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What Motivates and Drives Away Great Employees?

Is hiring holding you back? You are not alone!

Author: Jeremy Harrison

November 10, 2021

Part 2 of 2 in the series “Two Keys to Attract Great Workers that Won’t Leave”

Is hiring holding you back? You are not alone!  

In Part One of this two-part series, we talked about How to Eliminate the ‘Now Hiring’ Mindset from your hiring strategy. Everybody is hiring at the moment, so if you make it too much about your company and the job, you will fail to capture the attention of the ideal workers you really want to reach. 

Here in Part Two, we will put ourselves in the shoes of those ideal workers and learn some things that will help you recruit AND retain more effectively.

  • What motivates great people to apply for your job openings? 
  • What drives away great employees?

You will get free access to a planning tool we use at Spire to help you answer these questions so you not only attract great new workers, but also improve your own retention. 

I hear a lot of people say this… 
“There just aren’t enough good workers out there.”

You might believe this too, and that’s okay. I know great workers aren’t lining up for job openings in most companies.  

But here’s another way to think about it… 

There are amazing workers out there who would love your job—people who are in a bad place, and a job at your company could solve a lot of problems in their life. But many of these folks aren’t looking. Not yet. 

So who are these people?  And how can we get their attention? 

Many workers are unhappyMany are unhappy in their current job.
Do you know anybody who hates their job? Of course you do. Just because the majority of people are employed, doesn’t mean they are happily employed. Many are unhappy, unappreciated, or feel disrespected or just plain stuck in their current job.

Other workers are in life transitionOthers are facing life or family transitions.
It could be a difficult family shift like a divorce or loss of spouse. It could be an empty-nest parent—their children have grown up and moved out, and they are ready for a new challenge. Maybe it’s someone who needs to move from part-time to full-time or they need to work a different shift than they have right now.

Others are simply bored and need a changeOthers may simply be bored and need the motivation to shake things up and try something new.

But even if they are downright miserable in their current job, some may hesitate to consider a change. Why? Because people often resist change, even when they need it. Change is scary. Changing jobs is a major life disruption, and many people won’t consider it until there’s significant pain. 

There are two major things that cause people to consider making a change.

Moving toward pleasure and away from pain

    1. Moving toward Pleasure – The “toward” group are people who are motivated by the prospect of something positive in a new work setting. Maybe it’s better pay or benefits, a great company culture, or a challenging job.
    2. Moving away from PainFor someone to make a change, there often needs to be pain. So the “away” motivator is much more compelling.  For example, someone may suddenly decide to quit a job or decide to start looking for a new job based on: 
  • a toxic relationship with a co-worker that seems hopeless 
  • a boss that seems to disrespect them or doesn’t appreciate them 
  • the feeling that they aren’t going to be able to keep advancing 
  • the fear that job security is at stake 

When people are considering changing something in their lives to apply for your job, they are highly motivated by these “toward” and “away” factors. 

We found 9 major areas where you can find powerful “toward” and “away” motivators related to employment. If you can understand these factors and empathize with them, you will make it easier to ATTRACT new workers, but just as important, to AVOID LOSING existing workers.  

STEP ONE: Download the Worksheet

To figure this out, download our 2-page worksheet. We use it as a first step with our clients who need help with hiring and retention. The worksheet will help you quickly find what motivates employees, and what drives them away. 

STEP TWO: Learn from Your Best Employees

Think about the best workers you have on your team, the people you wish you could clone. You know who they are. Consider what their situation looked like before they came to work for you. What were they moving away from? What were they moving toward? If you aren’t sure, take them to lunch and put this worksheet in front of them. You will learn a lot from hearing their stories. 

STEP THREE: Think about Good People You Have Lost

You have probably lost some good people over the years. Use the same worksheet you downloaded in step one to think about what motivated them to leave. What were they moving toward? Even more importantly, what were they moving away from? If you start to notice patterns that drive good people away, you need to fix those. This step takes some vulnerability and perhaps some difficult conversations, but it’s so important. 

IMPORTANT: Pay is rarely the #1 reason you lose an employee.
I think a lot of employers are intimidated by pay. Ask an employee why they are leaving, and they might tell you that they are getting a bump in pay. That is an easy thing for an employee to tell their employer, but it is almost NEVER the main reason you lose an employee.  

The other factors on the worksheet—especially the things they are moving away from—are extremely powerful factors, and the better you can understand them, the more effective you will be at not only retaining workers, but also building a company that attracts new workers. 

STEP FOUR: Work These “away” and “toward” Factors into Your Hiring Strategy

Now it’s time to revisit the work you did in Part One of this article. Look at your job posting once again. What can you include in your job posting that will move people toward your job opening?  How can you help them realize that you “get” them and you understand what they wish they could move away from?

When you download the 2-page worksheet, I’ll include five examples of “before and after” stories you can tell that will help you drive more job applicants. 

Here’s 1 of the 5 example “Before & After Stories” I’ll share:

Hiring Before & After Story Example

This one is based on someone whose “before” state was feeling stuck and the “after” was having opportunities to grow. Each of the five examples in the worksheet focus on a different set of before and after motivators, and you will find your own stories when you think about the people who love working for your company. 

Remember, there are amazing workers out there who would love working for you. To reach them, the old “Now Hiring” ad just won’t cut it. You need to speak to prospective workers at a deeper level.

  • Focus on the intangible things they’ll get working for you.  
  • Think about the things you can help them move away from. 
  • Tell “Before and After Stories” that help them envision making their work situation better. 

When you do this, I think you will be surprised at the results. We’ve seen it work here at Spire and for a wide variety of clients, from fast food chains, assisted living facilities, trucking companies, manufacturers and more.

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