If More Pay Won’t Retain Employees, What Will?

Image combining the words true and falseRecognize This! – “More money” is the safe, easy answer for why employees leave. That doesn’t mean it’s true.

Yesterday on Compensation Café I wrote about a Salary.com survey showing that even though employees report being happier in their jobs, more of them are reportedly looking for a new job. I also wrote about Jessica Stillman’s perspective that, even though employees say “low pay” is the number one reason to leave, raises aren’t necessarily the answer.

Two very prescient commenters to that post (Jacque Vilet and John Bushfield) pointed out that more pay is the “easy answer” when asked “Why would you want to leave?” It’s also the “I don’t want to burn any bridges” safe answer employees give in their exit interviews as to why they actually are leaving.

But that doesn’t mean it’s true.

Of course, we’d all like more money in our paycheck, but pay alone often isn’t enough to get us to go through the process of searching for a new job. What does? We need to look at the next two items employees cited on the Salary.com survey for the real reasons employees put themselves through the hassle of finding a new job:

  1. No possibility of advancement
  2. Underappreciated

Interestingly, these are the same two reasons cited in an APA (American Psychological Association) Center for Organizational Excellence survey I wrote about earlier this month. That survey found:

“The majority of workers (67 percent) continue to report that they are satisfied with their jobs. Yet, less than half continue to be satisfied with the growth and development opportunities (47 percent) and employee recognition practices (47 percent) offered by their employer.”

Do you see the theme here? The same two unmet needs are cited by employees who are satisfied with their jobs.

Think how much more productive, engaged and – yes – happy, employees would be if we could just figure out how to help them advance their careers and be recognized for good work. Reading between the lines, employees are clearly saying:

“I’m in a rut. I know my job and I do it well, but I’m bored and nobody appreciates the work I do anyway. I might as well go find a new challenge somewhere else.”

As I said in Compensation Café yesterday: Social recognition is one of the most powerful tools in the manager’s toolkit to both help employees feel more appreciated for the work they do and to assess employee job fit, contribution and potential areas for advancement. When the entire work community is involved in noticing and appreciating the good work of others, leaders gain much more information on where team members excel and contribute best. This information, when gathered in a strong system of record, can now be used for more effective talent management and advancement of careers.

Are you in a rut? Are your employees? What are your two greatest unmet needs in your work?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

2 Responses

  1. Derek – Spot on! Peer appreciation is a very powerful motivator, and tends to bond individuals to their coworkers, which makes the work environment a much more satisfying place to hang out at every day. By default, it bonds them to their company too, so long as the company is seen as the facilitator and active participant in the process. Its a key piece of what I believe will be the organizational model of the not to distant future: work groups organized into project teams where leaders change roles within the team when the next phase of the project needs different skills and experience.

    • Derek Irvine Derek Irvine says:

      I agree, John. The best leader on this project, may be the ideal individual contributor on the next. The rapid fluidity of the world in which we work today is exciting, indeed!

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