Employee Retention and Becoming a Better Manager

Layers by Anna Ignatieva
Why do we stay at our jobs?

Well besides for the most obvious factor of money there are many other factors that determine job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. In fact, the reasons you like a job aren't necessarily the reasons you stay at it. It's actually suggested that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are measured in different ways rather than being on different ends of the same spectrum.

Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory describes what keeps people satisfied with their work as well as what factors contribute more to job dissatisfaction.

Motivators are typically the key factors in keeping people interested and satisfied with their jobs. These are the things that result from doing the job such as personal growth, recognition, responsibilities or advancement. These are all things that give positive satisfaction because of the work that is being done.

The Hygiene factors are the aspects of a job that define the job context such as job security, salary, benefits, working conditions or company policy. These are things that do not give positive satisfaction from the work itself, but will give job dissatisfaction if they are not present. Sure it may feel great to get a high paying job or a raise, but that feeling does not last for years at a time. If you did not get a raise for 5 years you would notice it and it would be a dissatisfier. Though a raise every year does not keep us motivated at our job year round since inflationary raises are typically expected at any job.

While each of these factors contribute to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction with different weights, neither of them can be ignored if you want an employee to be happy and stay. As a manager it's your responsibility to check in on your employees and see that these needs are being met. If one of your employees does bring some of these factors to your attention then you should see what you can do to help them find a better balance. When an employee's request falls on deaf ears that also falls into the job dissatisfaction side of things too!

"We can expand ... by stating that the job satisfiers deal with the factors involved in doing the job, whereas the job dissatisfiers deal with the factors which define the job context."  - Frederick Herzberg

The motivational factors are the things that keep us excelling at our work and interested in our jobs. Imagine that if you won the lottery and were only working to keep yourself motivated and interested. You would look for something that focuses on the motivational factors. As an employer, if you can find ways to make your employees feel great benefit as a result of their work they will naturally want to do a good job at it. The Hygiene factors are more related to keeping employees to stay at their jobs. Yes money is a motivator, but if your employees are getting a competitive rate then money becomes less of a factor.

My Personal Experiences

While not all companies understand this idea, in my experience most of the companies that I have worked for think that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are on the same spectrum. They focus on either the motivators or the hygiene factors and think that will compensate for the ones that they are neglecting. I have been at companies in the past where getting a raise was like pulling teeth, in fact, that was the reason I left a job since six months after a promised raise I was still waiting around for it. I ended up taking matters into my own hands and left, and when I did I got a 20% raise for it. That job had amazing motivational factors, and I still hang out with old coworkers from it, but the hygiene factors made me decide to leave.

I also had another job where I was paid well but I was treated poorly. For a while, whenever I dealt with all of the crap from that employer I just had to remind myself that I was getting paid well for it. In the end, I needed more balance so I left that job too.

Finding a job with that balance is key, and if you are a manager and want your best employees to stay you should make sure you talk to them to know their concerns. Eventually every unhappy employee will look for a new job, if you can keep them happy then that is the key to retention. Too many times I have had discussions on keeping me as an employee only after I tell my employer that I have found a new job. If there's another offer on the table then you're too late to the party.

Have you found that balance in your job? How do you approach employee retention?


  1. In general, the company I work for isn't too bad at employee retention - there are lots of people who have been at the business for 10 years+ (including myself).We have half-yearly and yearly reviews/one-to-ones with managers, a good time to air any grievances or worries. Not saying everything gets looked at or is resolved as it's down to the managers to try to do something to keep the staff happy and not go for other jobs. We've just moved to new office buildings, complete with excellent restaurant facilities and quality free tea/coffee, important Hygiene factor improvements!

    1. Some companies are great employers. If they have competitive pay and competent managers then not too much can go wrong. For me I've dealt with a lot of smaller companies and start ups. That's where it seems like a lot of trade off happens, many times owners of companies aren't the best managers since they treat the company like their baby, but to the employees it's sometimes just another job.

      Sounds like you have a nice company that's making improvements to the working conditions though, that's always nice to have!