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Employee Retention – How to Keep Good Employees

There have been numerous studies on what makes employees stay at companies. To me, the answer is easy if you remember the classic management theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Let’s take a look at the 5 stages as written by Maslow and apply them to the work environment.

As is typical with a pyramid diagram, the most basic element is listed at the bottom. It is the basis for all of the other elements and must be fulfilled before the remaining elements have true meaning.

Maslow’s Needs as they apply to the work setting:

  • Psychological Needsfood, water, shelter, and rest. To begin, an employer must be able to provide workers with enough income so that they can meet these basic needs. Employers cannot begin to build meaningful cultures without ensuring that their employees can fulfill these needs.
  • Safety Needssecurity, safety, and freedom from fear. Employers create a safe work environment. Job security is a crucial element at this level. Employers can provide value by offering benefits that allow employees access to basic healthcare and perhaps slightly better pay so that the employees can afford to live safe geographic areas. Sharing company financial information and communicating that the company is doing well can help employees feel that their jobs are safe. This feeling will provide the stability employees need for job security and increased motivation.
  • Belongingness and Love Needs – developing relationships, affection, and friends. Employers can help employees satisfy this need by providing meaningful work. This is where building a company culture starts getting fun. The best environments allow employees to be friendly at work. Employers can foster dynamic relationships by creating strategic team building programs. Employers should consider the benefits of offering social events like company picnics, holiday parties, and interactive company events. The more employees work together and feel commitment to one another, the more engaged employees will be.
  • Esteem Needs – achievement, independence, status, self-respect, and respect from others. People want to feel appreciated and need to know they are valued. The best part for employers is that most rewards and recognition programs are essentially free. Managers should be taught to say “thank you” and “great job” when warranted on a frequent basis. Creating systems that acknowledge people regularly can be very beneficial as long as the system allows for flexibility to keep the feedback fresh and sincere.
  • Self-actualization – achieving full-potential, self-fulfillment, personal growth, and peak experiences. This is the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and you, as an employer, have an opportunity to help your employees achieve it. Simply put, this is employee development. If you create an environment where employees can reach their full potential, you have reached the pinnacle of employee engagement. Remember, this is an on-going process and if you have created a program that allows for continuous development, you will have bright, happy, successful, and productive employees. Those who are not interested will not stay and that’s okay. People are most motivated when they are working toward something!

If you create your culture with this model in mind it will be sustainable. With continuous care, you will have happy, healthy, and productive employees.

Are you concerned that employee relations concerns are affecting your bottom line? SERPEO can help! We work with our clients to help them develop cultures that are rich, rewarding, and compliant.


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