For most businesses today, one of the few sustainable competitive advantages available is the quality of the people they can get, grow, and keep on their team. Even if you make a fantastic product or deliver an excellent service, it is your people who make those products or deliver those services. As a billionaire I once worked for told me when I asked him for the secret to business success, “it’s all about people, people, people. You can kid yourself about a lot of stuff in your business, but everything comes down to having the best people.”


For several years I have served as a leadership instructor and executive coach for some of the top companies in the world and top employees in those companies. These folks are what I call “voluntary employees.” They are so good at what they do that if they decided they didn’t like their job, they could quit and have a job at the competition within hours. A few years ago, I sent a survey to several thousand of these high potential employees and asked them, “Why do you work where you work?” I figured if these people could work any place they wanted to, why did they choose that specific company? Their responses outlined six clear answers:


1. Fair Pay.

This was defined as 10% above or below what they would make doing the same job at any other company. As long as they got parity on pay, it came off the table as a significant motivator.


2. Challenging Work.

These are incredibly bright people who want to go to work every day and feel that they are being stretched and challenged to deliver outstanding work that is also interesting and meaningful. They don’t work just for a paycheck, they work for a purpose.


3. Cool Colleagues.

A-players only want to play with other A-players. One of the major things that attract top talent is the opportunity to work with other impressive colleagues. On the other side of the coin, one of the things that chase away top talent is being frustrated by being surrounded by mediocre colleagues.


4. Winning Culture.

Great employees want to work in a company with a great culture. According to the Gallup organization, there are basically nine factors in creating and sustaining a high-engagement culture:

a. It is a fun place to work.

b. It has a real family atmosphere.

c. I considered the people at work my friends, some of them my best friends.

d. I am treated fairly by the organization.

e. I have the freedom to do my job without being micromanaged.

f. I take pride in the organization I work for.

g. I am provided some sort of genuine, honest, and sincere praise once every 7 to 10 days.

h. My work is meaningful.

i. I feel like I accomplish things at work. I’m not just on a treadmill.


5. Personal and Professional Growth.

Highly talented employees need to feel that they are personally growing every month at their job. They need to look back and see that they have learned new skills, increased their abilities, and are constantly learning and improving. Also, the employees need to know that there is a place for them 5 to 7 years down the road. If they feel like they are not growing and learning or that there is no career path for them within the organization, they will leave as soon as they can.


6. Leader I Respect and Admire.

Interestingly, many of the folks I talked to said this was the most important criteria. A company may not do exceedingly well on the other five, but if a talented person feels like they work for someone they trust, respect and admire, it gives them a great sense of satisfaction in delivering superior work for that person. Alternatively, 88% of people quit a job, do not quit the job, the pay, the hours, the workload – they left their immediate supervisor because they do not respect or admire them. A recent study I read said that 55% of lost revenues in a company are due to poor leadership.


If you understand that your company’s future depends on the quality of the people on your team. I suggest that you make talent acquisition, talent development, and talent retention a strategic objective in your business. Remember: The number one factor in engaged, satisfied, and loyal customers– is engaged, satisfied, and loyal employees.


“The customer’s experience will never exceed the employee’s experience.”

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