Your happiness is tied to how much money you make -- but only up to a certain amount. That magic number is $75,000 a year, according to often-cited Princeton University research. Make just a little or a whole lot more than $75,000, and your level of happiness will increase only a smidge.

So after $75,000, what does matter for increased employee happiness? That's exactly the question Glassdoor tried to answer in their just-released study on workplace satisfaction. The goal of their study was to identify which workplace priorities matter most to employees in different salary brackets.

The Glassdoor data science team dug into 615,000 reviews that employees have left on their site since 2014. Only reviews that included both salary data and a company review were included. Glassdoor broke out the reviews into four groups based on income. Then they analyzed which factors were more important to each of those income groups. Here's what they found.

Surprising results about work-life balance

With so much talk swirling about the importance of work-life balance, this factor appeared in a surprising place on the list: the dead bottom.

Across the board -- whether people made $40,000 or $120,000 -- work-life balance was least important. Glassdoor looked at six factors total, and work-life balance ranked the lowest. As incomes increased, it mattered even less. "This suggests that the higher one's income is, the more they are willing to spend time at work, sacrificing leisure time," Glassdoor data scientist Patrick Wong writes.

What did people really care about? Culture and values. Regardless of income, Glassdoor found these two factors to be the top predictors of employee satisfaction. As people earned more, culture and values became even more important. They ranged in importance from 21.6 percent for employees who earned less than $40,000 to 23.4 percent for workers earning more than $120,000 a year.

Getting your values in check

It turns out that what matters most to employees goes far beneath the surface of any company's identify. There's no easy path to building culture and values. You've got to play the long game.

Culture is built and nourished over time. It often changes year-to-year. Your culture is a reflection of your recruiting efforts, the relationships between existing employees, and your management style.

Core values present a similar challenge. It's difficult to identify which values are key to your company's fabric; it's even more difficult to make business decisions that stay true to those values.

In short, building a workplace that maximizes employee satisfaction simply takes a lot of work. It's an iterative process to land on the culture and values that will motivate and inspire your entire team. To build lasting employee happiness and satisfaction, make your culture and values a top priority -- even though getting there won't happen overnight.

Published on: Jan 19, 2017
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