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What Employees Value Most: Does Progression Beat Pay?

Money Isn’t Everything

There are studies that show that earning more money does make you happier, but only up to a point. Eventually it starts tapering off, perhaps around £30,000pa, and after a certain point, perhaps around £80,000pa, increases to our income stop making much difference at all. [source]

This all makes intuitive sense. How many people would accept a higher paying job that was going to make them less happy? Aren’t we looking for better pay because it will improve our overall happiness?

As employers, what message do we take away from this? First, that paying more will not make up for bad experiences at work. If there are elements of toxicity lingering in your managerial culture, addressing them is likely to give return on employee retention as a good pay rise.

Second, we need to start thinking about remuneration holistically. Pay and paid time off is only one part of the package. People get more out of work than just a wage. If you demonstrate that your workplace offers those less tangible — but still precious — benefits, your employment branding will shine, and you will attract better talent as a result.

What do we need to consider to create a modern, attractive employee value proposition? Read on to find out.

What Three Things Do Employees Value Most?


After the 2020 pandemic, more workers have come to prioritise their mental health when navigating their careers. This includes maintaining a healthy work-life balance and seeking out options that allow them to do so. Long and late working hours are not something modern jobseekers are very tolerant of.

Flexibility is one way employers can provide this, enabling employees’ to arrange working hours which accommodate their individual needs and personal circumstances, such as caring for children or a long commute.

A flexible approach to taking time off shows a similar appreciation for people’s personal lives. Lorna Bryson, HR Manager at Tesco, launched her ‘just ask’ campaign after realising staff were taking sick days for reasons other than illness, such as religious holidays, study or childcare. Since then, Tesco has seen its absence rate drop from from 7% to 4% in just one year [source].

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Engagement and Appreciation

Here is a stat that puts things into perspective. A study from 2016 shows that employers that if they do not receive recognition for their work, they are more than twice as likely to quit [source].

Engagement is a wide ranging idea but a large part of it is feeling that our work is meaningful and that our actions are having an impact. If our work disappears into a black hole where no feedback comes out, it becomes exponentially harder for employees to care.

We have seen it framed as a difference between what an employee wants and what they need. Obviously, every employee and every human wants to be paid more, as well they should. But every employee and every human needs to be appreciated.

How many people do you think feel engaged by their job? The answer might surprise you. According to YouGov, only about half of brits like their jobs [source]. That suggests there could be a massive chunk of the workforce that could be tempted away from their current employment if they feel confident in a different working culture.

Training and Development

Money, flexibility and engagement are all vital, but at Placed we think there is one factor that is more overlooked than all the others. LinkedIn Learning suggests that 94% of employees would stay with a company longer if there were training and development opportunities. [source]

What makes training and development such a powerful incentive, to the point that people will leave jobs that lack it? Because with good training, everything else follows.

The road to making a meaningful impact in the world is paved through learning. We achieve the change we are looking for only after a great deal of personal development and upskilling to our most effective forms.

Money, too, follows training, as captured by the title of Cal Newport’s best selling bible for finding career success: So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.

Your workers want to be their best at work. The best thing you can do it to make changes to your training and development plan to allow that to happen. Implement a quality, transparent career framework, and you will reap the rewards.

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What Matters Most?

We don’t think employers should use this information as an excuse to pay people less. At the end of the day, people work to make money, and the best company culture or world-changing company missions will not make your employees forego the need for substantial compensation.

At Placed, we know that part of the magic in employee engagement is matching the right people with the jobs that they are best at and they find most meaningful. That’s why we created our industry-leading job matching algorithm — powered by engagement magic.

If you are looking for engaged employees that you can develop into your company’s new superstars, you can find them using the Placed app. Don’t believe us? You can give it a spin right now!


  1. Science Focus
  2. Patrice and Associates
  3. Flexjobs
  4. HR Dive
  5. Zenefits
  6. YouGov
  7. LinkedIn