Talent, culture, and strategy ... which comes first, chicken or egg?

A headline stood out in all the scanning and reading over over the past few weeks. It was so striking a notion, "9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work," that the article window stayed open.

And stayed open.

And stayed open.

Authors of the article--an author and three executives of a San Francisco-based organizational and career consultancy called BetterUp--find that people say they'd give up almost a quarter on the dollar of their lifetime career earnings to work in a job that is "always meaningful."

It may be a tall order, but this is how authors Shawn Achor, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, and Alexi Robichaux give it perspective in a Harvard Business Review essay on the subject:

In a survey of attendees, he found that nearly 80% of the respondents would rather have a boss who cared about them finding meaning and success in work than receive a 20% pay increase. To put this figure in perspective, consider that Americans spend about 21% of their incomes on housing. Given that people are willing to spend more on meaningful work than on putting a roof over their heads, the 21st century list of essentials might be due for an update: “food, clothing, shelter — and meaningful work.”

It begs a question.

Could private sector market players in housing solve challenges no one would ever imagine possible to solve if it could rise to one single solitary challenge?

The talent challenge.

Lots of folks say construction's talent woes spring from the fact that many starter jobs in the field are low-paying. The BetterUp people have news for those folks:

  • Employees lack meaning at work. On average, employees say their work is about half as meaningful as it could be.
  • Nine of 10 workers will trade money for meaning. On average, they’d sacrifice 23 percent of future earnings —an average of $21,000 a year—for work that is always meaningful.
  • Meaningful work retains, inspires talent. Employees who find their work highly meaningful stay at jobs for an average of 7.4 months longer than employees who find work lacking meaning. When managers find jobs highly meaningful, turnover rates plummet to 1.5 percent, less than half the national average. Also, employees who find jobs highly meaningful are more likely to have received a recent raise or promotion.
  • Meaningful work drives employees to work more. Employees doing meaningful work put in an extra hour per week and take two fewer days of paid leave per year. Raising one employee’s experience from average to highly meaningful generates an extra $9,078 in labor output per year.

That's an impressive list of behaviorally-mapped insights, and some important opportunity areas, especially for home builders and their business partners, especially now.

For the single-family market, there are three business-model problems, all three of which are grinding the gears of housing's engine right now.

  • Attainability across a wide breadth of income levels.
  • Sustainability and resilience in the face of increasing climate and natural hazard risk.
  • Profitability to return value to invested stakeholders.

What are the odds of ever coming close to tackling any of these hard challenges if you haven't gotten to the point where you're in one room interviewing smart, driven, entrepreneurial, and tech-savvy kids out of school, and in the other room sits a recruiter from Amazon, Facebook, Apple, or Google.

What are the odds of your hiring the best of the bunch?

Understanding that the best of the bunch are looking for meaningful work, and laying out that pathway for him or her, is a good start.