Language
Contact us

If you could change only one thing to retain employees, what would it be? What’s the magic bullet?

happy employeesWe all know it’s not that simple. People leave jobs for multiple reasons. But what if you had to choose?

We surveyed 1,000 people in 50 U.S. states on 60+ work factors. We then used a data mining technique that automatically splits people into more and more specific groups based on what drives their stay intentions (which do predict turnover).

So, what was the one thing that most distinguished the ‘stay’ from ‘go’ people?

It was doing things at work each day that are enjoyable. Enjoyment is part of positive affect, the key ingredient in ‘happiness’.

employee retentionOverall, 39% of all people strongly agreed that they do not intend to quit. Yet, if they agreed even ‘somewhat’ that their work was enjoyable, that figure jumps to 61%. Interestingly, if these people also agreed that their employer upholds human rights in their practices, a whopping 87% strongly agreed.

But what about pay, a known driver of turnover? We also looked at a group of people who disagreed that they’re paid fairly. Among them, only 23% strongly agreed that they do not intend to quit. But, if they even ‘somewhat’ agreed that their job fulfills meaningful values, that figure jumps to 48%. That’s a higher percentage of people intending to stay than in the entire sample, for any reason (i.e., 39%).

The learnings? First, this harks to research on flourishing. Both happiness and meaning are important for employee well-being. Work that satisfies deep, fundamental needs also leads to higher intrinsic motivation and performance. Second, advanced analytics are needed to uncover these kinds of interactive results. Bar charts won’t cut it.

One caveat. We’re not advocating anything Machiavellian here. You can’t always get away with paying people less for meaningful work. Pay is a ‘hygiene factor’ that must be satisfied before excellence is possible. If employers can’t pay people what they’re worth, they need to be transparent about the internal and external reasons that are beyond their control. Transform work to be more enjoyable and meaningful, but don’t neglect your compensation strategy. Intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are a double whammy.


Find out about our Positive Work Inventory® (PWI), a comprehensive survey of the drivers of positive workplaces at your organization.

Download the PWI product sheet now!

You may also be interested in:

Paul Fairlie

About Paul Fairlie

Paul is president and CEO of Paul Fairlie Consulting, with over 20 years of experience in organizational, market, and opinion research and consulting. He has a Ph.D. in psychology, and is also an adjunct professor in the School of Human Resource Management at York University. His primary area of expertise has been individual and organizational assessment through testing, 360° feedback surveys, structured interviews, assessment centres, and employee surveys such as the Positive Work Inventory® (PWI). Paul's approach to organizations is highly informed by evidence-based positive organizational psychology.

Comments are closed.

Get Our Monthly Newsletter

Receive the latest information on hiring, retaining, and developing top performers.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons