How to increase retention (without increasing pay)

Dr Jodi O'Dell Engage increase retentionWithin this article Dr Jodi O’Dell explores what organisations should focus on to increase retention.  Jodi will also explore the link with wellbeing.

Staff retention – losing staff hurts

Staff retention is a hot topic for many reasons, the main one being money.  The commercial impact of losing talent is huge. For many sectors 3 times salary would be a conservative estimate.  Typically, the more senior, the costlier. Rehiring, retraining, on-boarding, knowledge drain, talent void etc…

Ironically, increasing pay is not the solution. It has been well documented that pay has limited impact on retention.  The more important question to ask is what impacts motivation?


‘Motivation and commitment are key to retention’


Motivation to stay and emotional commitment have far more relevant consequences for staff retention than financial gain. The more organisations can foster emotional commitment the more likely they are to keep staff.

When we are happy and motivated we are more productive, we go the extra mile, we choose to stay because we want to.  So, what is emotional commitment and how do organisations foster it?

Increase retention by fostering emotional commitment

Emotional commitment refers to ‘intrinsic’ drivers (internal motivation), which create feelings of loyalty and attachment.  You might think of this as a psychological bond to the organisation.  In contrast, ‘extrinsic’ drivers (external motivation) refer to things in our external environment which motivate, or demotivate us, e.g. work environment, pay, benefits, etc.

Typically, intrinsic drivers are stronger motivators than extrinsic drivers.  So, how do we foster emotional commitment?


‘Intrinsic drivers are stronger motivators than extrinsic drivers’


The evidence shows that there are different things that will impact how emotionally connected we feel.  Relationships with our boss and peers, fairness, autonomy, organisational culture, feelings of control and psychological contract are amongst the things that can affect this.  Organisations that pay attention to these factors are more likely to create loyal staff.

Asking people is usually a good start. As Richard Branson says;

 increase retention - richard branson

There are other aspects which can increase motivation at the ‘intrinsic’ level, including confidence and openness.  The more confident we feel and the more open we are to possibilities, the more empowered we become.  Empowered staff are more likely to stay.


‘Empowered staff are more likely to stay’


So, what is the link between wellbeing and retention?  And, what do we mean by wellbeing?


The wellbeing and retention link

Like most things there are many definitions.  My definition of wellbeing takes a psychological stance and includes; ‘taking care of the mental health, satisfaction and welfare of staff’.

This involves supporting staff to be emotionally resilient, so they are more effective at dealing with pressure at work.  When staff are less resilient in dealing with pressure, mental health, happiness and ultimately, retention is negatively impacted.

However, building resilience is only part of the puzzle.


‘Building resilience is only part of the puzzle’


Organisations must also pay attention to the environmental factors which create pressure for people at work. These include lack of management support, lack of control, or say over their work, work demands, relationship conflict etc.  Focussing parallel attention on both is needed.  People need to learn, be equipped, be supported and empowered to manage their own response to pressure better, and organisations need to address and remove the sources of pressure.

Increasing retention – summary

To increase retention foster emotional commitment.  Pay attention to sources of pressure at work and introduce strategies that strengthen resilience.  Equip and empower people to build confidence.  Encourage greater openness. People stay when they are happy. When we feel supported and have opportunities to progress, develop and grow, our motivation to stay increases.

You might be interested in how Engage can support you in retaining your employees. Contact us for more information.




(c) Engage Coach International 2018. All rights reserved. Author:  Dr Jodi O’Dell