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What do employees want?

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In the age of a downward economy, companies have a captive audience of employees who are staying put in their roles and producing the work required. Volumes of predictions have been made that speculate the quantity of employees who will turn the tide in search of new opportunities. The focus on the issue of employee retention is paramount to employers who want to have continuity of talent value especially of high performers. So doing this work well begs the question of what do employees want?

The default thinking of management on the topics is to offer earned discretionary bonuses to high performers. Research from McKinsey’s Quarterly has shown that money is the most expensive way to motivate people. Moreover companies that try to link their retention intentions to compensation found that it rarely enhances “stay” motivation to the extent desired. Its value is effective only in the short term. High performers may appreciate bonuses tied to their doing their jobs well, but it falls within a natural expectation of reward for the effort. These studies have indicated that retention affinity equals perception minus expectation.

So looking at the equation of retention even further, what do employees expect from an employer to motivate them to stay? First of all, a one-size-fits-all retention plan is usually unsuccessful in persuading a diverse group of key employees to stay. Instead, companies should tailor retention approaches to the mind-sets and motivations of specific employees. Studies have continuously pointed to the value of recognition as the top motivator for employees, so much so, they will search out companies that offer the most of it for them. Praise from one’s manager, attention from leaders, frequent promotions, opportunities to lead projects, and chances to join fast-track management programs are some frequently used approaches that offer great reception from many employees. The chance to network with the senior staff members and develop leadership skills during the execution of an organization large initiative can signal to high-potential employees that they have a promising future in the organization.

If a company develops the wisdom to start a directed retention program, it can’t be a one-off undertaking. It would otherwise send a very disingenuous message to employees. Retention programs ought to be designed for the long-haul as a regular compliment to leadership development programs designed to make intended investment into employee futures.

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