How Managers Can Help Retain Their Best Employees

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How Managers Can Help Retain Their Best Employees

By: Susan Cullen

A major problem for employers today is attracting the best talent, and then retaining key employees. Research shows that the key ingredient for retention lies within the manager's ability to understand what employees really want.

The survey results below first came out in 1946 in Foreman Fact, from the Labor Relations Institute of NY and was produced again by Lawrence Lindahl in Personnel magazine in 1949.) This study has since been replicated with similar results by Ken Kovach (1980); Valerie Wilson, Achievers International (1988); Bob Nelson, Blanchard Training & Development (1991); and Sheryl & Don Grimme, GHR Training Solutions (1997-2001).

Pay particular interest to the top three things managers thought employees want from their jobs, and then look at what employees said they REALLY want:

WHAT MANAGERS THINK EMPLOYEES WANT, starting with the most important:

  1. Good wages
  2. Job Security
  3. Promotion and growth opportunities
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work
  6. Personal loyalty to workers
  7. Tactful discipline
  8. Full appreciation for work done
  9. Sympathetic understanding of personal problems
  10. Feeling "in" on things

WHAT EMPLOYEES SAY THEY WANT, starting with the most important:

  1. Full appreciation for work done
  2. Feeling "in" on things
  3. Sympathetic understanding of personal problems
  4. Job security
  5. Good wages
  6. Interesting work
  7. Promotion and growth opportunities
  8. Personal loyalty to workers
  9. Good working conditions
  10. Tactful discipline

You can see there is quite a discrepancy. This indicates the value of the "intangible rewards" of appreciation, involvement and understanding. An important benefit is that the top 3 things employees want are all influenced by the relationship with their direct manager or supervisor.

Show your employees you truly value them, and never underestimate how important you are in maintaining a strong workforce and retaining your best talent!

About The Author

Susan Cullen is President of Quantum Learning Solutions, Inc., based in New Jersey. She has over 15 years experience in Organizational Development and is considered an expert in the use of blended learning methodologies for lasting organizational change. For more information go to or you can reach us at (800) 683-0681.)


prparker 03.06.2007. 00:20

How do I recruit and retain nursing staff, in this environment of an international shortage? I am a Nurse Manager of an orthopaedic ward in Sydney. I have a great team of nurses but have a major shortage in skilled experienced nurses.


Admin 03.06.2007. 00:20

Benefits, incentive programs, rewards for great work. If you make your workplace people will enjoy coming to everyday and feel appreciated, they will often times stay over accepting a higher paying job where they will be miserable. Alot of places are doing recruitment videos, where prospective employees can see "a day in the life of...", so they know what they are getting into. If you have a great staff who would be willing to talk on camera about why they love their jobs, it goes a long way in putting interest into the position.


sachin g 01.02.2010. 15:35

How to convince my manager about my resignation? There is a talk that my manager usually rejects resignations blindly. He doesnt hear the case, if the person is very important for the projecct. Im submitting my resignation in a day or two. How can i go about it?

sachin g

Admin 01.02.2010. 15:35

If they refuse to accept your resignation then it means they are willing to negotiate a change in your pay or contract in order to retain you. Try to be patient with them, they are probably discussing what changes they can offer you. It could be a pay rise, change in your hours, a new employee to support you, or even a better package that includes company shares, better health insurance, travel insurance, free transport etc.

However is nothing can make you change your mind, then you should write to them again and give them 3 days to decide whether they accept your resignation and if not, to give you their full reasons for this. If they fail to comply in three days, write again and say that you have been forced to resign because of their unreasonable behaviour and STATE your last working day with them (whether they agree or not, it is no longer your problem). Remind them that you have a legal right to choose who you want to work for and that you shall be expecting them to pay you for your notice period. Write that if they do not pay you for your notice period, you will have no option but to take legal action to get it (do not mention an employment tribunal, just 'legal action').


Panthera onca 24.01.2010. 17:27

What is the role of the veterinary practice manager? Im just looking at staff within vet surgery's, what does the vet practice manager do exactly?

