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Why a competitive salary isn’t incentive enough for your best employees

July 24, 2015, 3:00 PM UTC

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you keep your best employees?” is by Mark Newman, CEO of HireVue.

No one describes his or her favorite job as “the one with the biggest W-2.” Money does play a factor, but people use other language to describe why a job is their favorite: “I love what I’m working on,” “I’m proud of the work we do,” or “I love the people I work with.”

HireVue operates in the brutally competitive tech market so I’m often asked, “How do you keep your best team members?” My answer is simple: provide opportunities to do interesting work and attack new challenges; create a purpose and reason behind each position; and provide great benefits so employees don’t have to worry about basic needs outside of work. It’s not about the cash, snacks or other “here today, gone tomorrow” perks. Providing these three things is the reason we believe HireVue has a lower turnover rate than our software industry peers. Here are deeper explanations as to what’s worked for us:

Help teammates find purpose in their work
When you can connect a specific purpose and meaning to your job it’s no longer ‘just a job’ — it’s your work. As a leader, make an initiative to connect an employee’s role and deliverables to the bigger company-wide mission. For example, our technical support team is made up of millennials who go to great lengths to ensure job candidates taking digital interviews have an amazing experience. Why? Because a job interview is a life-changing experience for many people and we owe it to every candidate to make sure it’s incredible.

Provide opportunities to do interesting work
People need to be fairly compensated — that’s obvious. It’s also obvious that someone else can always pay more. For me, the more effective hook is to challenge employees with interesting work and inspire them to drive a path forward. When I’ve encouraged people to build upon their strengths, and push outside their comfort zone, I find that they instinctively drive toward doing their best work. Inside HireVue, I watched a talented young teammate evolve from a marketing intern, to a full-time marketing coordinator, to strategic alliance manager, to regional sales leader — four distinct positions all within just 24 months.

Empower employees to focus on work
Life happens and people get distracted. So I believe in biting the bullet and investing in great benefits; the return on investment (ROI) of a workforce that can focus on actual work is astonishing. Sixty eight percent of employees can’t focus at work because they’re too busy multitasking between projects, emails and meetings. Pile on worry about personal issues such as healthcare, childcare and student loans, and the distractions can go through the roof. In an era of constant criticism of healthcare costs (i.e., Obamacare) the incremental cost of good healthcare versus bad healthcare is nothing compared to the ROI of keeping and engaging someone great. Flexible schedules, quality healthcare, community service opportunities and work-life integration are crucial to success. For those who want to scrimp and complain, prepare to be exporters of talent.

In an era of transparency, thanks to the likes of Glassdoor and social media, you can’t put your head in the sand and think that you can take advantage of your team. You’ll never win.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you keep your best employees?

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How naysayers could boost your business by Peter Vanderheyden, president of Article One Partners.

What every employee can teach their boss by Carmencita Bua, COO of Continuum.

The secret to keeping your best employees by John Ambrose, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Skillsoft.

5 things ‘Office Space’ can teach you about employee retention by Steve Sims, chief digital officer at Badgeville.

Free food is a poor excuse for company culture by Ryan Smith, CEO and founder of Qualtrics.

What Steve Jobs taught executives about hiring by Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV.

How this ex-Apple executive keeps his employees happy by Bob Borchers, senior vice president and CMO at Dolby Laboratories.

9 ways to recruit extraordinary employees by Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group.

Why this CEO encourages failure in the workplace by Amy Errett, CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed.

Sarah Kauss: Why a pay bump isn’t the answer to employee happiness by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.

The one perk that will guarantee employee happiness by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

The secret to holding on to your best employees by Amit Srivastav, president of Infinite.

3 ways to prevent your employees from quitting by Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair.