Retaining good staff is about more than just money

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It would be so simple if “money” was the answer to the questions managers ask about how to retain staff. But, there is more to retaining staff than the wages they receive.

Wages and benefits are what get new staff in the door, but it’s not what causes them to stay. If it were, the company that won the bidding war would have all the employees it needs — until someone else bids higher. But that’s not how things work. Money doesn’t buy loyalty. To get people to stay, a workplace must offer more than just money.

“The person most able to earn employees’ loyalty is their immediate supervisor,” says Alan Dooley, agriculture labour recruitment specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “By what they say and do, supervisors influence whether employees stay or leave, despite the fact that supervisors seldom have any control over what employees earn.”

To understand this, we can look at the hierarchy of human needs, a theory first advanced by Abraham Maslow. He said that humans have an inborn order of needs that we pass through in stages. We progress to the higher stages only after our more basic needs are satisfied.

The most basic of these needs is for food, clothing and shelter — the need that motivates many of us to look for a job in the first place. The second need is for safety and security. These primary needs are usually met by having a regular paycheque (enabling the purchase of food, clothing and shelter), a safe workplace and access to health care.

Once these needs are met, people’s focus shifts to higher needs. While immediate supervisors have little control over their employees’ financial income, they can have an impact on their “emotional” income, which meets the needs for social interaction and self-esteem. People want to be part of a group and feel they are valued as individuals and appreciated for what they do. As 19th century American philosopher and psychologist William James wrote, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

“The No. 1 reason people quit their job is not money,” says Dooley. “People quit because they feel unappreciated. The source of this lack of appreciation is usually the employee’s immediate supervisor. Supervisors can create a work environment where people want to be by frequently acknowledging employees for their contributions.”

For more information on retaining staff, visit the Agri-Industry Workforce Development website and check out the webinars, resources and grant funding information.

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