Companies on Fortune's list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For are known for their outstanding benefits, strong employee development programs, fun workplace cultures, and much more. And, voluntary turnover at these companies is, on average, approximately 50% of that seen by their non-list industry peers.
However, of all the factors that comprise a great workplace, the ones that are most closely associated with employees’ belief that they want to work at the company “for a long time” are actually unrelated to perks, development opportunities, or even fair pay and profit sharing.
New research from this year’s list shows that an employee’s belief that “My work has special meaning: this is not ‘just a job’” tops the list of distinguishing factors associated with the desire to stay, followed by the belief that “I make a difference here,” and “When I look at what we accomplish, I feel a sense of pride.”
This tells us that when it comes to retaining talent, inspiring a sense of purpose and meaning at work are key issues employers should attend to.
While it can be challenging to inspire a sense of purpose and meaning across an entire company, the 100 Best Companies achieve this goal in many creative ways—one of which is to connect employees to the end customer.
For example, at Genentech, enormous banners featuring the patients who have a better quality of life—thanks to the drugs Genentech produces—grace the sides of buildings. These serve as visual reminders of the impact employees have as a result of their work. Genentech’s voluntary turnover rate last year was just 4%—a small fraction of the 25.8% average turnover rate over the same period in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In another example, Riot Games, which saw 7.9% voluntary turnover rate last year, sponsors trips to gaming conventions so employees can meet the players of the company’s video games face-to-face.
More than 40 years ago, Studs Terkel wrote in Working: "Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread,” a sentiment that rings true as loudly today than it ever has. And as the workplace becomes increasingly remote and digitized, finding that daily meaning may prove to be more and more challenging. However, given the positive impact these efforts have, it’s a challenge that’s well worth taking on.
Jessica Rohman is Director of Content at Great Place to Work, a global research and consulting firm that is Fortune's partner for the annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.
See the full list of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For at fortune.com/bestcompanies, where you can also find job searching tips, career advice, and secrets from recruiters on how to get hired.