The Many Faces of Retention Challenges

How to strategically consider employee needs.

What motivates someone’s job satisfaction and what triggers their job dissatisfaction are two different sets of factors. Herzberg’s model divides job-related factors into Hygiene Factors and Motivators. Hygiene factors, such as salary, work conditions, and company policies, do not necessarily motivate, but their absence can cause dissatisfaction. Conversely, motivators like achievement, recognition, and personal growth lead to job satisfaction, but their absence does not typically result in dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors can be related to the lower physiological levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, while the motivators translate to Maslow’s higher-level human needs of love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment. In this article, we look at current trends in employee attitudes and how integrating Hertzberg’s and Maslow’s theories can help companies revise their blueprint for retaining employees and building a thriving and resilient workforce.

Not Motivated? Or Dissatisfied?

Herzberg’s Model
Path to Satisfaction-Motivators Path to Dissatisfaction-Hygiene factors
Recognition: Acknowledging employees’ achievements. Company Policies: Inflexible or unfair policies.
Work Itself: Providing meaningful and engaging work. Supervision: Poor management practices.
Responsibility: Empowering employees with decision-making authority. Relationship with Supervisors and Peers: Toxic work environment.
Advancement: Offering career growth opportunities. Work Conditions: Unsafe or uncomfortable physical conditions.
Personal Growth: Facilitating professional development. Salary: Inadequate compensation.


Retention in Context can be Complex.

To put this in real-world context, let’s consider fictional scenarios with Alex, a skilled laborer, Jordan, a mid-level manager, and Sam, a financial professional in a healthcare system.

  1. Alex has been working in telecom infrastructure for five years. He is known for his hands-on expertise and problem-solving skills. Alex’s contribution to his company is substantial – he’s played a crucial role in several significant projects. However, he’s considering a change due to a lack of advanced training opportunities and career advancement. He wants to settle down and have a family but is concerned about earnings. He’s also noticed some of his colleagues embracing the recent “Act Your Wage” mentality on the job.


  1. Working in a manufacturing environment for ten years, Jordan has grown through the ranks to become a mid-level manager. While in her earlier years, she was instrumental in her team’s high morale and productivity, she was flummoxed by the departure of several employees who became dissatisfied after returning to the office post-pandemic. Lately, she can relate to feeling underappreciated and is considering moving to a company with better recognition programs and career development options.


  1. Sam has spent a decade in a healthcare system, contributing significantly to the financial strategy and stability of the organization. Her departure would mean the loss of a skilled employee and a dent in the intricate network of professional relationships she’s cultivated. Sam’s reason for potential departure is a lack of work-life balance and flexible working options.


Alex, Jordan, and Sam have expressed issues that include indicators of both lack of satisfaction and being on the path to dissatisfaction. Recent trends such as The Great Resignation, “quiet quitting” and the “act your wage” movement spreading across social media highlight a shift in employee attitudes. Workers increasingly prioritize job satisfaction and self-fulfillment over traditional metrics like job security and salary. This shift underscores a growing emphasis on Herzberg’s motivators and the upper levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Companies will need to make sure they cover all the bases.

Essential Retention Strategies for 2024

Foundational Needs: Competitive Salary and Safe Working Conditions

  • Be sure that your salary is competitive within your industry and that your employees can afford the cost of living in the local area, especially if you expect them to be onsite at least some of the time.
  • While safety is an obvious need, communicate on-the-job risks and train employees in safety protocols. Do people know what to do in the event of an emergency? Also, do not overlook psychological safety. It’s essential to ensure that the workplace is inclusive and welcoming to communities of different backgrounds, races, genders, and sexual orientations.

Recognition and Reward

Employees are seeking both social recognition and financial rewards. When a worker’s responsibility increases, compensation should be adjusted accordingly. You risk losing top performers if pay does not align with your competition.

Flexible Scheduling and Promoting Work-Life Balance

Flexible scheduling and even reducing work hours can increase productivity and retention. Employees are expressing the need to unplug when not working, and for employers to respect time away from work.  Boundaries help promote work-life balance.

Support to reduce burnout and wellness programs

2020 Gallup report found these top five concerns driving burnout:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Unclear communication from management
  4. Lack of manager support
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

Burnout doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution; it requires digging into the culture, improving communications, and successfully integrating a supportive team environment. Wellness offerings that address mental health can be a valuable part of demonstrating that you care about stress, burnout, and the well-being of your employees.

The Bottom Line on Employee Retention 

Employee turnover does have financial implications, and if root issues go unaddressed, it can tear the fabric of your organization. By providing for fundamental human needs, you address the drivers of dissatisfaction. Then, you can turn your attention towards the motivators that sustain higher-level needs. In the workplace, fulfillment often translates into feeling like part of a team and making a difference through the work or by interacting with others. Respect, recognition, and freedom become not simply nice-to-haves but employee must-haves.

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