What Do Employees Want? Five Essential Elements

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article summarized key questions to ask direct reports during your next one-on-one. The authors note that the questions are to ensure that employees feel seen and valued. A Gallup study found that more than half of employees surveyed after an exit interview said that no one — including their manager — had recently talked to them about how they were feeling in their role. 

However, before asking the questions, make sure that managers are ready, and that the culture is supportive. Otherwise, the conversation may not be beneficial and could make the situation worse. To retain talent and create a great place to work, foster organizational well-being by first considering the Five Essential Elements

Manager interactions are critical to ensuring employee satisfaction and retaining talent as well as having a significant influence regarding employee well-being and safety.  It seems like a tall order; however, it is an essential and simple one: it comes down to cultivating leader character and positive interactions. Without the Five Essential Elements, the questions may miss the mark and may instead cause cynicism.

Below are the Five Essential Elements to consider first. Yes, employees want to feel heard and to believe that their voice matters. In addition, employees want a sense of:

  • Autonomy and Mastery – the skills, resources, growth and learning opportunities to perform their jobs well. Plus, challenges and opportunities to grow and develop.
  • Belonging and Connection – being able to feel welcomed, appreciated, and a part of the team.  In other words, part of a positive social environment that contributes to social well-being and feeling cared about beyond productivity.
  • Making a Contribution – contributing to the greater good; believing that what they do matters, makes a difference, and is appreciated.
  • Purpose and Meaning – knowing the purpose, mission, and values of the organization is important, but also having a sense of personal and organizational alignment with these, knowing the expected behaviors, and realizing how all three are embedded in the work environment and business structure.
  • Psychological Safety – being able to bring their authentic self to the organization, being accepted, having a voice, and feeling heard without fear of retribution. Just as a safe and healthy physical environment is the foundation to build a great organization, psychological safety is essential and as foundational. 

Fostering the leader skills that managers need to cultivate these Five Essential Elements are now more necessary than ever. It requires developing skills and practices that include, 

  • Self-Awareness, 
  • Well-Being/Self-Care, 
  • Emotional Intelligence, 
  • Empathic Listening. 

The key questions in the HBR article begin to uncover much of the information to learn how employees feel, but the Five Essential Elements that employees want ensure comfort and honesty during the conversation – during any conversation. These Five Elements are at the heart of employee fulfillment, satisfaction, well-being, and safety. The Elements are what will reduce attrition –  and then manager-employee conversations around the key questions from the article would be beneficial. In fact, these questions can be one way to evaluate how the manager is progressing on developing the skills and practices of great leaders. 

  1. How would you like to grow within this organization? 
  2. Do you feel a sense of purpose in your job? 
  3. What do you need from me to do your best work? 
  4. What are we currently not doing as a company that you feel we should do? 
  5. Are you able to do your best work every day? 

Our survey tool captures a broader picture of organization well-being that relate to the Five Essential Elements. Contact Karen or David directly or at Contact Us for more information on fostering leader skills and assessing employee perceptions of the work culture. 

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