Money doesn’t buy happiness, culture does

February 20, 2017 Geoffroy De Lestrange

They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but is this really true? Recent news of Megan Driscoll, the CEO of PharmaLogics Recruiting, setting a £40,000 minimum wage for her staff may have some questioning if that saying is true, given its emphasis on money as an enticing reward. The result so far has been falling employee turnover and rising revenues, inferring the higher pay-packet has also made for higher retention and productivity. That said, Driscoll also introduced benefits such as a trainer for staff twice a week, in-office yoga, food for staff, and a gratefulness board for staff to show appreciation of each other.

So, is it one or both of these changes that’s given the company success? Or is it something else entirely?  Research from Glassdoor found that culture and values are the most important workplace priorities among workers, regardless of the income level, followed by the quality of senior leadership and career opportunities. It also found that compensation and benefits is consistently among the least important workplace factors at all income levels.

The takeaway here is that companies can’t make employees happy with a financial Band-Aid; if staff are unhappy and unproductive, the culture must change first. In the case of PharmaLogics Recruiting, it’s likely a case that the salary increase combined with the lifestyle benefits of exercise, free food and a means for staff to appreciate each other all contributes to the company having a culture of support and better collaboration amongst the team. It also demonstrates that the leadership team care for its people’s wellbeing.

Cornerstone OnDemand’s own research with IDC last year also showed that companies with better collaborative practices had higher employee happiness and better financial performance. Having more flexible working options was also in correlation with better employee happiness. This refers to flexibility in the greatest sense of the word, including areas such as having the latest technology available, leisure activities at work, open workspaces available, flexibility in hours, internal mobility and more – not just working from home. For example, the amount of ‘happy’ respondents among those that let employees apply for job roles outside their own department was 19% higher than those not allowing it – a significant proportion.

Ultimately, the individual factors that improve company culture for each person may differ across organisations, but it’s clear that the feeling that a good culture exists is essential in boosting staff happiness and improving business performance. Listen to your staff by conducting regular staff engagement surveys and obtaining frequent feedback. These exercises can help understand where problems may exist and inform on how you need to fix them. 

About the Author

Geoffroy De Lestrange

Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

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