THE BLOG
12/04/2012 04:53 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2013

What Employees Most Want This Holiday

Warning to top brass, if you want to keep your top talent: despite reports that company holiday parties are coming back, they aren't what most matters to employees, even if they include an open bar. Instead your workers' top wishes are for a cash bonus (73 percent), salary increase (60 percent), or paid time off (36 percent), according to Glassdoor's Employee Holiday Survey released today.

I wonder how many U.S. firms will give end-of-year bonuses, compared to the 75 percent of South African firms that promise to do so, according to Alistair Anderson. Younger employees, those under 34, are most likely to cite a raise as their top goal while the 45-54-year-olds most want a new job.

1. Top Reason for Stress? A Bad Boss

Two percent even admit that their top goal is "to help get their boss fired." That's not surprising since a record high 55 percent of employees dislike their job with the top reason being they "hate" their boss, according The Conference Board. Cheery thought. Leadership consultant Robert Hogan, reported even more dire findings at the American Psychological Association's annual conference: "Seventy-five percent of working adults say the worst aspect of their job -- the most stressful aspect of their job -- is their immediate boss."

2. Show Me the Money

Despite the widely-held notion that implicit rewards, like recognition, motivate us more than explicit, like money, this survey shows that a majority of us feel that, in a company, money is the most concrete form of recognition.

3. "The New Robber Barons": Make Pay More Fair

These feelings may be exacerbated by Americans' awareness of the growing difference between CEO and employee compensation, "the largest gap in the world" according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "CEOs are making 380 times the salary of the average worker."

What's worse, "the Bush tax cuts" siphon money from us as taxpayers to many CEOs. One astounding result, for example, is that "of last year's 100 highest-paid U.S. corporate chief executives, 25 took home more in CEO pay than their companies paid in federal income taxes," according to the Institute of Policy Studies.

4. Who Are the Most Popular CEOs?

Somewhat dismally, the average CEO rating by their employees on Glassdoor is just 67 percent. The most popular CEOs this year are Apple's Tim Cook at 97 percent and Ernst & Young's Jim Turley at 95 percent. Also, it would be embarrassing if Glassdoor, a firm with the core mission of providing an "inside look at how employees really feel about their company" was, itself, considered a bad place to work. In fact, it won an award as one of the Best Places to Work. Conversely, 24/7 Wall Street analyzed employee reviews on Glassdoor this August to come up with America's Worst Companies to Work for. Hint: The lack of felt connection with management was key.

5. What Do Job Seekers Most Want?

A majority of job seekers, when researching a potential employer, most want to know about the salary, company culture, and paid time off., according to another Glassdoor survey.

6. Are You Being Fairly Paid?

If you wonder how your salary compares to others in comparable jobs you can get ballpark estimates at Glassdoor, Payscale.com, Indeed.com, Salary.com or the Bureau of Labor Statistics according to my Forbes colleague, Jacquelyn Smith. Forbes columnist, Susan Adams advises job seekers on how to play detective to see what a position might pay.

7. Most Companies Will Probably Go Social Before They Reform CEO Pay

I'm not sure which corporate behavior will be most resistant to change, more equitable CEO /employee pay reform or operational changes that foster greater "social" changes such as transparency and collaboration so that people can use their best talents together more often, yet I am leaning toward the later. With that as my bet here is some savvy advice from diverse experts for companies that want to keep their top talent:

a. More important than having a killer strategy, enable "the ongoing engagement and everyday progress of the people in the trenches of your organization who strive to execute that strategy", according to a multi-year study by Teresa Amibile, author of The Progress Principle. Otherwise you are undermining creativity, productivity and thus motivation in ways that hamper profitability, she found.

b. Demonstrate measurable support for the values of your diverse employees. As more organizations use Big Data and analytics to score performance, creating media attracting ratings, it behooves leadership to demonstrate corporate character, both because it is right and because, in this increasingly and unavoidably transparent world, it is vital for a firm's reputation. On Wednesday, after Kaiser Permanente earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, Dr. Ted Eytan of that organization touted it, as "the first health and hospital system" to do so and writing, "Equality is a health issue."

c. Involve employees in a roadmap to maximize the company's resources through coordinated and collaborative use of apt social tools, before your current or future competitors do. For guidance read Socialized, Social Business by Design -- and The Impact Equation, for insights on how to get people to care, inside and outside the "walls" of your organization.

If you are an employee, what do you most want from your employer this holiday? What advice do you have for employees to stay relevant and successfully lobby for more money and meaningful work?