Whether your company is experiencing increased turnover or not, employee retention should remain top of mind. Why do all the hard work of attracting great talent only to have them leave soon after? It’s important to know key employee motivators – plus what pushes them out the door or encourages them to stay.
Throughout the past two years, we have seen record numbers of employee resignations. The Great Resignation is one of those effects of the pandemic that no one really predicted.
In 2021, 47.9 million workers quit their jobs at an average of nearly 4 million each month, the highest average on record, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data – and the most recent bureau data reports 4.4 million resignations in April 2022. Employees are on the move.
Whether your employees are giving the company negative feedback or you just want to maintain the positive environment you already have, employers must know what motivates the people holding up their business. A strong understanding of employee motivators is incredibly beneficial – not only for employee retention, but creating and maintaining a healthy workplace culture.
What are motivators?
Employee motivators are exactly what they sound like: whatever encourages people to do their job and creates personal job satisfaction. Common motivators include:
- Career growth opportunities
- Connection or a sense of community
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
- Individual meaning
- Intellectual stimulation
- Job security
- Manageable workload
- Recognition, and
- Training and development.
To some employees, it will be all about the benefits. To others, it will be about having the flexibility to work from home or work flexible hours in order to take care of their family or other personal needs. While some may have the freedom to work long hours, others may not. Not every employee wants to work their way up to a leadership role – but that’s a critical piece for those that do.
Motivators are not cut-and-dried. They are different for everyone, and they are fluid throughout each employee’s career. And not everyone has just one motivator. For many, it is a combination of a few different motivators. Keep this list in mind as you interact with employees and co-workers, and you will start to see what motivates each person.
Companies and managers
From an HR perspective, the goal is twofold: attract great talent and retain that talent. Great Resignation or not, every employer should be looking inward and finding what makes employees tick. What do they value? What motivates them? What demotivates them?
For managers, an understanding of employee motivators is critical. For so long, it’s been easier for managers to just stick to business and not get personal. However, the pandemic has changed all that. People’s lives are different now and their personal lives are much more intertwined with work than they were pre-pandemic. This shift means managers need to be more empathetic than ever before.
Managers, it’s time to sit down with your employees and find out what’s most valuable to each of them. Everyone is different. What motivates you is not what motivates others. It’s easy to assume that everyone’s primary motivator is their paycheck – but this is simply not true. Depending on the person and the stage of life they are in, everyone will want and need something different from their job.
What demotivates employees is just as important to understand as what motivates them, and these factors can come from both inside and outside the workplace. Not everything will be in your control, but manage what you can.
First, ask yourself, why are people leaving your company? Is it compensation? Is it flexibility to work from home? Do they lack a connection with peers because of remote work? Do they feel seen and heard by leadership? Is their workload manageable?
Once you understand what motivates and demotivates your employees, remind them of your employee value proposition. Remind employees of actions the company is already taking that may be a motivator for them. This could be as simple as making them aware of different opportunities for growth, connection or exposure that they may not have been aware of or taken advantage of before.
Moving forward, keep in mind how you can support your employees’ motivators. For employees motivated by recognition, be conscious of opportunities to acknowledge work that is well-performed. For employees motivated by individual meaning, make an effort to explain how their work fits into broader business goals and strategies when assigning tasks.
Most importantly, don’t have the conversation once and never discuss it again. Motivators will change as life changes. Between evolving family needs, role changes or new life stages, employees may want or need something new from their employer. Keep a constant conversation going to stay aware of evolving motivators and needs.
Meanwhile, do not neglect succession planning. You cannot retain every employee, so be prepared with potential internal candidates for those critical roles. It’s also worth mentioning that the knowledge of their inclusion on a succession plan, and the accompanying quiet recognition, may be a motivating factor for some employees.
Even if your business has had historically low turnover, an understanding of employee motivators is still important. People bring their whole selves to work. What they do at work affects them at home and vice versa. They deserve to be seen and heard and have their needs acknowledged and met.
A solid understanding of employee motivators is not only about retaining employees, but also creating a strong culture. By creating an environment in which everyone feels understood, your company is building a strong company culture in which employees value their company and their work. Fulfilling your employees’ unique needs builds trust between them and your company and makes it a great place to work.
Understanding employee motivators are key. You cannot be a great employer if you don’t know what employees want. As a human resources professional or a manager, taking the time to look deeper and figure out your employees’ motivators will be one of the best actions you can take to create a healthy work environment with happy employees.