You Can’t Put a Price on Happiness, Or Can You?

You Can’t Put a Price on Happiness, Or Can You?

A conversation with a client and an article about “dream jobs” had me thinking today. Does happiness in the workplace come at a cost?

Like any emotion, what happiness means from one person to the next and how we measure it is entirely different, however when making a career move, cold hard cash is very rarely the primary driver!

Whilst it may surprise many, it is highly unusual to come across anyone looking for a new job purely for financial gain. I can’t deny that a current salary or low bonus might be a cause for complaint, but it is usually the final nail in the coffin, rather than the main grumble, cited from the start. What is also interesting is that the same principal will apply in the case of a counter offer.  In a candidate-short market such as Corporate Communications, counter offers are all too common, yet responses differ greatly. While a counter offer will generally be accompanied by pay rise, it is not what seals the deal, nor will it be the sole reason someone stays where they are.

It might be interesting to share the following; the majority of candidates I have represented who have received a lower or equal financial offer from a new employer, are more likely to walk away from significant promised financial uplift from their current employer.  Conversely those candidates offered a generous uplift by a new suitor, but then a counter offer by a current employer, have been tempted to stay where they are. So, what’s going on?

Both a frustrated prospective employer and a spurned current employer can too often be drawn into linking everything back to money, when really they should be considering the bigger picture.

A recent survey1 conducted by my colleagues, analysing support staff within the investment and professional services space, found that job dissatisfaction lies behind a search. If this is happening in sectors where financial motivation is generally higher, you are really only going to stand a chance of retaining an employee if the content of their role and longer term prospects are addressed.   People move when they see a dead end and are looking for a field of opportunity.

This is not to say that pay increases to incentivise a move are not necessary, but the purpose of a lift should be to demonstrate commitment to an individual, particularly when a candidate might be entering a new appraisal system and bonus scheme, and potentially be worse-off for six  to twelve months, say.  The reality is that people can’t be bought, and ‘Golden Handcuffs’ might work in the short term, but can’t lock in someone unwillingly.

ISE Partners Market Report 2016-17 - Information-Rich Company & Candidate Study:  Available on request contact: or