This word cloud represents those non-monetary areas mentioned most frequently by respondents in Joining Vision and Action’s Total Rewards survey (larger words indicate concepts mentioned more frequently). Each need serious attention by anyone in the C-suite responsible for furthering their organization’s mission though an engaged workforce

The Engagement Equation

“It’s one of your biggest challenges: how to keep your employees happy—and productive” …. “Happy workers pay off for business” … these were recent tag lines for Inc. Magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work in America in 2017 and the Denver Business Journal’s (DBJ) intro to its Best Places to Work in Colorado, respectively. Both recognized organizations that employees believed were the best.

The list was provocative, detailing the innovative programs and services of organizations big and small that made them so unique in the minds of employees. Importantly, what the surveys assessed to develop their rankings was enlightening.

The Inc. Magazine survey focused on criteria that drove employee engagement such as career development, communications, trust in leadership, team dynamics and individual needs. DBJ’s focused on similar drivers such as team effectiveness, trust in senior leaders, feeling valued, manager effectiveness, compensation and benefits.

An Interesting Note

When reading the winners’ profiles, it was interesting to note that pay and benefits were not the stand outs. Pay and benefits are important and need to be competitive. However, they were not the reasons why employees felt their organizations were the best places to work. Phrases such as “employees first”, “fun and authenticity”, “generous time off”, “fun marks the spot”, “feeling of home”, “culture first” and “trust” punctuated that the drivers were not solely dollars and cents. As Greg Harris, CEO of Quantum Workplace, put it ”Workers at the best companies don’t view their employers as sugar daddies. They aren’t mesmerized by whatever giveaways seem to be the latest fad – be it gourmet lunches or beer fridges. Phrases like ‘Do my best work’ and ‘I work on an amazing team’ were seen countless times, indicative of the virtuous circle of culture and performance.”

A quote from Josh Bersin in Culture: Why It’s the Hottest Topic in Business Today (Forbes – March 13, 2015) sums it nicely as well, “If you’re focused on culture, we encourage managers and HR teams to think about the ‘total employee experience’, everything from the coffee machine to the quality of management plays a role.”

The Results

This is exactly what the results showed in a total rewards survey conducted in June 2017 by Joining Vision and Action (JVA), a leading nonprofit consulting firm in Denver, Colorado. When asked to rate the value (5 being the highest) placed on forty employee programs and services, respondents indicated the top 15 highest were:

Paid Time off 4.81
Engaging Work 4.61
Professional/Personal Development 4.50
Health Insurance 4.50
Organization has clear Goals & Objectives 4.45
Mission& Vision aligned with My Values & Beliefs 4.35
Organization has a Code of Ethics 4.35
Competitive Pay 4.30
Safe & Secure Workplace 4.30
Fun & Creative Work 4.29
Pleasant & Welcoming Workspace 4.20
Career Progression 4.10
Clear Performance Metrics for My Work 4.10
Organization has a Strategic Plan 4.10
Flexible Work Hours 4.03


The clear message: organizations need to consider challenging and meaningful work; pleasant, fun and safe work environments; engaging and talented co-workers; flexibility in work arrangements and hours; developmental and career opportunities, as well as, pay and benefits.


What’s more: organizations need to clearly articulate its mission, vision and values and ensure that they are in tune with its employees. Employees must be able to connect what they do with the organizations business strategies and goals…. essentially to make a difference and share in an organization’s success (or even its difficulties).

Articles and case studies have been published showing the impact that culture (aka the employee experience) has on the bottom line. More business journals are validating that “happiness” and “fun” are not bad words but essential for organizations to engage, retain and attract the kind of employees that will improve its financial health.

Now it’s your turn

What would make your employees smile as they walk in the front door today and want to come back tomorrow?

Local Changemaker

Joe Pulichene

Joe Pulichene
President, M3 Consulting

Joe Pulichene is a 35-year veteran of human resources specializing in developing, implementing, communicating and managing innovative and strategic compensation, rewards and benefits solutions. He has worked in various business sectors namely heath care, manufacturing, food processing, fast casual food and energy production for well-known organizations such as Sara Lee Branded Foods, McDonalds, University of Chicago Medicine and Exxon. Most recently, Joe served as Vice President of Total Rewards for SCL Health, a health care system located in Denver.

Joe holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Syracuse University as well as a Master’s degree in Labor and Industrial Relations from Michigan State University

M3 Consulting = Mission Minded Margins

M3 Consulting was founded for the purpose of providing guidance to for-profit and non-profit firms in value-based human resources, total rewards and organizational management. M3 Consulting enables clients to establish sound leadership and business practices that promote employee engagement, sustainable social responsibility and a healthy, positive culture.

“Live your mission, expand your profits, Improve the world”.