept is being applied, higher levels of autonomy tend to result in an increase in job satisfaction. In the past, traditional organizational structures have called for strict oversight at the lower levels of the organization and more autonomy in the higher ranks. However, studies have shown that work environments that are more autonomous in nature have not only higher job satisfaction, but also better productivity.

See The Compelling Case for Giving Employees More Freedom

6. Connection

Employees spend most of their time at work. They bring more than their physical presence to work daily; they bring their stories and experiences and some of their personal life. Leaders should be interested in having a great and respectful working relationship with their employees. They should ask them about themselves, their passion, aspirations and what gets them out of bed daily. Connecting with employees will help an organization to have an understanding of employees career past, present, and their goals for the future. It will help employees to know that you care as an organization about who they are and what they wish for. Employee engagement is a direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with the boss, their team and the organization. Employees look at whether organizations and their leaders walk the talk when they proclaim that, “Our employees are our most valuable asset.” Encouraging and allowing employees to venture outside the company through attending conferences, network events and industry fairs will allow them to connect with other professionals. In turn, learn from them or exchange best practices.

Infographic: 20 Things Employees Value at Work by Catherine Adenle

20 Things Employees Value

7. Rewards

Employees value organizations that recognize and reward their contributions and accomplishments via various means. They see this as an important part of having a quality culture. When employees know that their efforts are appreciated and rewarded, it increases their satisfaction with their job and self-esteem.

Rewards also encourage employees to aim for quality and increase productivity. For many employees, the value of a reward is not as important as the fact that they know that their contributions are valued. So, acknowledging and rewarding employees should go hand to hand.

See Rewards and Recognition: two highly effective ways to motivate your employees

8. Empowerment

This is yet another critical aspect of the 20 things employees value at work.  There is a reason why the Gallup’s 2013 Employee Engagement survey, which studied nearly 1.4 million employees across 50,000 work units, found that those companies that understand the importance of empowering their employees and are most active in their employee engagement practices benefit from great customer feedback, 22% more profitability, 21% more productivity, significantly lower staff turnover, 37% less absenteeism and 41% fewer quality defects.

In the modern business world, companies that have the edge steadily outperform and increase their market share. In today’s leading organizations, this edge is produced by empowering employees to be more responsible for their jobs, make decisions, and manage their careers at work.

The importance of empowering employees in the workplace should not be underestimated because it breeds individual and group confidence, enabling employees to work both more efficiently and more effectively. When employees are confident within their work and of their organization, they are more willing to identify problems or challenges and suggest ways to improve the quantity and quality of output. This culture jump-starts change, it increases agility in the market and provides the impetus for organizations to grow revenues.

9. Mentoring

Mentoring is a critical component of the 20 things employees value at work. Employees values mentoring and coaching. Organizations benefit from mentoring programs because they contribute to the development of an engaged, dedicated and better-trained workforce. Having mentors help employees to learn the ropes where they work is important. It helps them to develop relationships across the organization, and identify skills that should be developed or improved upon.

Mentoring play a key role in decreasing employee turnover. A 2013 study, “Career Benefits Associated with Mentoring for Mentors,” published by Elsevier in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, discovered people who have the opportunity to serve as mentors experience greater job satisfaction and a higher commitment to their employer.” A mentor helps alleviate any job frustration an employee has through one to one mentoring providing insights into the organizations culture.

Mentoring is a cost-efficient way of getting employees engaged and empowered. It enables employees to develop the talent they already have.

See 10 Concrete Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Mentor at Work

10. Promotion

No one values being undervalued! All employees value being rewarded with a promotion when they deserve it. Promotion opportunities are the lifeblood of employees knowing they are going to have a future in an organization. Employees feel appreciated when they are promoted and it helps retention.

Without the proper use of incentives and coaching, employees are likely to refrain from maintaining close engagement with the organization for an extended period of time.

The world of business is competitive in many ways. All businesses compete for top talents, products, biggest share of the market etc. Competitors always steal the best talent from other companies by offering them enhanced pay, promotion and benefits. Promotions on the job and promoting inwardly supply these kinds of engagement enhancing rewards to employees so that they do not feel the need to leave their current employers.

Things Employees Value at Work

The presence of promotion opportunities in an organization compels employees to work harder and strive to impress their bosses. This is the cornerstone behind retention in the workplace. It also encourages employees to work harder and hit new levels of excellence and increase their value to the organization. By offering promotions, organizations enhance their overall performance expectations while providing employees with a reason to excel and reach for new opportunities.

See 4 Benefits of Promoting Within Instead of Hiring New Employees

11. Fairness

When there’s fairness, there’s trust and reassurance. It’s crucial for organizations to ensure that their employees rewards, benefits and overall workplace perception are rooted in principles of fairness.