They don't have much to do with animals do they, is it more financial organization?

Put a list if you can, thanks.

Panthera onca

Admin 24.01.2010. 17:27

This is taken from a very thorough site which I will cite in the sources, you should definitely check it out. Very short description, is someone to oversee the nonveterinary aspects of a veterinary hospital so the veterinarians can do their jobs more effectively.

A veterinary manager has an invaluable role to play in today?s veterinary hospital. Some of the duties and responsibilities that can be assigned to the position include:

* The ?go to? person for all employees
* Staff scheduling
o Veterinary staff
o Nonveterinary staff
* Human resource management
o Recruitment
o Hiring
o Retaining
o Training
* Information technology
o Computer hardware and software
* Accounts payable
* Accounts receivable
* Payroll
* Inventory control
* Budgeting
* Dialoguing with suppliers
* Maintaining daily, weekly, and monthly accounting
* Managing client relations.
* Maintaining managerial accounting information for owner(s)
* Promotion and advertising initiatives
* Developing newsletter
* Overseeing staff from all aspects
* Ensure reminder letters, new client letters, etc are sent in a timely manner
* Maintaining current fee schedule
* Establishing hospital policies and procedures
End note: I worked with a veterinarian who served multiple rolls within the community. She was a veterinarian at an animal hospital, the creator and manager of a local emergency clinic (could override decisions on who was on staff and any operations there, though it was initially in the hands of the floor manager and veterinarians working there), and was on a local board of directors whose purpose was purely financial (where and how is the money spent).


Jared 02.03.2012. 02:47

When can you be held personally liable for actions as a corporate employee? I'm the accountant and de facto VP (one step away from the President) of a C-Corp. I am not officially a corporate officer; but, much of what I do falls into that category. Operations manager. Finance manager. HR manager. If I sign my name on something on behalf of a corporate officer, am I liable if something is wrong?

Liable if it's materially misleading and I know it?

I know this is an insanely broad subject, so any opinions are greatly appreciated.


Admin 02.03.2012. 02:47

IANAL but I am president of an S-corp building contractor.

There are lots of ways you can get in trouble, but as a non-executive employee, not much you need to do to avoid trouble.
1. Obtain a Letter of Authorization signed by the president of the corporation that specifically defines your title(s) and work assignments, your decision making authority and responsibilities for the corporation and what documents you are authorized to sign.

2. Use your title and the company name on all items you sign for the corporation. Thus,
John Q. Smith
Finance Manager
XYZ, Inc.
Doing this makes it clear that you are signing on behalf of the corporation and not for yourself and retains the protection of the corporate veil.

3. When signing FOR another person, sign "YourName for" above their printed name and title in the signature block, thus:
John Q. Smith for <- (written signature)
Davey W. Jones
Vice President, Operations
XYZ, Inc.
The letter of authorization should spell out what documents you may sign for Mr. Jones in his absence.

4. Never accept a financial instrument made out to your name only when it is payment for a debt to the corporation, even if you turn the payment over to Accounts Receivable immediately.

As for materially misleading, I'm not sure what you mean. Making a statement like "Our product is better than a similar item from DEF Corp" can be misleading for sure, but not one that will land you in jail. Knowingly signing a false financial report that you created is another matter.

Hope this helps a bit.


Nick 30.08.2012. 11:47

Question about Human Resource Management and Policies? What Human resource policies and practices could a Human Resource Manager use to retain employees who feel that they are stressed and overworked?


Admin 30.08.2012. 11:47

Give them raise in salary.


sensiblebrowneyedgirl 22.05.2008. 20:49

How do I earn respect from much younger employees? I have just been promoted to a managers position in the kitchen in a very busy restaurant. I have about 20 younger and very hard to deal with employees...and they know how to intimidate do I discipline them and still retain there employment?


Admin 22.05.2008. 20:49

Do not stoop to their level.


Alejandro 24.06.2010. 23:52

How are the four financial statements interrelated with each other? And why are they useful to managers, investors, creditors, and employees


Admin 24.06.2010. 23:52

The four statements in the U.S. are the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Changes in Financial Position and Statement of Retained Earnings. The B/S tells you the cost of the company's assets and the amount of money the company owes. The difference is the retained earnings left in the company by its owners. The B/S is very important to the banks and creditors because it gives them an understanding of what a company owes and coverage of the assets in case things go bad for the company.

The I/S is most useful to the managers and investors and somewhat to the creditors and employees. With the I/S, managers can gauge how well they are doing against prior periods and years. It shows how much they are spending and for what. The investors look at the I/S to see if the is growing, which is something they are looking for.

The Cash Flow Statement is one of the statements that links the I/S and B/S. It shows what the sources and uses of funds have been for the company. In the real world it is not frequently referred to unless you have specific questions like how much new equipment the business purchased or where the business is getting its money or repaying its money.

The Statement of Retained Earnings (where required like the SEC) tells you how the Stock Ownership (assuming its a corporation) is coming from. This makes the statement useful to owners, investors and employees with stock options in the business.

All statements are used by all four classes of interested parties, as are the footnotes to the financial statements. The notes, as they are called, really tell you a lot about a business. For example, its debt, who does it owe it to, at what rate of interest, when does it have to be paid back. Debt footnotes are extremely useful to banks thinking about lending money to the business. The Stock Options footnote is very useful to investors and employees because it tells how much future stock the company has promised to others and what is the conversion price. The Employee Stock Option footnote is useful to all four classes. It tells how much the company owes to its employees in the future and whether those obligations have been fully paid.



Jemmiekins 18.08.2007. 22:59

How do you train your staff to give out of this world customer service, and to actually want to do it? I'm a new manager, just about to start my job. I've been an Assistant Manager, but now I'm fully incharge, and have to ensure my store gets 100% on our mystery shop. I know I give fantastic customer service. How can I ensure my staff will too?

I know when I was a sunday sales assistant, I wasn't bothered, It didn't matter to me if I sold another belt or another pair of shoes. How do I make my staff really want to give fab customer service?


Admin 18.08.2007. 22:59

An employee recognition and rewards program can help your store improve morale and reduce turnover. It can be a fun way to reinforce behaviors that are important to your organization while making your employees feel appreciated.

Designing an effective employee recognition and rewards program can be tricky. Employees should feel like they are being recognized and appreciated, and not just "entitled" to the receive the program's benefits. Where possible, rewards should be linked to positive behaviors that you want to reinforce.

A point-based program is an excellent first step toward removing the feeling of entitlement?points are not the same as cash. But this is only the beginning.

Retail outlets are people-intensive organizations that require best practices and systems to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Systems are essential enablers, but because sales assistants interact directly with your customers, their performance is critical for your success.

Motivated sales assistants are highly productive; among the best incentives for sales assistants are respect, recognition, variety and fair compensation for their efforts.

Short-Term Tactical Recommendations

It's critical to build an operating environment where, over the long term, sales assistants are treated as the strategic asset that they are. However, it's just as important to position your store to provide a positive and supportive work environment on a daily basis.

Here are a few tactical recommendations to provide a compelling work environment that attracts and retains great sales assistants:

1) Encourage sales assistants to share suggestions for improvement. Sales assistants know first-hand what does and does not work for customers. Solicit ideas from sales assistants?and try to implement them. Whether the suggestion does or does not work, communicate the reasons and highlight any cost savings or efficiencies gained as a result.
2) Allow sales assistants to learn from each other. Hold frequent team meetings and encourage sales assistants to discuss areas of difficulty and share techniques for addressing these issues.
3) Ensure that managers/leaders are accessible to sales assistants. Retail sales managers and leaders need to be visible and accessible to the staff. Managers and leaders should walk around and periodically do live monitoring of sales assistants. If you overhear a great sales, compliment the sales assistant. If an sales assistant is struggling with a sale, offer to assist and, if need be, assist with the sale. The sales assistant will appreciate the show of support and the opportunity to listen and learn techniques for handling challenging sales.
4) Establish a "buddy system." Pair up a sales assistant who is having difficulty with one who consistently achieves. Set up an environment where sales assistants can learn from each other as much as possible.
5) Encourage open dialogue with sales assistants.
6) Accommodate requests for schedule changes on a fair basis. Shift changes and vacation requests should be based on an sales assistant's overall performance, not just tenure. Prioritizing these rewards solely on seniority sends the wrong message and discourages sales assistants who have been on board for shorter periods of time.
7) Use a variety of motivational tactics. Different things motivate different people. Make sure to use a variety of methods to recognize and reward excellence. If possible, allow sales assistants to choose their own rewards?for example, gift cards (a favorite retailer or restaurant), movie tickets, lunch vouchers, pass for a day off or first choice for a vacation request. Another possibility is to create a retail outlet "rewards program" where sales assistants can accrue "points" for performance, and "redeem" them based on achievement level.

