Good relationships with colleagues ‘a higher priority’ than pay for UK workers

Job satisfaction and happiness at work could hinge on one key factor – your relationship with your colleagues.

New research – entitled New Decade, New Direction – by The Institute of Leadership & Management drawn from the views of more than 2,100 UK workers reveals workplace friendships could be key to keeping people happy in their role.

Indeed, an overwhelming 77% of respondents cited good relationships with colleagues as the most important factor in determining job satisfaction – even rating is as more of a factor than their pay.

The importance attached to salaries actually fluctuated quite dramatically, with those who rated themselves ‘satisfied’ in their role saying pay was only the eighth most important factor in determining their happiness – while those who described themselves as ‘dissatisfied’ place pay third.

Other factors included access to training and development, being trusted to take on more responsibility and access to flexible working, along with feeling connected to the purpose of the organisation and having a challenging role.

Kate Cooper, Head of Research, Policy and Standards at The Institute of Leadership & Management, said: “This research reveals that it can be the less concrete factors, such as relationships, that can make the difference between someone enjoying their job or not – and potentially wanting to leave.

“At a time when mental health and wellbeing is high on the agenda and rightly being taken more seriously, it’s particularly encouraging to see the majority of people recognising the importance of having good relationships with their colleagues and even, giving it a higher priority than factors such as salary.

“These relationships can help to create a healthier and happier working environment, and a team with higher morale.”

Cooper recognised many people look beyond pay – traditionally considered a key motivating tool – when assessing their career options.

She added: “While they may persuade people to hang on in their current roles, pay rises won’t make anyone automatically like their jobs more.

“So, while pay is really important – particularly if we feel that, compared to others, we’re being inadequately rewarded – it still doesn’t provide us with intrinsic satisfaction with the work that we do.

“To help encourage greater levels of job satisfaction, it’s crucial for business leaders to understand what’s important to their staff, which isn’t always financially driven, as our findings show.”

Other key findings from within the study included a conclusion that women seek job satisfaction around work-life balance, while men want a challenging role.

An opportunity to expand their knowledge was the key 2020 goal for most workers, following by growing their management experience and improving their work-life balance. Finding a new job and securing a pay rise were much lower on the priority list.

The Institute of Leadership & Management has some advice for leaders and managers who want to retain their staff and ensure their organisation is a great place to work:

  • Don’t assume you know how people derive satisfaction from their work; ask them.
  • Pay attention to non-financial aspects of a job; flexible working, challenging work and being valued are often very important, and a higher salary does not always compensate for the loss, or absence, of these aspects.
  • Allow time, and put effort, into creating opportunities to build the social relationships that are so key to so many people, paying special attention to flexible and remote workers.
  • Social activities don’t necessarily have to be time-consuming or expensive.  Opportunities to have lunch or coffee together are important, arrange meetings that include a proper break rather than ‘working through’.
  • View paying travel for regular face-to-face meetings as an investment not an expense.
  • Provide opportunities and encouragement for informal learning and the development of coaching skills.