Employers looking to create a "dream" work environment might find it a daunting venture in today's market. Popular startup culture places perceived pressure on companies to be competitive by stocking break rooms with beer, organizing lunch-time yoga classes or setting aside napping spaces for their employees. Some companies even offer playoff tickets, corporate spa appointments, rooftop socials and scenic river helicopter rides.
But Andrea Weinfurt, content marketing director at HighGround, an employee-engagement firm, stressed that trendy perks are not what the broader workforce expects in a dream job.
"People looking for a dream job aren't just looking for something they love to do from 9 to 5, but for a company they really love, too. They want a dream job at a dream company," Weinfurt wrote in a blog post.
But where do these two goals, the dream job and the dream company, intersect? This crucial junction lies in the professional development of employees, enabling them to carry out their ultimate dream jobs. [See Related Story: 4 Steps to Landing Your Dream Job]
Weinfurt pointed to a survey by Horizons Workforce Consulting, which defined a dream company as a place that cares about an employee's well-being, provides opportunities for learning and growth over the course of a career, and promotes work-life balance. Similarly, the National Career Service listed the parameters of a dream job as "something you truly enjoy doing, [which] allows you to achieve a goal or ambition [and is] a role you're confident in doing."
These rosy definitions may sound nice, but does the general public feel these kinds of jobs exist?
The workforce is mostly optimistic: According to a HighGround infographic, 80 percent of Americans believe that there's an ideal job for every person and that this job will lead to complete career happiness and satisfaction. HighGround also reported that people who work at their dream companies say they have higher job satisfaction, more confidence, added skills and knowledge, and lower stress levels.
Becoming a "dream company"
So what should companies invest in to attract and retain workers, thereby positioning themselves as dream employers? Weinfurt cited the Horizons survey, which listed the following attributes as "important" or "very important" to employees looking for their dream jobs:
- Opportunities for individual learning and growth (75 percent of employees at their dream companies said their organizations offer this).
- Career advancement opportunities (83 percent)
- Networking opportunities (76 percent)
- Company-paid general training (82 percent)
That's not to say that perks and benefits are unimportant. Weinfurt noted that some perks and benefits may dramatically improve an employee's chances of retention. These perks include unlimited PTO, profit-sharing strategies that allow for employees to retain stock should they seek other career paths, education subsidizing and on-site childcare. But in all, she emphasized that offering stocked beer and wine around the office, cheese plates, spaces for recreation, and holiday time off are also invaluable additions to office culture.
Weinfurt asserted that employers should keep in mind, of course, that employees likely work their way into niche dream jobs through growth opportunities.
"That process of growth pays off," she wrote. "Studies show that people who transition slowly into an ideal position end up much happier than those who snag the position right out of the gate."
In other words, people who take advantage of resources and investments to build their own dream jobs end up just as satisfied in their positions, or even more so, compared to people who felt that their job description was already a perfect calling.