The Take-Away

Sales assistants have one of the hardest and most important jobs in an enterprise?satisfying customers, who are not always known for being nice or patient. Unfortunately, sales assistants often perceive that their role is not appreciated or respected by senior management or peer organizations, like sales and marketing.

Retail sales managers need to create a working environment that addresses strategic and long-term staff-related initiatives as well as day-to-day programs in order to continuously motivate sales assistants. Sometimes it's little things that don't cost a cent that matter the most to sales assistants. Allowing sales assistants to choose/change their lunch hour to accommodate an appointment, permitting sales assistants to vote on a menu for a recognition day event and similar activities, go a long way in communicating to sales assistants that they are recognized, valued and respected.


Remainder sent via e-mail.



Nénuphar 15.05.2013. 19:39

What is the best way to apply for jobs that claim to be hiring now? Not so long ago, you looked in the paper or saw a sign, went in in-person, filled out an application, and called back about a week later or whenever they said they might get to it. You had to pester them sometimes, but often that showed motivation and got you the job. Now it's different, and I don't get it. I'll see a post on a job site with an address, and I'll happen to go by there and there's no sign. And when you ask how to apply they say go to the damn website. I've BEEN going to tons of websites, for a year and nobody had replied NOT EVEN ONCE! So wtf. What do they want. Should I still call and try to speak with a manager, or do all the "no calls please" and failures to post locations indicate that that's not cool anymore?
There are so many jobs that I would actually be perfect for but I just can't get through to who I can tell that to. How do I at least get my fair chance? Needless to say, no job = no home for me (everyone's got a story I won't bore you with mine). Please help! Any advice is appreciated.


Admin 15.05.2013. 19:39

Here are a couple tips that might help. First, make sure that you are presentable for each specific job by being well groomed and appropriately dressed. Try to appear similar to how the store's current employees look (or would look if they were not in uniform). If you're in doubt, it is always safer to overdress than to under-dress.

Second, when you visit the site that advertised job openings, ask to speak to the manager instead of relying on one of the regular employees. It would be the manager who approved placing the ad (and for paying the cost for it) and the manager is the person who has the greatest stake in filling the job(s) with the best candidates. Regular employees do not have such a stake in the whole matter - they might not care whether the job is filled, for example, so they might simply brush you off (as looks like what happened).

Finally, try your very best to retain a positive outlook. It is almost universal to find obstacles and difficulties when looking for a good job. Simply keep that in mind so that you don't get frustrated or discouraged. When you interact with prospective employers, let a little of your interest and enthusiasm show. Almost everyone enjoys working with positive people better than negative people.


Shivers 22.11.2008. 14:19

What makes an employee management material in retail? Currently I'm working in a retail position and am looking to eventually move up into management. What attributes do management look at in their workers to decide whether the employee would make a good manager or supervisor?


Admin 22.11.2008. 14:19

As a former manager of seven years, the most important thing is that you can motivate people to do things they really do not care to do, a form of people skills. This comes in hand with WANTING to always be around people. And people WANTING to be around you. A PEOPLE PERSON!!

Next is work ethic, must be stellar
Next is the ability to learn , retain knowledge, and teach.

Last is everything else like formal education which then determines, after you have successfully passed everything else, how far up you move.


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