5 things employees crave—but don’t get enough of

Money and health benefits are nice, but here’s how to satisfy your workers’ more profound needs.

What workers really want

Humans are dazzlingly diverse, but we all share certain innate needs and desires.

Employers would be wise to meet these primal emotional longings. Communicators, too, should be mindful of crafting messages that resonate on a more profound, meaningful level.

What is it that even the most inscrutable or cranky among us crave? Here are five human hungers to consider in the workplace:


A job is just a job, right?

Your company might not be saving the world, but you must make employees feel good about what they’re doing. Encourage your colleagues, and consistently remind them that their toil is not in vain. Their efforts are meaningful, substantive, important and appreciated—heroic, in a way.

There’s a reason why Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” has become one of the best-selling books of all time. People crave purpose. We want purposeful lives, and we want purposeful jobs—often even more so than fat paychecks.

There is a deep pleasure and satisfaction in work well done, but you must help workers find that job-related joy. As a notable Greek gentleman said long ago, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

Regardless of your position, use your workplace voice to edify, uplift and encourage your colleagues. An attitude of gratitude will help stoke a fire of purpose in yourself and in those around you.


Don’t tell Elon Musk, but human beings function best with a bit of rest. (Actually, someone should tell him; that boy needs a break.)

We all need mental and physical breaks from labor. With that in mind, as much as it is within your power:

  • Offer (or fight for) flexibility in how, where and when people do their jobs.
  • Let your team go home a bit early sometimes.
  • Organize an outside working day in a more relaxed, relaxing environment.
  • Encourage your team to work from home for a week.
  • After a project’s completed, let your people rest and recharge at home.
  • Give new moms whatever they want (dads, too, I suppose).
  • Encourage those on the verge on burnout to take a vacation or some PTO.
  • Build a culture that shuns “workaholism” and values the virtue of rest.


Gallup has found that workplace friendships are the best—not one of the best, but the best—indicator of employee engagement.

Relationships and camaraderie are not a “soft,” fluffy or vague concept that’s nice to have around the office. The degree to which your colleagues interact has serious productivity and profitability implications. As Gallup puts it:

When employees possess a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they are driven to take positive actions that benefit the business—actions they may not otherwise even consider if they did not have strong relationships with their coworkers.

Gallup elaborates:

We discovered that women who strongly agree with the item are:

  • less likely to be actively looking or watching for job opportunities
  • more connected with their coworkers, knowing what is expected of them and trusting their integrity and ethics
  • more likely to rate their own, their team’s and their organization’s performance more excellently
  • more likely to take risks that could lead to innovation
  • more likely to have a positive experience during the day, such as enjoying what they do, making more progress and getting recognized for successes
  • less likely to report having a negative experience during the day such as worry, stress and feeling tired

So, do your bit to facilitate and foster an environment that values camaraderie and genuine companionship. We all long to be accepted, heard and part of something bigger.


As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

Many who live deserve death. And some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.

In any workplace, what goes around comes around. If you “deal out death in judgment,” no mercy shall you receive. If you err on the side of compassion, however, you’ll probably receive similar treatment.

Be compassionate and understanding of what colleagues are going through. If someone screws up, help them fix the mistake. Don’t gloat or shame people for flubs.

We all mess up, and we all have bad days. A little bit of empathy goes a long way at work—and everyone else, for that matter.


Who doesn’t appreciate praise?

We humans love recognition; it is the “cornerstone of self-esteem.”

Workplaces that consistently recognize employees can expect higher productivity, less turnover and sky-high morale. It doesn’t cost one red cent to provide pats on the back (public or private), yet many companies simply ignore this profound craving.

Be strategic and relentless in showing genuine gratitude for your employees. Otherwise, they’ll find somewhere else to work.

Bonus tip: Pizza

Everyone likes a nice pie, right? Seriously, get your team a “just because” box of deliciousness for lunch sometime. (Consider special dietary needs—vegetarian, gluten-free—for that extra dollop of benevolence.) Free food does wonders for the soul.

Just make sure you order from the right Alfredo’s. No one wants a hot circle of garbage.


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