What employees really want

Sometimes, it’s like employees and their employers are speaking in different tongues.

If Hollywood would just produce a movie entitled, “What Employees Want,” starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, perhaps we’d gain some insight. As employers, we think we know what employees want, when in reality, what tops their list of wants lurks at the bottom of ours.

In his book, “The Heart of Coaching,” Thomas Crane highlights differences in the perception of what managers and employees see as the most important motivators.

What employees want What employers think employees want

1. Recognition for a job well done 1. Good wages

2. Understanding attitude 2. Job security

3. Feeling involved in something 3.Promotion and growth

4. Job security 4. Good working conditions

5. Good salary 5. Interesting work

6. Interesting work 6.Loyalty from managers

7. Promotion and growth 7. Tactful discipline

8. Loyalty from superiors 8. Appreciation

9. Good working conditions 9. Understanding attitude

10. Discreet discipline 10. Feeling “in” on things

Clients and business associates of our company, GREENCREST, have their own ideas about employee retention.

We try to make our employees’ lives easier,” explains Frank Voytko, managing partner of Hausser + Taylor and managing director of American Express Central Ohio offices. “Instead of controlling how many hours our associates work to get the job done, we control the number of hours they work so that we can increase their quality of life and keep them from burning out.”

Voytko’s philosophy has worked well for his accounting, audit and tax firm. In the last three years, it has turned over only two professional staff members, both of whom left due to spousal relocations.

“We try to create a comfortable, professional work environment for our employees and keep them on jobs with good clients,” he says. “For our younger associates, we help them with tuition for the additional hours they need to sit for their exam. We look toward the long term.”

“We help companies reduce risk and provide the necessary training to get the employee and employer off to a great start,” states Bob Molter, co-owner of Strategic Resource Partners, a human resource company specializing in hiring and training college graduates.

Molter and co-owner Michael McBride have an employer success rate of 90 percent. Their formula for success involves profiling the job before looking for an employee to fill the position, providing a trial period to see if there is a good fit culturally, ethically and attitudinally, and training and mentoring every new employee so he or she knows how to function within an organization.

“We call the process the ultimate interview,” Molter says. “Obviously, this method cannot work for every new hire, but it is a great way to hire new college graduates. We’ve been told by employers that our leadership and mentoring program saves two years of learning on the job. That alone is some real savings.”

Don’t hire people for more money,” advises Chris DeCapua, vice president of family-owned Dawson Personnel Services. “It might mask the real reason someone might want to work for you — and if they come to work for you for the right reason, the money will come.”

If candidates don’t respond to an offer, call back when they say they will, or ask too many questions about benefits, DeCapua feels it sends up a red flag.

“Only hire people that are truly excited about joining your company,” he says. “The relationship starts with the interview … Know the person’s name, let them know you care, that you’re involved and hands-on. Involve yourself in the hiring and orientation. Extend the offer yourself so that you can gauge the person’s reaction. Then reinforce that person’s decision to join your company every day.”

Dawson has virtually no turnover of staff that it desires to keep on its team.

Here’s more of DeCapua’s formula for successful hiring and employee retention:

* Let people know how important they are from the first telephone call to schedule the interview.

* Ask candidates about their best and worst job experience — you’ll learn something about the preferred cultural characteristics and what motivates them.

* Create a unique work environment.

* Focus on core tasks rather than on who was or wasn’t at work on time.

* Don’t be afraid to be human — let employees know who you are.

* Create an environment in which employees want to share their career aspirations with you.

* Reward and surprise employees with bonuses, gifts and recognition.

* Constantly remind them that you can’t do it without them.

Recognition goes a long way in motivating employees, according to national survey results released early this year.

Thirty-eight percent of financial executives polled in the survey, developed by Accountemps, said that, other than monetary rewards, frequent recognition of accomplishments is the best way to encourage staff members.

Bill Hagerty, partner in charge of executive recruiting for Cincinnati-based accounting firm Burke & Co., wrote in an article for CPA Advocate, “People feel undervalued and underappreciated, and it’s not because of their salary or benefits. The key to retention and performance is consistent recognition of a job well done. People work for people, not companies, and they work hardest and commit to succeeding for people who consistently recognize and reward them for exhibiting this commitment.”

The Bureau of National Affairs calculates that the national rate of turnover averaged 1.2 percent of an employer’s work force per month in 1999. The Saratoga Institute believes that an average turnover figure for companies is one times the cost of the employee’s salary and benefits.

The Facts Survey on Employee Turnover conducted by William Mercer shows that 55 percent of companies surveyed estimate the cost of turnover at $10,000 per person or less, with 10 percent calculating the cost at more than $40,000 per person.

Habits like consistent recognition, a little understanding and encouraging employees to get involved only cost a little of your time. Weigh the investment.

Follow the advice of leading Central Ohio entrepreneurs who have succeeded in attracting employees and keeping them. There is no time like the present to get started. How to reach: Frank Voytko, Hausser + Taylor, 224-7722; Bob Molter, Strategic Resource Partners, 825-0678; Chris DeCapua, Dawson Personnel Systems, 923-9675; Bill Hagerty, Burke & Co., (513) 455-8200

Kelly Borth is president of GREENCREST. Reach her at 885-7921 or [email protected].