What Attracts Them Isn't Actually What Keeps Them: How To Retain Employees Longer 

BRIAN BOSCHÉ

In our research, we have seen that employees are attracted to work at a company for one of four reasons. For some, one of these reasons ranks higher than another. While others will weigh their ultimate decision between one or more of these factors.  

1. Compensation - They want a higher salary or better benefits.

“Of course they’re quitting! They want more money!”

Compensation comes in many forms. Most folks consider it wages and benefits, but it can also include non-traditional elements like recognition and ownership in the company.  

We were speaking at a nursing conference where all of the chief nursing officers in the state of Virginia were assembled. In one of our breakout sessions, we asked the attendees why they started working in nursing. I will never forget the honest answer of one particular woman. She shared that it was either nursing or bookkeeping. And the only reason she chose nursing was because nursing made slightly more money. She had made a decision that would influence every aspect of her life--from where she lived to the type of coworkers she would have to how she would meet her husband. Money was her primary driving decision point that drew her to an industry and an organization.  

Most companies have been taught to pay their employees higher than their competitors or else their staff will quit. In his book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsay explains it clearly: You have to pay your people well because salary translates to appreciation in the eyes of your team.  

It’s true. Of course money matters. It’s why we work. But money isn’t the only box that employees are looking to check when applying for jobs.  

This employee is very straight and to the point. They don’t make emotional conclusions. They want all of the facts and make decisions in a linear fashion.  

2. Brand – They recognize the brand and the brand means something to them.

“That’s so cool you work there!”

A study is done every year on the next generation’s top employers list. Graduating high school seniors across the country are asked what companies they would like to work for when they graduate. The brands may not surprise you: Apple, Disney, Facebook, FBI, CIA, and others.  

People are attracted to what they know. We certainly see this in big brands that we work with. Employees will be attracted to the brand first and the job description second.  

For some brands, this is their reputation in the consumer market is their greatest asset when their track record as an employer may not be great. Amazon is a perfect example. The online mogul is a brand that employees flock to from all over the world. However, their high demand culture and disdain for life outside of work, makes them a target for high turnover.  

Despite the negative experience many have working at brands such as Amazon, they rarely have a hiring problem. Why? Because even if the talent knows that the workplace is less than ideal, they are willing to endure the experience to list the major brand on the resume.  

There are certainly some benefits when you work for a recognizable brand. The brand intrigues people and they want to know more about what you do and how you got the job. The brand becomes an instant validator for you and your experience. The brand becomes a part of your identity—for good and for bad.  

Brands can play into this when attracting talent. They can play up the consumer fanfare to hire great talent from their loyal customers.  

This employee finds identity in where they work. They see their workplace as an extension of their own priorities, beliefs and passions. They choose to work places that reflect who they are and how they want the world to see them.  

3. Opportunity – They want to advance their career, obtain a new skillset or grow professionally.

“I just want more opportunity.”

Opportunity is one of the top reasons that employees quit, but it is also a major reason that candidates apply. We have found doing surveys and focus groups with hundreds of brands and companies, the word opportunity has a fluid meaning. In fact, many who we have interviewed have very unique and very personal opinions on the word.  

In a focus group in Northern Virginia, the respondents all agreed that opportunity was the ability to gain professional and personal development at work. While another focus group from the same company with managers in the Midwest yielded results defining opportunity as the rate at which you advance.  

Opportunity is both a perception and a reality. The leadership with in a major car brand we worked with all stated opportunity as a major reason that they have chosen to work and stay working at the brand. When we asked new and young employees why they would quit, respondents used the same word: opportunity.  

How could it be that the same word that keeps one set of employees engaged and threatens to push out an entirely different employee population?  

Organizations often lure new talent to work for them with the promise of opportunities to apply their skillset, have access to more clients or work with new industries. However, if the opportunity is not what it appears to be, employees are willing to move jobs and find actual opportunities elsewhere.  

This employee has been in the workforce enough to know what it is like to be stale in their personal and professional growth. They are unafraid to ask for what they want—even if they aren’t 100% sure what that something is.  

4. Lifestyle – They are looking for a job opportunity that better fits with their desired lifestyle.

It used to be that when a woman became pregnant they were out of the workforce for over a decade. The nature of work and new maternity leave best practices have now allowed moms and dads to both work and raise a family.  

Lifestyle employees aren’t just busy parents. They are also young entrepreneurs who want to travel while growing a business. They are men with hobbies and women who prefer to work from a home office rather than a distracting central office.  

Lifestyle employment is becoming so popular that entire niche industries are being created around it. The gig economy allows workers to work when and how they want on an infinite number of projects.  

The lifestyle employee seeks trust and empowerment to get their work done how and when they can and hates being micromanaged.  

This employee enjoys their work and wants to be useful, but is not going to trade their happiness or wellbeing for a job. They are extremely aware of what makes them happy and fulfilled and are willing to do what is not popular if it means they are living their best life. 

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