Came across some research from SHRM yesterday; I believe the entire package is called the “2015 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report.” Here’s the link. There’s a couple of interesting figures in there, notably this chart:

SHRM Research Respect At Work

So … let’s break this down for a second.

In terms of importance, the No. 1 condition for employees seems to be respect. It’s actually probably a little more intense than that, because No. 2 is trust between employees and senior management — and that’s largely a form of “respect” too. This is all a little bit fraught, because most managers have indicated in surveys that they “don’t have time” to respect their employees. (Seems awkward, as “respect” isn’t — or shouldn’t be — a thing you have to schedule.)

But this is interesting: respectful treatment of all employees was important to 72 percent of those polled. That’s essentially 3 in 4. Pretty high, right? Scroll down the list. “Contribution of work to organization’s business goals” is 38 percent. HA! So, essentially … purpose (because contributing work to goals is a form of purpose) is about half as important as respectful treatment. Organizations chase purpose all the time, largely because it’s an important aspect that should — if you do it right — underlie strategy and allow your business to move where it needs to move. (Interestingly, compensation was top-five on this list, which kinda silences some of the ideas about how millennials are so different.)

In short, then: people (or at least the people in this study) would much rather be respected at work than actually do anything that ties back to organizational goals.

It’s a factor of basically 2 to 1! That alone should tell you that managers need to walk around and be involved as opposed to just chasing deliverables, which is how most managers contextualize their job.

Trainings were pretty far down these lists, which isn’t that surprising — but it’s not a good thing. Companies that prioritize training tend to do a lot better.

If you look at the top and bottom of the importance category, here’s the general picture you get:

  • Employees care about: Being respected, getting paid, having health insurance, their primary boss not being a jerk, and senior leaders who seem to somewhat care.
  • Employees don’t care about: Green workplaces, diversity, social responsibility, trainings, networking avenues, and varied work.

If you break that down further, here’s what you come to:

People generally want to be respected, get paid fairly, get benefits, and have a good relationship with bigwigs. They don’t really care about branching out in their role, meeting new people, exchanging new ideas, or any fluffy programs like diversity and social responsibility.

Of course, this is one survey, by one org … and take it all with a grain of salt because it’s SHRM, whose job is essentially to up-sell how great HR is doing.

But it’s interesting to think about the broader implications of surveys like this once in a while, no?

About Ted Bauer

Born and raised in New York, Ted has now lived in a variety of cities -- and currently calls Ft. Worth home. He's worked in numerous verticals, including education, sports, television, health care, and now the travel industry. His different experiences -- with cultures, and bosses both excellent and horrible -- shape a good deal of his writing, including at his personal Context of Things blog.

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