The Importance of the Three ‘R’s…

by Peter Thorpe

What employees want from their job is in stark contrast to what most of their managers think they want…

Back in my consulting days I was once asked to address a group of managers in the travel industry about staff relations.

According to the brief, staff turnover was exceedingly high, especially in the area of experienced travel consultants. Good operators were as scarce as hen’s teeth and head hunting (stealing someone else’s trained consultants) was rife. The emphasis, they said, had to be on retaining existing staff members. Nothing has changed, Retaining has always been cheaper than retraining.

I called my address: ‘The Importance of the Three Rs’. No, not Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmatic but the three most important factors affecting staff loyalty:

  • Recognition
  • Respect and;
  • Reward

And yes, definitely – in that order!


Recognition is without doubt, the most important of the three Rs. More than anything else, when people perform a job well, they like to be told about it. Nothing deflates a staff member more than putting their heart and soul into a job and not being given full credit for it.


The next most important requirement for staff loyalty and retention is respect. People like to be treated with common courtesy and dignity, not talked down to. They also need to feel they are part of the team and that their contribution is important and valued. They need to feel they are involved, not just another number on the payroll.

Only after these basic needs are fulfilled, do staff members turn to the issue of reward – how much you are paying them.

Most managers agreed these were the main areas that needed to be addressed however, very few agreed with the order of importance. In spite of the fact that I had strong evidence to back up my claims,

(in the form of the latest research at the time), my assertions were generally greeted with strong disbelief and a heated debate followed. (Which is probably why I remember it so vividly).

The majority of the managers insisted that their staff members were motivated primarily by monetary factors and while some thought had to be given to the other matters, these were relatively minor.

In the end, I couldn’t convince them otherwise so we agreed to disagree.

The latest research

So, I was not too surprised when I picked up my newspaper a few days later and read the most recent research on the topic from leading recruitment firm, Morgan & Banks. Their survey covered approximately 2,000 people from a broad cross section of Australian industries and guess what?

When employees were asked to place in order of importance, what they wanted most from their job – full appreciation for work done, came in at number one, closely followed by – feeling in on things (#2).

Good wages came in at number 5, behind – sympathetic understanding of personal problems (#3) and – job security (#4).

Interestingly, when asked what they thought employees wanted from their job, most managers rated salaries as the number one concern. In fact, research has shown that in surveys around the world over the past 50 years, little has changed in this regard. In short, it seems most managers just don’t get it. Maybe they don;t want to?

A current international report from the Sloan Business School’s Management Review, has shown that when questioned as to what gave them the most meaning and purpose in their jobs, interviewees rated, ‘opportunity to express their full potential’ and ‘being associated with an ethical organisation’ as the main factors.

Communication breakdown

So, why do managers continue to get it wrong? According to John Banks, Director of Morgan & Banks, these findings indicate a growing communication breakdown between management and employees.

Managers need to pay more attention to the emotional and psychological needs of their staff, rather than assuming they can be fulfilled or overridden simply by monetary factors and promotional opportunities.

Does this mean to say you don’t need to pay good staff well?

No, not at all. Generally speaking, if you pay peanuts, you still get monkeys! It simply means that in the eyes of employees, there is more to life than just money.