What Really Matters To Potential Employees

Money and perks aren’t everything. Here’s four things you should be thinking about when trying to hook top talent.

What Really Matters To Potential Employees
[Photo: Flickr user reynermedia]

I like money. You probably do too. But I’m willing to bet money isn’t everything to you.


While “money can’t buy happiness” is an almost universally accepted value, I find it strange that so many organizations think throwing money at employees is the best way to satisfy the needs of today’s modern workforce.

The way we work has changed. We’ve changed. And how we define compensation has evolved beyond just a paycheck and a 401k. So how else should companies attract–and retain–top talent?

1. Hire For EQ, Not Just IQ

Traditionally, many hiring managers rely almost solely on experience and knowledge–IQ-based benchmarks–to assess talent. We look at everything from assessment scores and GPAs to industry certifications and even the reputation of a candidate’s Alma matter or previous places of work. The more knowledge and experience a candidate has, the better the offer, and presumably, the better the candidate.

But hiring for knowledge and experience alone is expensive and often ineffective, and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. There’s one quality we’re missing in the hiring process, and you can’t buy it with cash: dexterity.

Required job skills are constantly evolving, making it nearly impossible for companies and people to keep a bench of precisely matched knowledge and experience. An agile employee is one with not only a solid background of experience and proven capabilities, but one with high emotional intelligence (EQ) as well. Studies have shown that EQ has constantly proven to be a better indicator for success than traditional IQ assessments or even experience, with 75% to 80% of success attributed to emotional characteristics, while traditional intelligence accounts for only 20% to 25%.


The job market is constantly evolving–jobs that were in high demand a decade ago have been replaced by ones that didn’t exist until recently. Focusing our hiring practices on a candidate’s EQ will not only yield a more rounded team, but will ensure your employees have the dexterity and personality traits required to keep up with a constantly changing business environment.

Employee engagement not surprisingly is strongly linked to emotional intelligence, and cultivating the type of environment that will attract the most diversely skilled workforce means hiring them from the start.

Make your organization one that employees want to join, even if it’s for a lower salary, because it provides them with the opportunity for growth and the ability to contribute to a brand they believe in.

Look for signs of emotional intelligence in the hiring process, like being aware of emotions of others and themselves, and build your organization with these types of employees–people who can do the job but may not have done it before. Focus on employees with high EQs rather than just high IQs and you’ll find your workforce is less focused on their paychecks and more dedicated to contributing to the success of your organization.

2. Keep On Inspiring

Inspiration isn’t something you can buy. It’s fleeting and it’s fragile, but it’s worth its weight in gold, and I promise you, your business depends on it.


I was chatting with a colleague recently, and she shared with me her reasons for leaving her high profile, six-figure gig for a role that paid 70% less. She explained to me that her work had no soul, she felt no greater purpose in her work, and she had no idea what her company’s mission was–if they even had one.

She’s not alone. Today 37% of employees aren’t aligned to their company and don’t have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why. That was the case for my colleague, who eventually focused all her energy on finding another job.

Aligning your workforce to a common goal or purpose fosters inspiration. And as it turns out, innovation is one of the four key traits of an engaged employee. Creating an environment that allows for that engagement happens when a healthy company culture exists, and employees are aligned to its goals and objectives.

Be transparent as an organization, and make sure employees, managers, and executives are always on the same page, both strategically, and creatively. Encourage open, real time communication, collaboration, and transparency. Do this and you’ll find that inspiration, while fleeting, can be renewable resource.

3. Create A United Culture

The best employees are a challenge to attract because they’re savvy. They know it takes more than a paycheck to get them to do their best, most meaningful work, and that all starts with culture. Companies that have a strong culture enjoy lower turnover–up to 65% than that of their competitors.


It doesn’t matter if you’re Google or a bootstrapped startup that no one’s ever heard of yet. A solid culture that engages its employees is a company’s best chance at creating an environment that attracts the best and brightest to join—and stay.

Sharing in each other’s successes and learning from failure is the glue that keeps a company united and strong. This can only happen with a culture that makes recognition an everyday habit.

Enabling employees to give props to their colleagues, whether they’re two seats down or two continents away, pulls the organization together, uniting them in a single purpose, inspiring them to succeed. Create an environment that values feedback and encourages recognition, every day, and top talent will soon become a part of that culture for the long haul.

4. We’re All Millennials

The most important lesson I’ve learned recently, is that this isn’t really just about millennials—it’s about all of us. Focusing on millennials is a hot trend, but the reality is, they’re not the only ones motivated by something other than money.

I recently attended a presentation that was attempting to define the differences between boomers, gen-xers, and millennials. The presenter rattled off clichéd traits that “defined” each generation, yet I found myself relating to something within all of them, and I know I’m not alone.


Guess what? We’re all more alike than we think. Immediate feedback, transparency, and constant change are hallmarks of all of our worlds now–not just millennials’. Desiring empathy and respect, a greater purpose, inspiration, and the camaraderie of a shared vision are common to us all, too.

For organizations to succeed in attracting and, more importantly, retaining the best and brightest, they need to stop focusing on dollars and cents and understand what actually makes sense, not just for millennials, but for all of us.

Steven Parker is the Head of Business Transformation at Achievers, where he uses his 20+ years of global HR leadership and experience in driving employee success to help change the way the world works.