Employee-Centered Job Design as a Way to Create Meaningful Work Experiences and Retain Employees

The US economy continues to do well and the unemployment rate continues to decline. Healthcare and information technology will feel the most acute talent shortage. What can you do to motivate and retain your key talent?

A recent Korn Ferry survey of 4,900 professionals found that the number one reason professionals want to switch jobs is because they are bored at work (33%). In contrast, only 19% of respondents reported higher salaries as a reason for changing job.

This result is not surprising. Our research with our clients consistently finds that doing challenging and interesting work and having opportunities for development are two key drivers of employee engagement. Pay is a hygiene factor that is needed to keep employees from feeling dissatisfied but not a motivating factor.

These findings hold across the board. For example, Facebook found that many of their employees quit because they were not doing enjoyable work anymore, that their strengths were not being used, or they were not growing professionally.

As a manager, what can you do to motivate your employees? One strategy is to consciously take an employee-centered approach and design work activities around their strengths and interests instead of asking employees to fit into a pre-designed role.

What can you do as a manager to become more employee-centered?

Get to know your employees. This sounds simple but is often overlooked. In a world where performance, metrics, and results are emphasized, managers don’t always take the time to get to know their employees. Find opportunities for informal interactions and conversations to understand what ignites the passion of your employees. Work with your employees to design jobs that fit their passions and support company goals.

Create a safe environment for employees to share their ideas and passions. Encourage employees to share with you and your team what gets them excited at work and at home. Doing so will enable you to get to know your employees and most importantly to discover their strengths and interests. How can employees incorporate some of their passions into their day-to-day work? Can you redesign the job or create a new role that would include your employees’ passion as an element of their work?

Try a pilot program on co-designing the work to be done. Run a pilot program or a mini hackathon for co-designing job roles. Collaborate with your employees to co-design their roles in a way that recognizes their strengths and accomplish project goals.

Be ready to let your employees shine elsewhere. Are there opportunities within your larger organization that would let your employees shine? Be ready to release this employee to other teams where the jobs or projects are a better fit for their passions and development needs.

Sometimes it is difficult to let go of a high performer. However, if managers and leaders were evaluated by how well they groom their talent instead of how well they meet their stated goals by hoarding their best performers, the company will benefit from internal talent growth and reduced employee turnover.

In Summary

The quest for meeting or exceeding performance goals is real, but hoarding high performers is not a solution. You will only make them feel bored, under challenged, and eventually they will leave. The cost of employee turnover is significant. Consider an employee-centered approach to designing work that will unleash employee passion and strengths instead.