As business owners, do we reward loyal employees to stay the course, or is jumping ship the way to get ahead? And if it's the latter, is this a business model for success or failure?

As the CEO of my online marketing company, VerticalResponse, I've spent the last 12 years leading and growing our business. We've had employees come and go throughout that journey. As I look at my team today, I'm reminded that there are a fair number of folks who have stuck with us from the early days back when we were packed in a tiny office with a portable air conditioner unit we called "swampthing" to the 28,000-square-foot floor with gorgeous views of downtown and the San Francisco Bay we have today.

But in the world of technology in the Bay Area, being a "lifer" is pretty unusual. Lots of folks are chasing the IPO dream and jump from company to company in pursuit of pay increases, swanky benefits and cashing out before turning 30. So what makes someone stay? I've got a few theories...

It's in Their DNA

Every company has a culture, but on top of that culture is the DNA of the employees that are drawn to it. If you've got a group of employees who 1) are drawn to your company and what you do for the same reasons, and 2) have a shared understanding of your vision and know how their roles affect that, then you're doing something right. And it's these kind of employees that are usually in it for the long haul.

They Like What They Do

In a 2012 Workforce Retention study by the American Psychological Association, 67 percent of Americans cited the reason they stay at their jobs was because "I enjoy the work I do."

Surprised? Pay was down on the charts as the No. 3 reason with 59 percent of respondents.

So do your employees really like what they do? We've got a member of our marketing team who's been with us for more than eight years. She started out on the front lines doing customer support for five years and now serves as our training and education manager. She's a great example of someone who grew with us and has evolved alongside the company. And, she's not just here for the paycheck. She genuinely likes what she does, loves the people she works with and knows how her role counts in what we are trying to do for our customers. Could she leave and make more money somewhere else? Maybe. But the point is, she is happy, contributing and valued here and she knows it.

It Fits With Their Lifestyle

David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, says, "Americans spend a majority of their waking hours at work and, as such, they want to have harmony between their job demands and the other parts of their lives."

Coming in a close second to enjoying what they do, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they choose to stay because their jobs fit well with the rest of their lives. Makes sense. 

Creating an environment where employees feel a strong connection to the work they do and having a positive work environment has never been more important. How does that translate for your business? It depends, but could include flexible work arrangements like working at home, or working a flexible schedule. How about unlimited paid time off, or the ability to bring your dog to the office? You have to examine the DNA of your organization and find out what's of value to your team so you can create that environment in genuine and sincere ways that matter to the people who make it tick.

Do you have any examples of why people stay and why they go? I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments.

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