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Cash is NOT King

Cassandra Rose, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Okay. Sure. When the real estate mar­ket is way down and devel­op­ers swoop in and buy any­thing with a foun­da­tion only to flip for a huge prof­it 18 months lat­er… cash is king. But like many col­lo­qui­alisms in soci­ety, this one has been misapplied.

It turns out, when it comes to employee compensation, cash is NOT king.

Many com­pa­nies mis­tak­en­ly use a one-size-fits-all approach to care for their employ­ees; often, their pre­ferred love lan­guage is cash. How­ev­er, employ­ees sim­ply aren’t feel­ing that love. In fact, 80%+ of all employ­ees sur­veyed (Glass­door) would pre­fer addi­tion­al ben­e­fits or perks to a pay raise. 89% of employ­ees age 18 – 34 shared the same sen­ti­ment. And, in case you’re won­der­ing, yes – the old­est age group agreed as well. 66% of employ­ees over 55 years old choose non-cash com­pen­sa­tion when giv­en the choice.

Should we be sur­prised? Let’s explore a hypo­thet­i­cal with my wife, Jes­samyn. Men and women alike, give me feed­back on the mes­sage you’d rather hear from your spouse:

Option A: ​“Hap­py Birth­day hon­ey! You are great and I val­ue you. I also val­ue 500 oth­er peo­ple in my life, all of whom have birth­days. So, I thought it would be fair and effi­cient to sim­ply hand out cash to each one so that they could pick their own gift and save me the trou­ble of shop­ping and select­ing some­thing appro­pri­ate. Love you!”

Option B: ​“Hap­py Birth­day, hon­ey! I’ve thought long and hard about what you’d real­ly want for your birth­day. I thought back to con­ver­sa­tions we’ve had in the last year, inter­ests that you have, lit­tle com­ments you’ve made recent­ly, etc. We can always take it back if I’m wrong, but here’s the gift I’m hop­ing you’ll real­ly love because it’s screams ​‘Jes­samyn!’.”

“Cash is king” … if you like sleeping on the couch.

The dis­con­nect between employ­ers and employ­ees boils down to some­thing very sim­ple: Many employ­ers still see the world through a per­son­al vs. pro­fes­sion­al lens. Work is work. And per­son­al life is per­son­al. Employ­ees, on the oth­er hand, have very clear­ly tran­si­tioned their think­ing. The work-life bal­ance is gone. It’s about a work-life blend.

Work is personal. And if work is personal, an employee’s relationship with their employer is also personal.

This was both sta­tis­ti­cal­ly and elo­quent­ly on dis­play in Mercer’s 2019 Glob­al Tal­ent Trends Study:

“In a tal­ent econ­o­my, employ­ee pride has become an issue of busi­ness strat­e­gy. Brand mat­ters because employ­ees today have a more inti­mate rela­tion­ship with their orga­ni­za­tion… employ­ees’ col­lec­tive voice on mat­ters of cul­ture, equi­ty, and ethics are now main­stream news.”

To all the CEOs out there think­ing ​“to keep my peo­ple, I just need to pay them more” – wake up. This is the age of mean­ing, pur­pose, account­abil­i­ty, and per­son­al­iza­tion. Show your employ­ees their job mat­ters and more impor­tant­ly, that THEY matter.

Employ­ee expe­ri­ence is king. Next-gen ben­e­fits are queen. Sor­ry cash, you had a good run.

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