How Managers Can Help Retain Their Best Employees

    March 8, 2005

A major problem for employers today is attracting the best talent, and then retaining key employees. Research shows that the key ingredient for retention lies within the manager’s ability to understand what employees really want.

The survey results below first came out in 1946 in Foreman Fact, from the Labor Relations Institute of NY and was produced again by Lawrence Lindahl in Personnel magazine in 1949. This study has since been replicated with similar results by Ken Kovach (1980); Valerie Wilson, Achievers International (1988); Bob Nelson, Blanchard Training & Development (1991); and Sheryl & Don Grimme, GHR Training Solutions (1997-2001).

Pay particular interest to the top three things managers thought employees want from their jobs, and then look at what employees said they REALLY want:

WHAT MANAGERS THINK EMPLOYEES WANT, starting with the most important:

1, Good wages

2. Job Security

3. Promotion and growth opportunities

4. Good working conditions

5. Interesting work

6. Personal loyalty to workers

7. Tactful discipline

8. Full appreciation for work done

9. Sympathetic understanding of personal problems

10. Feeling “in” on things

WHAT EMPLOYEES SAY THEY WANT, starting with the most important:

1. Full appreciation for work done

2. Feeling “in” on things

3. Sympathetic understanding of personal problems

4. Job security

5. Good wages

6. Interesting work

7. Promotion and growth opportunities

8. Personal loyalty to workers

9. Good working conditions

10. Tactful discipline

You can see there is quite a discrepancy. This indicates the value of the “intangible rewards” of appreciation, involvement and understanding. An important benefit is that the top 3 things employees want are all influenced by the relationship with their direct manager or supervisor.

Show your employees you truly value them, and never underestimate how important you are in maintaining a strong workforce and retaining your best talent!

Susan Cullen is President of Quantum Learning Solutions, Inc., based in New Jersey. She has over 15 years experience in Organizational Development and is considered an expert in the use of blended learning methodologies for lasting organizational change. For more information go to or you can reach us at (800) 683-0681.