Relocation? Moving OnRealignment? Moving DownExploration? Investigating PossibilitiesVertical? Moving UpLateral? Moving AcrossEnrichment? Growing in Place
Home Strategic Talent Systems People Development Practices Individual Career Management

home > client impact: clients | testimonials & case studies | article archives > march2010

About Us
Why Mastery  
Article of the Month

< CLICK HERE to return to the Article of the Month.

Join Us on Facebook Join Us on Facebook!


1. Daniel Pink, “DRIVE: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us,” Riverhead Books, NY, 1989.

2. Fortune, March, 2010, pp 124.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, President of MasteryWorks, is a leading career development authority providing solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Sprint, Lockheed-Martin, and Capitol One. MasteryWorks provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than 30 years, Dr. Farren has been a tireless advocate around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate by more than a decade, when she published the book, “Who is Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. Her strategic approach consistently delivers on employee engagement and retention goals for her clients

Visit or contact Tom Karl, Executive Vice President for more information - or (703) 256-5712.
Article Archives
Keeping Your Best Contributors
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.


We all know that retaining key employees goes hand in hand with the health and success of a company.
Keeping your best contributors matters. We all know that retaining key employees goes hand in hand with the health and success of a company. Among other benefits, retention enhances sales, increases customer satisfaction, builds trust and security in the workforce, maintains knowledge and skills and allows for effective succession planning. Managers and leaders inspire, support and guide key workers to provide their companies with the highest levels of engagement and retention.

Job losses, corporate restructuring and worrisome finances are expected to affect retention levels promising chaotic changes in the coming months. Strategies and tactics must respond to meet the expected changes in organizations. The workforce is far more diverse – multi-cultural, multi-generational, global, technically dissimilar, etc. Motivators leading to high levels of retention are necessarily quite different and often not readily apparent. Career conversations play an important role in retention and should be carefully crafted to assure top performers are motivated to stay. So, how do managers retain their key reports? What should they do? What should they say? How can the organization support them?

What Really Matters
Most agree that engagement and retention walk together hand in hand in the workplace. But employee exit interviews demonstrate remarkable disagreement about what matters in today’s workforce. Employers think that management, culture, and environment are the most important reasons why employees remain. Employees disagree. Right now, they consider financial benefits and compensation, career growth and earnings potential as most important. So, what factors really motivate the best and brightest to stay?

Undoubtedly financial compensation and benefits with growth considerations are critical to retain skilled workers. But if key employee benefits, financial compensation and growth potential are fair and reasonable, then will applying additional incentives and motivators work to engage and retain key workers? A number of organizational behaviorists have demonstrated that additional external incentives and motivators do NOT increase cognitive performance. They may work with repetitive, mechanical skills, but pay for performance narrows the focus with jobs demanding cognitive skills. By that I mean, bonuses, rewards, and other similar carrot and stick approaches aimed at retaining and engaging key cognitive contributors don’t work. They are anachronistic and, in fact, often counterproductive.

What science knows and business doesn’t yet understand is that when you provide key contributors with a level playing field of competitive pay and benefits, additional incentives will not motivate highly productive employees to stay on the job. But if not rewards and bonuses, what motivates key employees to stay and perform at high levels? The answer is - employees perform at the highest levels and stay when their internal motivators are satisfied.

Internal Motivators

Motivation comes from within. Employees are born with gifts of initiative, creativity and passion. Managers can provide insight, guidance and opportunities to place their reports into the right job and career fit. They can find a way to foster the unique gifts of their individual reports, but they need to do more. How can managers keep employees retained, engaged and contributing to the strategic success of their organization at high levels? The answer lies in knowing how to support the internal motivators within each employee.

In his most recent book, DRIVE, Dan Pink asserts there are three intrinsically internal motivators that lead to a high degree of retention and engagement.

  • Autonomy allows top performers to have significant independence and self-direction.
  • Mastery provides top performers with education, training, mentoring and encourages them to be the best at their jobs.
  • Purpose provides worthwhile work with social value to benefit communities and mankind[1].

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
Trust your workers by granting them the independence and time to innovate. Human beings strive for self-transcendence. Even with all of our human follies, there’s a need to go a little bit further than we’ve gone before and maybe even further than anyone else has gone. Old-fashioned pep talks and rah-rah exhortations may work at half time in a basketball game, but will not sustain a passion for work on a continuous daily basis. Speeches about “Involvement,” “Empowerment” and “Self-Direction” are sure to fall on deaf ears if employees aren’t handed a set of their very own keys to choose, expand, participate and execute their own responsibilities and their futures.

Google is a perfect example of an organization that values Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. It is no surprise that they are number 2 on the most admired list from Fortune, March 2010[2].The sovereign of cyberspace operates a paper-thin hierarchy in a broad network of lateral electronic communication. The best and the brightest talent in the world are challenged to break with traditional ideas to innovate and energize on their own. Google splits workers into hundreds of groups on average of three or four people, allowing them as much as 30% of their working time for experimentation, innovation and an open line to corporate senior staff. Google found that independence, competition and innovation provided employees with a path to mastery. Trust and freedom empower employees to test-drive their ideas quickly and inexpensively to see how far they can travel along the path. Many of the projects, Google Dictionary, Google Map, Google Language Translator, once placed on the world wide web, served the organization as well as provided the world with valuable tools. The company’s retention and engagement levels remain among the highest in the industry.

