When people are engaged and motivated at work what they are paid is not as important - at least that's what a recent study has found.

Executive Life Coach and Career Coach at eclipselifecoaching.com Kris de Jong has found, contrary to what you might think, salary is not the biggest factor in job satisfaction.

Being treated well by your boss, feeling valued and feeling included are much higher on the list than the size of the pay-packet.

A recent meta-study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour analysed 92 independent studies from around the world and concluded that pay level was only marginally related to job satisfaction.

Kris de Jong found people value other benefits besides salary. Photo / Supplied
Kris de Jong found people value other benefits besides salary. Photo / Supplied

The study authors identified the top things employees value most at work, and "rewards" came in 7th.

Here are the top five things workers value the most, and de Jong's tips on how you can encourage them in your workplace:

Get the thumbs-up from your team by using these five tips. Photo / Getty Images
Get the thumbs-up from your team by using these five tips. Photo / Getty Images


Everyone wants to feel like they're contributing and adding value, otherwise they feel their job has no meaning or purpose.

Never underestimate a simple "good job" and a handshake as a casual and personal way to show you recognise someone's ability to perform a task well.

Doing this regularly and in view of co-workers will instil a culture of appreciation and boost morale within the team.

Telling people explicitly and specifically how you appreciate them will also let them know you genuinely care about the effort they're putting in.

For example, "Ian, the way you handled that client was impressive.


"I really appreciate the communication skills you displayed – well done".


We are social creatures, and being part of a group is an intrinsic need that goes back to the origins of humankind.

We get this sense of inclusion with our families, friends and clubs, but as most of us spend around eight hours a day at work, we value it there as well.

Your front-line workers can be a valuable resource for ideas on how to improve systems and create new initiatives that impact on the success of the business, so you'd be ignoring a potential goldmine of knowledge if you didn't listen to them.

Having your voice heard and being involved in positive change makes people feel valued and boosts engagement.


Without a culture of trust in the workplace, things such as suspicion, jealousy and vindictiveness tend to thrive.

Rumours flourish in this environment, and people can become protective of their own "turf", diminishing constructive and honest communication.

This isn't conducive to a functional or effective workforce.

It's generally a good idea to be as open and transparent as you can with your staff, without giving away commercially or personally sensitive information.

People need to feel secure and informed about what's going on in their workplace so they feel in control and can focus on their job.

Make sure you have regular meetings with staff and update them on what's happening within your organisation.


Being challenged and moving forward plays into the need for purpose and direction in our careers.

When we're striving for something better, we tend to work hard to get there, which is why having a development plan in place is so important.

Discuss with your employees what they want to achieve within the organisation and how they can get there.

Ensure they know they have your support and encouragement, and work with them to figure out ways for them to achieve their career goals.

This may take the form of providing specific courses to upskill, giving them new challenges or setting up a mentoring scheme.

Sometimes a worker may want to advance beyond what the business can offer due to its nature or size, and this is fine.

It's better to help them on their long-term career journey than try to retain them by stifling their ambition, which will only lead to dissatisfaction and poor performance.


Most people naturally take pride in their work, and the more responsibility they get, the more autonomy they want.

This is good news for leaders – when you're able to trust in your reports to do their job with a lot of independence, you have more time to focus on your own priorities.

When delegating tasks or responsibilities, it's vital that the person being delegated to knows precisely what is expected of them.

Don't just say, "Julie, can you sort out this account please?"

Rather, be specific, and let them know they can come back to you with any questions or advice, for example, "Julie, I think you're ready for this job. I want you to analyse this account and confirm its accuracy by Friday. I'm always available if you need any help."

If you delegate well, you're empowering the person, not bossing them.

Giving employees what they actually want at work enhances wellbeing and encourages staff retention.

If you can find ways to incorporate these five things that employees value most, you're on your way to becoming a great leader.

Kris de Jong is an Executive Life Coach and Career Coach at eclipselifecoaching.com based in Auckland.