"People are motivated by different things at different points in their work-life journey," said Sreeni Kutam, chief human resources officer at ADP. "The challenge for leaders is to recognize the individual journey of their employees and create a work environment that provides opportunities for both growth and engagement."

As ADP launches its new brand platform, we're asking employees everywhere one simple question: What are you #workingfor?

So far, there is one obvious answer that's been noticeably missing from responses: a paycheck.

On the other hand, common themes that interviewers have heard include taking care of others, achieving social equality, traveling, improving life for the next generation, feeling fulfilled and leaving a worthy legacy.

What Drives Work?

"Trying to put more into this earth than I get out of it," as it was put by Brandon Atwell, co-owner of Murky Waters Blues and BBQ in Gulfport, Mississippi.

"I'm working to travel more," said Kerry Columbo of TD Ameritrade, in Jersey City, New Jersey. "I love to get out of my element, visit new cities, meet new people and eat new foods."

"Freedom!" said April Hope, owner of April Daze Boutique in Stuart, Florida.

But the response, "to make money," is rarely heard. This may say as much about how people want to be perceived as why they go to work — nobody wants to appear greedy or shallow. But it also may bespeak how much most people now value their work lives and what besides pay motivates them to keep showing up.

"People are motivated by different things at different points in their work-life journey," said Sreeni Kutam, chief human resources officer at ADP. "The challenge for leaders is to recognize the individual journey of their employees and create a work environment that provides opportunities for both growth and engagement."

The Role of Pay

All of this is not to say that money is unimportant. Many people do say they're working for a paycheck, but instead of emphasizing consumption or wealth accumulation, they tend to focus on the intangible benefits of financial security.

"Not worrying about money so I can enjoy life and focus on all parts of it," said Amy Labroo, director of digital marketing at GSK in Newark, New Jersey. "I don't want to think twice about doing things." Others have mentioned the desire to provide a better life for their children or aging parents, or a long, easy retirement for themselves.

Stimulation, Altruism and Purpose

For some, it's the mental and intellectual stimulation of their work that keeps them engaged. "Just a challenge," said Ashley Davidson, an accountant with the management consultancy EMG Brands, based in Tyrone, Pennsylvania. "I literally can't sit and do the same mundane task every day. I like the challenge of coming into work and not knowing what I'm going to have in front of me."

Others prefer the opportunity to use facts and figures on the page to produce dynamic solutions. "It's the challenge of dealing with the numbers and coming up with answers," said Allyson Simmons, a bookkeeper at lighting design firm Copper Moon in West Point, Georgia.

Many appreciate opportunities for altruism through work. These folks strive to improve the world for themselves, their families, their coworkers or even people they'll never meet. "I'm working to have a positive impact on my own life as well as on the lives of those I work with, my family, the world around us as a whole," said Michael Arnett, COO of BNL Consulting in Atlanta, Georgia.

"I am working to make our customers happy," said Jamie Lewis, executive assistant at Ali's Cookies in Atlanta, Georgia. "I want them to have the best experience with no trouble — just place the order and then not have to think about anything."

Customer satisfaction goals are the #workingfor motivation for these respondents as well:

  • "I'm working to fill the world with fun." — Angela Arenella, Category Manager, Party City
  • "To inspire confidence through style." — Alexandra Ryan, Styling Director, Gilt Groupe
  • "To make every journey more elegant." — Binti Melameka, Passenger Service Agent, Air France

And of course, there are those whose aspirations aren't as easily classifiable. "I used to work at big companies, and I had an epiphany about a year ago," said Jay Mandel, founder and president of marketing consultancy The Collective NYC. "Today, I'm working for candor, curiosity and collaboration."

Regardless of what motivates people to work, the conversations that ADP has started are making one thing clear: While no one wants to give up their paycheck, it's not what gets people out of bed in the morning.

"A higher purpose," said Vaishali Jadhav, lead facilitator with Indeed.com in Austin, Texas. "Purpose definitely trumps a paycheck."

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