Making big money is often less important to employees than satisfying these basic needs.
Contrary to popular belief, employees value many things more than the amount of money they're being paid. If they're treated right, employees will not only work for less, they'll be happier and more productive as they do so.
Based upon hundreds of conversations I've had about bosses and jobs, here's what employees really want:
1. To feel proud.
When asked what they do for a living, employees want to boast rather than apologize. They want the people they meet to be at least a little impressed, even if it's only because the employee has taken on a job that's generally thankless.
2. To be treated fairly.
While almost everyone realizes that life isn't fair, employees don't want the boss to make life more unfair than it already is. Employees hate favoritism. They expect the perks and promotions to go to the people who work hard, not the people who kiss butt.
3. To respect the boss.
Employees want respect from the boss, of course, but just as strong is the need to feel respect for the boss! Employees want to believe in that their boss is a leader who is worthy of their loyalty.
4. To be heard out.
Employees hate it when the boss doesn't have the time or the interest to listen to what they have to say. Employees don't expect the boss to always take their advice, but if the boss won't hear them out they (rightly) assume the boss doesn't care about them.
5. To have a personal life.
For many bosses (especially entrepreneurs) work is a way of life. Employees, however, usually think of friends and family as their "real" life. Even when they're committed to their job, they get twitchy when work keeps them away too much.
6. To be coached not micromanaged.
Employees want the boss's help when 1) they ask for it, or 2) they're floundering so badly they're afraid to ask for it. What employees don't want is to have the boss looking over their shoulder all the time.
7. To see the assh*les get fired.
In almost every workplace there are one or two jerks who make life miserable for everybody. Almost more than anything else, employees want the boss to fire those jerks. If the boss doesn't, employees know he's either a weakling, a fool, or a jerk himself.
8. To feel less stress.
People hate the sense that they've got too much to do and not enough time to do it. Bosses must plan carefully, anticipate problems and set realistic goals, so that they don't accidentally and unnecessarily add stress to employees' lives.
9. To have a little security.
No sane employee expects lifetime employment. Even so, it's hard to concentrate when you feel as if a sword is hanging over your head. Employees want to know that they're not wasting their time when they're giving your their best.
10. To beat the competition.
Finally, never underestimate the power of teamwork, especially when teamwork means grinding the other team into the dust. Employees don't want to be team players; they want to play on the winning team.
Why isn't money on the list of desires? Well, as it happens, I've seldom heard anybody complain about their salary per se, except in the context of the above desires (i.e. "they don't pay me enough to put up with this.")
Satisfy the ten desires above and your employees will remain loyal and hardworking, even if you're paying them less (and maybe even far less) than they might earn elsewhere.