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  The Herman Trend Alert

January 25, 2006

Meaning and Values Slipping into First Seat

Herman Trend Alert: Meaning and Values Slipping into First Seat January 25, 2006

For many years, money was the primary motivator to a substantial majority of employees. Employers did not demonstrate that they really wanted anything more than do-what-you-are-told-labor in return for money paid in wages and salaries. And workers were satisfied to do the work, then periodically demand more money.

Gradually we moved from money to money and benefits. Employees were lured, placated, and retained with money…plus health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance—then childcare, petcare, and concierge services. Eventually, faced with rising costs, employers asked employees to share in the rising costs.

Interestingly, the movement is now not toward higher monetary compensation, fringe benefits, or negotiated cost-sharing. Employees are seeking what we might call compensation of a different nature. They want something more for themselves; they want control of their time. They want balance. Not work-life balance, but life-work balance. Life comes first today for more and more people.

More research is being conducted to learn more about what people want in their lives. As more organizations and researchers discover the richness of attitudes and beliefs that underlie the significant shifts taking place, we expect to see the frequency of studies increasing. One example: Nearly half of 2,586 workers surveyed last year by Yankelovich Monitor felt they are devoting too much energy to work and too little in "other things in life that really matter". And 28 percent of all workers polled said they would take a pay cut to get more time off.

The movement, which we have been watching for a while, is based on a growing awareness of personal values. More people, in their work environment, are basing work and life decisions on personal and organizational values. People are talking about values with their co-workers and their employers. We saw this trend emerging almost a decade ago when we conducted the research that led to our book, “Lean & Meaningful.”

Employers and employees are moving to a more meaningful culture, an environment that emphasizes meaning and contribution in each person’s job. Each role in the organization will take on new importance, giving workers reasons to join and remain.

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