Monthly pay incentives, salary and bonuses may help, but business writer for the Christian Science Monitor, Marilyn Gardner says it’s not enough. “Beyond pay and benefits, [there are] key factors that influence ‘happiness’ at work – factors that motivate workers and keep them at your organization.” Appreciation, respect, and trust top her list. “Trust is the action side of respect,” she writes. “People need guidance, but they need to know that their boss trusts them to be able to get a job done on their own.” She thinks employees - especially GenYers - want to work with competent leaders and managers who they can respect and join co-employees who they enjoy. They want new challenges and increased responsibility. She believes companies retain employees that fit workers’ needs… “where workers feel that they are contributing to something that is worthwhile and where workers have a sense of purpose and pride of accomplishment.” Read more...

Managers’ Keys to Preparing for Retention Conversations
Get started by first putting yourself in the shoes of your employees and anticipate their concerns. It’s more important to anticipate the questions than have all the answers. The object is to create an honest and authentic dialogue with your employees. Organize your career conversations around the ten topics set out below. Dialogue in one area will usually take you to insights in other areas. Follow the flow of the conversation and trust the organic nature of thinking together. Here are some retention and engagement factors in our Retention & Development Indicators. Read more...

How does your organization weigh in?

1. Communicate Your Expectations

Always tell your employee what you expect of him or her. Satisfied employees know what their managers want them to do each and every workday. Changing expectations creates insecurity, stress and breeds poor retention levels. If priorities change, talk with your employees and renegotiate your mutual expectations.

2. Quality of Supervision

Employees walk away from managers and supervisors more often than their jobs or their companies. You are the single most important factor in building, motivating and retaining a highly skilled, professional workforce. Maintain a supportive, creative, and informal atmosphere where you encourage communication, contribution, casual dress, and a fun place to work.

3. Compensation
Provide your contributors with a level playing field of competitive benefits, pay, and growth potential.  Employees should receive comparable compensation packages including base salary, incentives, stock, and benefits, which are transparent, competitive and equitable. Always communicate clearly what your employees can expect for compensation and benefits.

4. Feedback
Give your direct reports honest feedback about their performance and praise them for good work. Employees should regularly receive non-monetary recognition for work and acknowledgement for their contributions through posted achievement boards, senior management visibility, external/technical community recognition, and company awards. A good manager shows the team’s appreciation for a good job with a sincere “thank you” or a short note.

5. Career Talks and Speaking Out
Provide your workers with effective opportunities to speak freely within the organization. Give them a platform to express their thoughts about changing, innovating and improving your products and services. Encourage your reports to discuss their goals and aspirations. Provide career workshops and web-based assessments to employees.

6. Link Employees with Organization Needs
Make sure your reports know that their jobs within the organization are important. Employees should know exactly how they contribute and bring value to the overall organization. Help your people see how their aspirations, talent, goals and passion are in “sync” with the mission, goals and strategies of the organization. Provide your employees with time to work on projects that interest them and that benefit the organization and the community. Always keep your employees aware of and deeply immersed in the mission, vision, and strategies of the organization – keeping them abreast of changing organizational priorities and requirements and how those will impact them.

7. Work and Life Balance
Encourage your employees to lead a balanced work and personal life and assist them with flexible processes and resources such as telecommuting, alternative work schedules, and child and elder care.

8. Provide Opportunities for Learning
Accelerate learning by connecting your reports to mentors, projects, and learning opportunities to help them achieve their goals and support long-term organization strategies.

9. Training and Development Options
Give your employees time to attend classes, tuition aid, access to on-line courses, and on-the-job learning. You should provide employees with on-going mentoring to foster growth and development. Your employees should be encouraged to continue learning and working on projects that build mastery and marketability.

10. Career Advancement and Mobility Options
Make all opportunities for advancement and mobility readily available to your employees, including all of the experience and educational prerequisites to achieve your employees’ aspirations and organizational goals. The process should be transparent. Advocate that the company aggressively support advancement and mobility within the organization.

Retaining key employees goes hand in hand with success. Employers think that management, culture, and environment are among the foremost reasons employees remain; workers now believe financial compensation and benefits are the critical retention factors. When contributors have a level playing field of competitive pay and benefits, additional incentives will not keep top workers performing at any higher levels on the job. Employees are retained and perform at the highest levels when there are internal motivators. The three intrinsically internal motivators that lead to high degrees of retention and engagement are:
(1) autonomy, that allows top performers to have significant independence and self-direction; (2) mastery, which provides top performers with mentoring and training and encourages them to be the best at their jobs; and (3) purpose that provides worthwhile work that has societal value benefiting communities and mankind.

Client Impact
Strategic Partners
Customer Demos
Contact Us
Browse by Services
Toolkits and Portals

Copyright 2014 MasteryWorks, Inc. Privacy Statement
Send Email to a Friend Printer Friendly Version