Pop quiz: If you were to ask your employees what attributes are most important when considering whether to take a job with a different organization, what would they rate highest?

If you said money or a pay increase of some kind, you would be wrong. In fact, compensation doesn’t even make the top 3.

Gallup recently released the third iteration of their comprehensive employee engagement report titled The State of the American Workplace Report. In it, they share research that employees place highest priority on doing work that aligns with their talents.

In order, employees place the greatest importance on a role and organization that offer them:

  1. The ability to do what they do best
  2. Greater work-life balance and better personal well-being
  3. Greater stability and job security
  4. A significant increase in income
  5. The opportunity to work for a company with a great brand or reputation

[Source: The State of the American Workplace Report (2016 Report), Clifton. (2017) Gallup]

As a leader, you must ask yourself then, if this is true, what else is true? For starters, it means that your most talented employees are more likely to leave if they aren’t getting a chance to use their strengths on the job. Also true is that workers expect and seek out more balance between work and non-work hours than ever before.

In other words, if you aren’t actively holding conversations about your employees’ strengths, aren’t collaborating with them to put those strengths to use with greater frequency, and aren’t making sure the workload and/or schedule for each person is reasonable from week to week, then you are driving talent away, perhaps without even knowing it.

For decades, leaders have continued to fall into the trap of believing that what employees crave most is more money. What employees truly desire, it turns out, is getting to do work that aligns with their interests, talents, skills, and strengths. The most effective bosses spend time taking an inventory of these areas with individual employees, then tailoring their work experiences and roles as much as possible in response.

Want to retain your best talent? Want to reward your superstar workers? Then start exploring the unique gifts they bring to the workplace and engineer ways for them to use these gifts more often. While you’re at it, evaluate their level of work-life balance and look for ways to customize their workload, schedule, or responsibilities for better personal well-being.

Joe Mull, M.Ed, is a leadership trainer and keynote speaker. He works with healthcare organizations that want their practice leaders to engage, inspire, and succeed. To learn more or bring Joe to your site, visit www.joemull.com.