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benefits vs. culture: which will keep them down on the farm?

October 22, 2009

in communication,talent

david janus brought to my attention a recent survey that reports employers and their employees differ on the top three reasons employees stay at their jobs.

employers cited management climate, supervisor relationships, and work environment. employees named benefits, financial compensation, and career growth and earnings.

the chief executive of the survey company remarked that these contrasting attitudes will lead to higher turnover:

“from the employers’ standpoint, they believe it’s all about culture and the relationship. what we actually see when we look at employees is … ‘if you don’t give me decent benefits and compensation, i’m out of here.’  what happens when the market begins to turn? do the people stay or do they take the first opportunity to leave?”

during tough times, employees focus on the bare necessities and can get squeamish. they need money to pay their bills and they definitely need health insurance to CYA. for a spell, they’re willing to overlook the lousy decision making and poor communication. the direct manager who’s never there to help but always ready to point a finger. the workplace that doesn’t give two hoots whether it’s your daughter’s birthday or your mom’s in the hospital. that project deadline, that client call, that [fill in the bank] needs you on it.

but i’m sorry. if your climate, supervisor relationships, and work environment aren’t clicking, they’re still walking—eventually. who hasn’t witnessed—with envy—someone leaving for a great sign-on bonus and huge pay increase only to return because the culture was lethal?

if your organization provides a competitive compensation and benefits package and communicates it well, you’ve little to fear. if your organization doesn’t have great leadership that cares about, communicates with, and listens to its employees, you’ve got plenty.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Hebert October 22, 2009 at 8:10 am

The problem with these types of surveys is they are “situational” and will change. However, your point is well made – over time – and in general – employees actually value the relationship, recognition and feeling like they are doing something valuable. While for short spurts during stressful times they may “say” they want the other – it won't match their real deep, down feelings.

Don't manage to a specific data point is the bottom line lesson in my mind.


Linda Russell October 22, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Interesting post, as those survey findings are nearly opposite of a prior survey that has long been used in management/supervisor seminars to talk about what motivates employees. (My apologies that I can't recall the source of that survey at the moment.) The prior survey I've seen shows the disconnect going the other way – employers thinking it was all about money but employees saying it was about interesting work, supportive environment, and opportunity to contribute. I would guess it's a factor of the tough financial climate that sparked the change to compensation and benefits.

Regardless of what the surveys say, your points are correct that lousy culture with great pay will still result in losing employees eventually. On the flip side, a supportive culture with noncompetitive pay may ultimately lose employees as well. Yet, I'd argue that truly employee-focused cultures include competitive pay and benefits – and communicates well, too.


fran October 22, 2009 at 4:07 pm

linda, you won’t find me arguing with you!



forex robot December 6, 2009 at 10:18 pm

nice post. thanks.


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