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According to this article from Inc., the ten most important factors for employee satisfaction are:

  • Purpose – to make a difference
  • Goals for sense of purpose
  • Responsibility
  • Autonomy
  • Flexibility
  • Attention
  • Opportunity for innovation
  • Open mindedness
  • Transparency

A year before finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I joined the Nuclear Navy.  Nothing could be better.  I was getting paid a decent salary for my last year of school.  Getting up at 4:00 AM, marching, chanting, calisthenics, etc.: not required.  No uniforms.  And get this: I found that I had earned 30 days of vacation while attending my last year of school!  After graduation, all the aforementioned hoop jumping was required but for only 6 weeks.  It was hokey, but it was also a good time in beautiful Newport, RI.

Then I had to go to work, and one would think that nuclear engineering would be sexy and cool.  Not so much, because the objective is to watch dials not move, at least in commercial nuclear plants that’s the way it had better be.  But I wasn’t in a nuclear plant, land-based, submarine or surface ship.  I drove a desk, stared at a computer monitor (which resulted in losing my 20/20 vision), and wrote letters of approval and sometimes rejection for this, that, and the other for a nuclear plant 2000 miles away in a desert.

I would say a reason I was drawn to calculus and all the good engineering stuff that followed was that it quite fully engaged my ADD brain, which needed to process information much faster than I could read or write.  So writing for my brain was like putting a speedboat in a hot tub – not exactly like chocolate in my peanut butter.  They did not go well together.

But I learned.

After four years of that, grad school, and landing at Michaels, I wrote reports by the dozens, and it was easy!  The nit picking, as we used to call it, was gone.  Every once in a while I would add in a zinger or two to what I was writing just to see if it would pass review.  Pushing the envelope is also fun.

I won’t speak for other engineers, but it is safe to say, new grads don’t like writing and they don’t like talking, at least formally – in summation; communicating.  And for some individuals, it changes little with the passing of years.

Getting back to the list of credentials for a great job, communication contributes to every single item, with the exception of transparency, which is 100% on the employer.  Communication is critical, especially in services, including waiting on diners and taxi cab drivers.  The good ones; the smart ones know that if they connect with their customers and possibly provide entertainment or psychiatric services, they are going to get bigger tips.  Hermits get less, if anything.  I can get my own bags, thanks.

I was reading an interesting article in a professional publication that described how successful panhandlers need to be good marketers and sales people.  Successful panhandlers don’t stand at the stoplight with a crappy ragged piece of cardboard that says “Lost job kids have new moan ya – need money” written with a black sharpie.  Good ones go above and beyond, tell a story, connect with customers and make a compelling case.  For example, go to Goodwill, buy a decent looking suit with all the amenities for $25 from a federal grant, pick up a laptop bag, maybe even a computer somebody left at Best Buy to recycle.  Then shower, shave, use some deodorant and get out there and look like an unfortunate business man who lost his wallet.  I’m a terrible storyteller and worse bluffer (my grandfather and his brother were outstanding at this so I don’t know what happened) but you can imagine all kinds of desperate scenarios and Mr. Sharp Dressed Man is going to make a hell of a lot more sales than cardboard sharpie guy.

To make a difference; to be influential; to innovate; to achieve and thus draw positive attention; for autonomy to do what one wants; to get more rope; people need to be capable of telling a compelling story.  In the Navy, we called it facts, discussion, action.  Now I call it scenario backed by sound reasoning, and recommendation.  The art comes in tugging at the right heart strings and pushing the right buttons.

In summary, what is more fun than manipulating people to get what you want?

Notice that according to what people say, salary ranks just above toilet tissue in the corporate head (that’s Navy talk for the restroom) in importance.  Actually, it was #10.  If you paid any attention, there were only nine listed above.

On another note, the Ben Bernanke announced recently the purchase of $40 billion (or maybe it was $80 billion) per month in some sort of securities with printed money again.  This is the third massive round of juicing the economy.  Message to Ben: it isn’t working.  To succeed, you have to know what failure looks like.

In the meantime, enjoy filling your gas tank because dollar denominated barrels of oil will continue to rise in cost as a result of the cash flood on the world.  Also, enjoy the non-return on cash savings accounts and the business loans people can’t get because it’s all risk and no reward for banks.  Gasoline prices will hit $5 by next summer, unless the house of cards collapses before that.  Write it down.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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