Top leaders are often shocked when talented employees jump ship. We’ve seen this reaction before. Leaders scratch their heads and curiously think: but we paid them far above the industry average. Why on earth would they choose to leave?
The truth is, “Show me the money” isn’t where it’s at.
If the place down the street offers a far better working environment for the same amount of pay – or heck, even 15% less – trust me when I tell you employee retention is at risk. We know this because our research has proven it time and time again.
We’re not saying money is unimportant. It is. What we’re saying is, money isn’t the most important thing.
A candidate generally knows pay and benefits in advance of accepting an offer. What they typically don’t know is the culture of the organization, which drives employee engagement. So what is most important to employees? In our surveys nationwide, we see three common factors.
Direction: At top performing companies, employees believe in the organization and the direction set by senior leadership. Employees who believe the company is headed in the right direction are also aligned around that direction. And there’s an additional biological and psychological benefit for people, too. When everyone is aligned behind the company’s direction, it connects them to the common ground of sharing their desire to achieve it.
Appreciation: This impacts people on a deep, emotional level. It increases motivation, job satisfaction, self-esteem — even overall employee health and well-being. It’s the glue that holds teams together. Not only does appreciation help people feel good, it also affects how teams operate and, ultimately, how companies perform. When organizations recognize what people contribute to the organization, employees will emulate that behavior in the future. Appreciation is a magnet that draws people toward better results.
The Leader: The person at the top of the org chart is the person with the biggest influence on the health of the company. Energy and commitment dwindle when a company’s leader doesn’t pay attention to the people part of the business. When employees don’t think the head of the organization is competent to lead, they begin to wonder about financial performance, the long-term staying power of the company, and job security.
Once you get past the basic human need for cash, intrinsic motivation gets the juices flowing. Engaged employees want to stick around, perform at their best, and they will recommend your organization to others.
Tom Devane is vice president of workplace consulting for Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and culture technology firm that has surveyed nearly 3 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2018. Energage is the research partner for Top Workplaces with NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune. Nominate your company as a Top Workplace here.