4 Key "Intangibles" That Improve Employee Retention

Jun 6, 2022

Great companies want to do the right thing for their employees. They want to help teams thrive, improve engagement, and ensure retention. Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting information out there about what is most important to employees and how companies should go about meeting their needs.

It’s easy to get caught up in concerns about salary and benefit packages, and make no mistake: those things are important, and employees need to be compensated fairly. But those are not the most important considerations when employees decide to stay with or leave a company. The companies with the highest engagement and retention numbers aren’t just signing paychecks; they’re delivering on the intangibles that make a company a great place to work.

Here are four examples:

Great Companies Encourage Workplace Harmony

Everyone knows the old saying: “Employees don’t leave companies. They leave managers.” While the issue isn’t quite that simple, there’s some truth to that generalization: difficult manager-employee relationships contribute to stress, burnout, and general unhappiness at work, which are top drivers for candidates to seek new opportunities. On the flip side, more than half of employees who report enjoying their jobs also say they like the people they work with, including management and peers.

Workplace harmony filters down from the top levels: if executive management fosters a culture of competition above all else, employees in every role feel that pressure and lack of community. On the other hand, when a company’s leaders encourage fellowship and camaraderie among their employees, the company as a whole feels more like a team and less like a battleground. Building a strong sense of community and fostering harmonious relationships is one of the most important ways in which companies can improve employee engagement, retention, production, and overall well-being.

Great Companies Challenge Their Employees

High-performing employees are usually driven, hard-working, and hungry for new challenges. Yet too often, once companies have attracted great candidates, they make the mistake of letting them languish. Many ambitious, forward-thinking employees want to work on exciting projects, learn new skills, and tackle interesting challenges. In a role where their skills and personalities are being underused, those employees can be prone to losing focus, engagement, and excitement - which opens the door to turnover. Assign employees to interesting projects, create opportunities for continuous learning and skill development, and above all, let employees be heard - ask what they’re enjoying in their roles and what stretch goals they might want to work toward. This way, even if all of their requests can’t be accommodated right away, they will know that their manager hears them and is committed to their long-term job fulfillment.

Great Companies Provide Meaningful Work

Increasingly, executives want to be part of companies and projects that are aligned with their values. They want to feel a sense of purpose in their work. For some companies, this might mean focusing on projects that emphasize sustainability and green practices. For others, a culture where employees are treated like family is important. Identifying candidates who fit a company’s culture and align with their value system is an important step in ensuring employee engagement and retention. When an employee feels that they can contribute significantly to their company’s bottom line while making an impact in a way that feels meaningful and valuable to them, they are much more likely to stay with that company for the long term.

Great Companies Allow Their Employees to Grow

Every employee is following their own career path, and if a company cannot provide an avenue for advancement, they will eventually look for it elsewhere. For many employees, career advancement opportunities are more important than base salary. Those growth opportunities can be “vertical,” including promotions, larger project sizes, and role-specific learning opportunities. However, they can also be “horizontal,” with employees learning new skill sets outside their immediate area of expertise. For example, a strong project management professional might have an interest in developing their finance skill set, or helping train other employees on cutting-edge technology they are passionate about. Create opportunities for employees to learn and grow in different ways according to their unique skills and passions, and those employees will feel more valued and fulfilled in their roles.

Employee turnover is a costly problem for businesses in every market, and too many retention strategies focus primarily or exclusively on compensation. Instead, employers should remember that retention and engagement are heavily influenced by the intangibles of a job: harmonious workplaces, work that is both challenging and meaningful, and opportunities for learning and growth. At the heart of these intangibles is an employee’s belief that their manager listens to and supports them, which helps that employee feel valued, engaged, and committed to their employer.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie joined Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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