Can money buy happiness? It’s a question that has been debated for millennia so we won’t attempt to settle the argument in this article. However, it’s a question that keeps being researched by those on both the paying and receiving end on financial transactions, like, say, employers and employees. Research shows higher pay is statistically linked to higher job satisfaction, but the impact is small, according to Glassdoor, the online “jobs marketplace” where job seekers research and read employee reviews of companies.

Recently, Glassdoor released the results of year-long study* that sought to discover the answer to a slightly different question about income and employee happiness: Do the job factors an employee care about most change as their income changes? In other words, as pay rises, do workplace priorities around compensation, work-life balance and career opportunities shift as well? To find out, Glassdoor analysts separated six “workplace” factors into four income groups under $200,000 per year to see if the importance of the workplace factors change as an employee’s income increases. Here’s what they discovered.

All Workers | When measured in the aggregate, culture and values matter most

The figures below show the most important workplace priorities for all workers in the sample, regardless of income level.

22.1% | Culture and values of the organization
21.1% | Quality of senior leadership
18.8% | Career opportunities
13.9% | Positive business outlook of the organization
12.1% | Work-life balance
12.0% | Quality of compensation and benefits

As pay increases, culture and values matter more

Three factors matter more to workers as pay rises: culture and values, the quality of senior leadership, and career opportunities.

Bottomline | Money is no substitute for culture

For employers, this research bolsters the idea that pay and benefits—while important—are only one factor when it comes to keeping employees engaged over the long term. As pay increases, compensation and benefits become less important as drivers of employee satisfaction. Instead, other workplace factors play a more important role. Regardless of income level, Glassdoor found three factors are the most important drivers of job satisfaction: culture and values, senior leadership, and career opportunities.

*Based on 615,087 U.S.-based Glassdoor users reporting salaries of $200,000 per year or less, who contributed at least one company review and one salary report between January 1, 2014 and September 30, 2016.


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