What Do People Want From Work?

Posted 01.09.2012

Other than the basic requirements – food, shelter, health care – on the hierarchy of needs, what do people really want from their jobs?

Last week I attended a presentation from Peter Cappelli, a Wharton professor and thought leader on talent management, where he addressed that question. Based on a study he cited, these are the top five things that a large group of people say they want from their work:

1. Friendly environment
2. Chance to use my skills
3. Chance to do something worthwhile
4. Feeling respected by coworkers
5. The opportunity to learn something new

Is there anything on the list that’s really that surprising? If you stop and think about it, you probably want those things from your own work.

Here’s the catch on the data that Cappelli shared. He presented it in the content of a talk on managing the older generation of workers and the data comes from a study that AARP conducted on what older workers want.

Is the list really that different that what workers of any age would want? My experience and observations tell me no. People want to work in an environment where they feel respected and appreciated, where they can learn and do their best work.

What does your experience tell you? What’s on your short list of the most important things that leaders can do to create a place where people want to work?