What makes a good job?


So what makes a good job? The answer is contentious and is often answered in only vague approximations relating to dreams of happiness and ambition.

Thankfully The Guardian newspaper ran a recent poll aimed at cutting through abstractions and wishful thinking and getting to the heart of what makes a good job. Among the jobs considered to make the employee happiest were teachers, gardeners, engineers and nurses, followed by farm workers and hairdressers. A full range of jobs, and probably not ones that you would have assumed before seeing the poll. The other interesting issue discovered by the poll – again, another that derails common misconceptions – is that there is no obvious link between high salaries and happiness. Rather what the poll found was that people enjoyed their jobs based on the following reasons

  • Creativity: includes the freedom to test ideas, new challenges, and variety of responsibilities
  • Significance: working with the vulnerable or children, making a genuine difference
  • Learning and Development: regularly learning new skills, access to new technology and resources
  • Engagement and accountability: seeing ideas transferred into commercial reality, and building new services from scratch
  • Doesn’t feel like work: close relation between work and personal interests, working outdoor

Very well, you agree with the reasons, albeit a little enviously, but what does this all mean to businesses?

The challenge is now on for businesses to recruit and retain the best talent from a competitive employment market, and many businesses are having to promote their workplace as if it were a marketing exercise for a new product or service. No longer are we just thinking in terms of ‘target markets’ but now we also have to consider defining ‘target employees’ and setting up your business to appeal to this type of person.

Yet how do you make your business ‘special’, in a world where cool businesses seem to dominate social networks and glossy magazines? Being ‘good’ is no longer adequate now that talent is more mobile and disparaging of old-fashioned sentiment, particularly loyalty.

The key to making a success of your recruitment and retention is creating a positive and energising culture, where people seek to participate in the development of the business and this engagement is positively reciprocated by their employers.

Culture is particularly important for younger workers, who are less motivated by materialistic needs. Research has shown that the younger generation of workers are increasingly emotional in their decision making, preferring places of work that ‘live’ their values and reinforces their desired identity. To facilitate these new needs, we are now seeing an increasing number of businesses spell out their values publicly in their communications and marketing exercises, with the intention of not only attracting new clients but also new talent, as well as retaining those already employed.

Communication channels are also becoming more critical in engaging talent, with most businesses now active on social media, and a few beginning to diversify their HR messages through video, animation and platforms like Tumblr and Instagram. With technology becoming more central to the way we work, the ways we work are now increasingly decentralised, with more employees working outside of the traditional daily hours. Consequently, employees should consider flexible working packages to complement this approach to irregular working hours. Flexible working demonstrates trust of the employee and will go a long way to reinforcing a positive culture.

Finally, cultures can be primed using attractive and engaging office design that transforms the office into somewhere you want to work, and that works for you, as opposed to the ‘chained to the desk’ mentality. Similarly, small touches like a coffee bar, a fridge full of food and ordering staff takeout every now and again will make staff feel appreciated at no real cost to the company.