Many managers assume the key to retaining stellar performers is money, money, money. But money only gets you so far.
Employee surveys often find that compensation ranks fairly low in a list of meaningful motivators. Workers at all levels typically crave recognition, flexibility and intellectual stimulation above pay.
That doesn’t surprise Dianne Durkin. She’s president of The Loyalty Factor, a training and consulting firm in Portsmouth, N.H. Before launching her company, she spent many years as an executive in large corporations where she learned to keep her most valuable people from jumping ship.
Durkin has a conversation with Managing People at Work:
MPAW: What’s the most important tool to retain star performers?
Durkin: It’s authentic. Bill George wrote a book about it. You also need to trust your people and engage and empower them.
MPAW: Do you agree with research showing that money isn’t the top motivator?
Durkin: It may not be among the top motivators, but it’s still important. I worked with a client—a global manufacturer—that started giving out $5 McDonald’s gift certificates to employees who did great work. The employees treated the gift certificates like gold. When people make $8 an hour and you give them a little something to recognize their effort, it can have a big impact.
MPAW: From your years as a corporate executive, what retention strategy helped you keep great people?
Durkin: I found that people who learn and grow on the job tend to stay put. Digital Equipment Corp. was excellent at this. They encouraged you to switch jobs within the company. I moved from operations to sales to marketing. I had a finance manager who became a salesperson. There were always learning opportunities.
MPAW: You mentioned trust earlier. How does that translate into better retention?
Durkin: When you trust people, they know you’re looking out for them. It dignifies them. And they’re more loyal because of that.