You might have seen the Gallup statistics that show that one out of two workers say they are "not engaged" with their job, while another 17 percent say they are "actively disengaged."

Even if you haven't seen these numbers, evidence of employee disengagement often stares you right in the face in the form of those farewell emails that pop-up in your inbox each week.

Everyone leaves their employer for a different reason, of course, and the reasons for quitting are often multifaceted and complicated. But rather than do an inventory of all the possible reasons why someone would leave their company, why not instead look at the reasons people stay? 

Beyond the money--important as that is--what motivates someone to invest so much of herself into her job and her company; gives her a sense of professional and personal fulfillment; and makes her want to stick around?

Here are six things that people are really looking for from their job:

1. Meaning.

Good novels--the ones that make you want to turn the page again and again until you reach the end--are the ones that tell stories with a deeper meaning, or "theme" as it's called by those who pursue the craft. Everyone is living their own story, and are looking to connect what they do to a deeper meaning. Everyone is trying to discover the theme that ties everything together in their life. Especially given how people spend the majority of their waking hours with their colleagues--time that is not spent with their loved ones--what makes all that time meaningful?

Companies that can help its people answer this question stand a better chance of inspiring them and keeping them on board. 

2. Challenge.

Work is a powerful platform for people to learn new skills and ideas, to stretch their potential, and to become better versions of themselves. People want to grow professionally and personally. But to grow, they need to have the opportunity tackle new challenges and solve new problems, they need to be stretched and tested. 

Give your people opportunities to learn new skills, meet new people, and explore new ways to contribute, or see them get bored, disengaged, and burned out.

3. Autonomy.

People want to have a sense of agency in what they do. They want to feel like they're the masters of their professional fate, because so much of their personal fate rests on what they do at work. Autonomy--the freedom to make choices and to be held accountable for them--is what many people want. 

4. Visibility.

Nothing is more demoralizing than when a person puts in the work and doesn't get the credit they deserve. Worse is when someone takes the credit for the work that they did. Visibility is about giving public recognition inside the company--and sometimes outside the company--for a job well done. Visibility can often be a more powerful motivator than a pay rise or a bump up in bonus (as welcome as that always is).

5. Equity.

Everyone is different. Each person contributes differently in a company. And people know when they're treated unfairly. Companies that treat people unfairly--offering one employee a private office while making others hot desk in an open plan seating arrangement; or paying people differently despite their comparable skills, qualifications, and contributions--just make it that much more likely to lose the very people they want to keep.

6. Authenticity.

So much of our lives is spent in the office, away from home, where we can unwind and be ourselves. Why do most companies make it so hard for people to just be themselves, to not be ashamed of who they are and what their personal preferences are? Perhaps as much as meaning, people crave the chance to be their authentic selves. Hiding behind a mask, lying, and otherwise acting deceitfully about one's true self is uncomfortable, demeaning, and demoralizing.

It's not really that hard to discover what employees really want. It does, however, require a lot of talking--and even more listening. 

Thanks for reading. This article also appeared on LinkedIn.

Published on: Oct 20, 2017