by Chuck Martin

Keys to Retention

Mar 16, 20073 mins
IT Leadership

Managers want more autonomy and challenge.

To increase employee retention, more business leaders should challenge their subordinates and then leave them alone to do their jobs. And if businesspeople have confidence in their leaders (and are well compensated) they also will be more likely to stay.

Three-fourths of senior executives and managers say that what means the most to them when it comes to staying with an organization is autonomy and/or challenge, based on a global survey by NFI Research.

This is followed by confidence in leadership, compensation and organizational culture. “Independence is a great thing after the roller coaster ride of the past few years,” said one survey respondent. “Stock prices have had more impact on an individual’s employment options than their ability to produce results.”

“I have stayed 15 years because I have great customers and a challenging job with a great deal of variety,” said another. “I definitely don’t stay for the money or benefits.” Said another: “A sense of the importance of the work and clear goals are very key for me.”

Company loyalty is not what it used to be in many organizations, partly because of bottom-lines pressures. “Core values and the ability to grow both personally and professionally are critical to job satisfaction,” said one manager. “Loyalty is a different issue, as it is almost impossible for companies to afford to be loyal to their employees given competitive and quarterly performance pressures.”

And some could argue that the lack of company loyalty started with the company and not with the employee. “The erosion in job loyalty is being driven from the top down, not from the bottom up,” said one manager.

And if large companies find it more challenging to retain employees, it could be because most people don’t want to work there. Only 14 percent of executives and managers would rather work for a large organization, with a third preferring medium and a third preferring small. (Almost a fifth would rather work for themselves.)

Virtually no one working at a small organization would rather work for a large organization. “Sometimes you’d be better off being ‘someone’ in a small organization rather than being a number in a large organization,” said one respondent. “Yet, many small companies are bought out by larger ones, and that does not guarantee you a job after the purchase/merger.”

“When the social contract between employee and employer was in place, there was a real preference for larger corporations, where loyalty was recognized and rewarded,” said another. “With that contract now broken—and I think irreparably—a small organization is much more attractive.”

But there are still some who have always gravitated to and feel comfortable with a large company. “I enjoy working in large organization,” said one. “Most of my career of 30 years was spent in organizations of 100,000 employees or more. At 51, being older and with a broad experience, I am disappointed to find that my organization has lost interest in developing my skills or promoting me.”

No matter the company size, businesspeople want to trust their leaders and ultimately to be left alone to deliver for them.

Chuck Martin is a best-selling business book author whose latest book, SMARTS (Are We Hardwired for Success?) (AMACOM/American Management Association), was recently published. He lectures around the world and can be reached at