Fairness is important to help motivate employees and provide them with an incentive to keep working hard. Perceived fairness of employees rewards as well as leadership perception of efforts or the lack of is often at the root of why employees leave organizations. The idea of fairness also determines if an employee will make an extra effort to reach organizational goals or even the objectives of his or her own job.

Research demonstrates that employees’ perception of fairness and equitable treatment is a core driver of retention, engagement and performance. In fact, unfair treatment is corrosive. Just the perception that treatment is unfair can have devastating effects on the organization.

12. Respect

Respect is valued by all employees. Respect impacts employees. If employees feel respected, they are more likely to stick with their organization than those who don’t. Further, employees who feel respected are more engaged, which translates into better, more efficient output.

In a survey of more than 19,000 people by Harvard Business Review in 2013, 54% of respondents said they did not feel that they regularly got respect from their leaders. That lack of respect has huge consequences for employees, the survey found.

The survey respondents who felt they were treated with respect reported 56% better health and well-being, 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs, and 92% greater focus and prioritization. They also reported greater meaning and significance, and a higher level of trust and safety.

TED Video: What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work

13. Challenges

Employees value being challenged through the quality of work they are given. Doing the work that matter is a huge motivation for employees. Motivation is influenced by the level of learning and connections employees are exposed to through challenging projects and work. No one wants to be spoon-fed, employees want to feel engaged through how capable leaders think they are in dealing with challenging situations. The more engaged and challenged employees are, the more positive and productive their performance.

14. Career opportunities

This is a critical one of the 20 things employees value at work. For the majority of talented employees, career opportunities are important. They value being rewarded by moving up the corporate ladder.

Frankly, if employees’ desire to make advancement in their careers is not fulfilled at work, they will begin to look for work elsewhere. Opportunities to move up the career ladder must be available for employees. If not, organizations could look at alternatives like training and development that will allow employees to grow their transferable skills. When promotions seem like a waiting game to employees, organizations are at risk of attrition. Career development opportunities are an essential part of employee engagement. In fact, key analyses consistently show that career development is the second most effective way of increasing employee engagement, after recognition.

15. Being heard

Treating employees as if they are invisible will badly affect an organization’s level of employee engagement. Listening to employees is vital for any organization, this is a no-brainer. Leaders making decisions without seeking input from their employees often make costly mistakes. This is one of the largest problems failing companies face.

The importance of listening to employees can be seen in terms of innovation, continuous improvement and customer services. These days, many organizations encourage their employees’ to give their opinions through contests, rewards, and bonus structures. When employee ideas are heard and encouraged, the organization can stand to positively impact the bottom-line, whilst engaging the employee simultaneously.

The power of employees’ ideas sourcing can be particularly effective in understanding what is truly important to employees. With the right tools, letting employees themselves deal with arising issues, organizations can use this data in real-time to determine trending ideas, conversations, and feedback. This allows them to take immediate action, and enable a proactive, rather than reactive, approach.

16. Security

Employees value security. It is a key part of the 20 things employees value most at work. With greater job security, employees are more eager to think of innovative ideas to enhance a company’s competitiveness in a saturated market. Ultimately, this is beneficial to the organization and would greatly improve overall performance. Thus, offering long-term job security to employees is a means to motivate them and increase productivity. It is, in fact, more important than the salary for most employees.

Feelings of job insecurity can have a significant impact on employees disengagement. Far from being considered just a fad, many organisations are now keen to get employees engagement as they know it has a real impact on bottom-line results. A fully engaged employee is broadly one that says positive things about their organization to others, wants to stay with their organization, and exerts extra effort in their role. Perceived job insecurity can have a direct impact on all of these behaviours. For example, an employee who thinks their job is at risk may be more likely to look for work elsewhere, tell others negative things about the organization, and exert less effort in their work if they think they do not have a future there.

Feeling insecure in your role can also have an indirect impact on your health and engagement levels through colouring perceptions of other aspects of your work. For example, perceived risk of redundancy may make an employee feel negatively towards the decisions of leadership, the honesty of communications, and also potentially about their manager, all of which are barriers to engaged employees.

17. The flexibility of working hours

For most employees, this is a big deal and a deal-breaker. If as an organization, you want the best staff, then you need to be flexible. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20 million Americans actively choose part-time work. They’re not working fewer hours because they can’t find a full-time position; rather, they’re engaging in a deliberate, careful work-life balance. For most, working part-time is a result of simply not being able to commit to 9-to-5 jobs.

Flexible working is more than just working from home for employees. It’s about working from wherever you need to be in the world, whether that’s from a café with a client, a customer’s HQ, during your commute or anywhere else away from your work desk. By making the best use of technology such as audio, video-conferencing, face time, instant messenger and mobile internet, flexible working can be achieved while strengthening collaboration and enhancing a sense of online and physical community between colleagues, even if employees aren’t physically in the same place.

Agreed, working from home may not be suitable for every employee in every business, however, there are many different ways of working flexibly which can have considerable business benefits. All employers should consider these for their employees because it is a critical item on the list of the 20 things employees value at work.

20 Things Employees Value at Work_Flexible Working

Remember, business opportunities can be won or lost in a matter of minutes. Having employees who can work from anywhere in the world, at any time and who aren’t tied to their work desks means small businesses can be more responsive. In fact, Startups being fleet of foot, flexibility is one of the biggest advantages they have over larger competitors.

See Why Flexible Working Hours Make Employees More Productive

“A third (34%) of employees would prefer a more flexible approach to working hours than a 3% pay rise” – Investors in People’s Job Exodus Trends poll

18. Clear goals and expectations

Not having clear goals and expectations for employees set them up for failure or a fall.  Based on Gallup’s work with companies worldwide, only about half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. This is a great quote from Alexander Hiam (from his book, Motivating and Rewarding Employees):

“Do better” is not a performance goal. Nor is “Do much better.” Nor is “Be the best.” Yet managers often state so-called goals like this. The reason these aren’t goals is that they are not specific enough to be clearly relevant to performance. They set the employee up for a fall because they are low in task clarity. What does a manager expect when he or she says to do a good job? What’s the manager’s definition of good? What does he or she care about? Employees wrestle with these dilemmas every day, and they are generally pretty bad for motivation levels because you can never seem to guess quite right.

When the manager surprises the employee later by saying, “I told you to do a good job and look at the mess you’ve made of it,” the employee is usually puzzled and hurt by the feedback. Why is it a bad job? The employee didn’t mean to do a bad job. People don’t go to work to do a bad job, … When they do, it’s an unhappy accident for them and their supervisors. But saying, “Do a better job” is a controlling approach. It makes the employee dependent upon your judgment of what is good and bad, rather than making it clear enough that they can trust their own judgment and know why you like some work better than other work.”

There are always reasons behind every tasks, project and everything. When these reasons are not clear to employees, results are compromised.

Organizational goals serve four basic functions according to Barney and Griffin. They provide:

  • guidance and direction,
  • facilitate planning,
  • motivate and inspire employees,
  • help organizations evaluate and control performance.

For organizations’ leaders and employees to be successful, more emphasis needs to be placed on making sure every employee and every leader knows what he or she needs to accomplish in the present and future. When employees understand what needs to be done to succeed, it’s much easier for them to contribute. It’s also tremendously easier for leaders to do their jobs, to improve productivity, and to manage proactively, rather than waste their time stamping out small fires after failure.

19. Growth

Nothing motivates employees at work than to see organizational growth as well as the opportunities for their own growth at work. It’s in human nature to want to grow and move into better and greater position career-wise.

See 11 Proven Ways to Demonstrate Your Value at Work

In a study by Quantum Workplace, employees listed professional growth opportunity as one of their highest drivers of engagement. Conversely, exiting employees listed lack of growth opportunity as the second-highest reason for leaving. It’s obvious that if an organization has high retention, it’s probably because they encourage career development opportunities and if they have a high turnover, it’s because they aren’t paying attention to employees job opportunities within their organization.

If you show your employees that you care about them and their growth, they will care about the job they are doing. An employee that sees a real future with their employer is going to put more into the job they do.

20. Responsibilities

Employees want to feel challenged. They love their jobs because of the various challenges, opportunities and responsibilities that they are presented with. While this may be a double-edged sword for some, most top talents would value a challenging job scope that has responsibilities as it allows them to grow and stretch their capabilities.

At the same time, training and upgrading courses are things that employees look out for in an organisation with various responsibilities as they are an indication that the organisation is taking responsibility for the welfare of its employees as well. An organization that provides training and development to its employees for the responsibilities they are allocated is more likely to attract and retain happier employees. A mundane and routine laced job environment is not valued by most employees.

Managers should not use employees as helpers instead of giving them real ownership and responsibility. This leaves the manager bearing the burden of spotting what needs to be done and assigning the work and leaves employees feeling that they’re only responsible for executing the specific tasks the manager assigns. That is not empowerment.

Now that you have explored 20 things employees value, what else can you add? Leave your comment below.

Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle
Catherine Adenle

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8 thoughts on “20 Things Employees Value (Infographic)

  1. Love this. Flexiblility is what I value most at work. I am raising a family, so I need to be able to attend to my kids if I need to and be able to work from home if I need to.

    • Indeed. Most employees are aware of this. They’d rather be flexible and retain their top talents than be rigid and lose them. Reputable Tech companies allow flexible-time and pay attention to work-life balance so as to keep their employees.

  2. This is an insightful article. Organizations should be held accountable for their employees’ well being and happiness at work.

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