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The Alternative Board Blog

Employee Retention: 5 Things Employees Really Want

Mar. 16, 2016 | Posted by The Alternative Board
what employees want

As a business owner you’re required to wear a lot of hats – the toughest being mind reader. To stay competitive, you need to anticipate what your employees want before they do. Employees fear being fired just as much as you fear their quitting. With their jobs (and your perception of them) on the line, it can be difficult for them to ask for the things that will keep them around for years to come.

What employees want at work:

Growth

Employees are most productive when the possibility of growth is within sight. Whether it’s financial, professional, or personal, it’s up to you, as their supervisor, to know what kind of growth motivates your employees and to set up a plan for achieving it.

Providing growth opportunities is a win-win situation. “Companies grow when the people inside them grow first,” says Inc. Contributing Editor Geoffrey James. “As a company grows, it must change, and those changes are only possible when employees take on new challenges, expand their capabilities, cultivate new behaviors and entertain new ideas.”

Flexibility

According to Sarah Landrum, founder of Punched Clocks, “If you don’t offer flexible working hours and conditions, you’re not only creating an unideal work environment for your employees. You could also be shutting out qualified candidates who won’t settle for working for a company with an antiquated working hours policy.”

6 million Americans reported to the U.S. Bureau of Labor that they choose part-time work over full-time work, so they can pursue their passions as well as their careers. In a business owner’s ideal world, employees would be as committed to the company as they are. Of course, this is a huge ask, considering employees typically become employees because they want some degree of work life balance.

Having passionate employees (even if they’re passionate about something outside of the office – whether it’s their kids or their budding screenwriting career) is not something to look down on. Passion keeps employees happy and motivated and can prevent office burnout. If you can find ways to strike a balance between their workload and their personal pursuits, you can keep employees for life. 

Feedback

Both positive and negative feedback are essential to fueling employee motivation.

The Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker™ report on The Impact of Recognition on Employee Retention, revealed that nearly half of all employees would leave their current job for a company that better acknowledges their contributions. “Managers really lose a golden opportunity to motivate their employees if they forget to praise an employee on doing a great job,” says Nancy Mobley, Founder and CEO of Insight Performance. “On the other hand, there is nothing quite so disheartening as learning for the first time during an annual review that some aspect of your performance has been lacking for the past 6 months, but you were never notified.”

Want additional insight? Read 9 Tips for Motivating Your Employees now 

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Diversity

The most effective way to ensure an employee burns out and quits after a year is to give them a small scope of work and expect them to plug and chug forever. Repetitive tasks are often necessary, but also a huge motivation killer if not mixed in with new projects, training, strategy, or growth.

Reviews are a great time to set up new challenges for your employees. Ask them what tasks have become monotonous and see if they can be delegated to interns or freelancers, allowing the current employee to take on new, more advanced responsibilities. There is never a shortage of work to be done, so why waste an experienced employee on entry level tasks? There’s a good chance your employees would like to be contributing bigger, better things – give them a shot! 

Trust 

Trust works two ways: employees want to trust their employers; they also want to be trusted.Many of your employees will arrive at your door having been mistreated by previous employers. It’s up to you to build a culture of trust, so employees can give the job their all without feeling taken advantage of.

“Trust is the currency you will need when the time comes for you to make unreasonable performance demands on your teams,” says Leadership Expert John Hamm. “And when you’re in that tight spot, it’s quite possible that the level of willingness your employees have to meet those demands could make or break your company.”

Employees want to be trusted. The opposite of trust is micromanagement – a known productivity killer. Not only does it destroy employee morale, but it’s a time suck on your leadership tasks, as well. If you’re spending more time tracking your employees processes and performance than you are on developing new business opportunities, your business will have nowhere to grow. Building trust in your employees and overcoming your fear of delegation may take time, but it’s critical for business growth.


Above all else, employees want an environment where they can thrive.

Isn’t that exactly what you want from them too? Providing them with growth, flexibility, feedback, diversity of work, and a culture of trust benefits you just as much as it does them. While it may seem like employees stick around for the salary, personal and professional fulfillment keeps them committed to the job. Offer these five perks, and you’ll hold onto talented employers longer than your higher paying competitors will.

If employee turnover is costing your business, The Alternative Board can help. Meeting regularly with a group of local business owners can assist you in identifying gaps in your management strategy and offer you solutions. Unlike advice from family, friends, and the world wide web, TAB Business Owner Advisory Boards provide firsthand advice directly relevant to your business. Get in touch with a local board to see how TAB can help you serve your employees, so they better serve you.

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board

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Written by The Alternative Board

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