The Secrets to Attracting, Retaining, and Motivating Great Employees

By Carrie Vruno, John Duisberg, and Josh McAfee

The market has been roiling and it’s crushing some companies when it comes to attracting, keeping, and motivating top talent. Even when things flip again, elements of the new normal won’t be going away. The mindset of workers has shifted fundamentally. They’re placing a higher priority on their own happiness and wellbeing with an emphasis on the employee experience and company culture. 

What will leaders need to consider to attract and retain the best candidates and keep their companies growing?

Carrie Vruno, Chief Accounting Officer at Purchasing Power, and John Duisberg, Co-Founder of Cooleaf, sat down with Josh McAfee, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Humans Doing, to troubleshoot what business leaders can do to make them more competitive and get the most out of their people.  

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Since the end of Covid lockdowns and quarantining, many leaders have had to consider how work environments have changed. Jobs that were once done in an office found new life as remote positions through the pandemic. Our ability to communicate and collaborate virtually improved immensely over the last couple of years. 

Now some companies are requiring people to come back to the office just for the sake of coming back into the office without thinking through the impact on employees. Carrie encourages leaders to have open and candid discussions when considering new ways of working. This type of environment helps foster an appealing balance between the needs of the business and evolving expectations of employees.  How has your company handled those conversations?

Gassing Them Up

One of the biggest causes of consternation when it comes to going back to the office is the significant increase in travel costs. Carrie and the team at Purchasing Power have found that employees greatly appreciate help at the gas pump. Depending on how often someone comes into the office and their salary level, their workers are being provided with gas cards. This has a real impact on whether someone can afford to pay their rent or commute to the office. How much anxiety would this seemingly small gesture relieve for your employees?

Bringing Everyone Together

Some companies have approached remote workers very differently. John has seen a noticeable positive impact on employee experience when business leaders make the effort to host in-person events that enable coworkers to meet and get to know each other. 

They’ll organize regional local gatherings that bring people together, making them feel like they’re part of a team. Though it’s expensive to book venues and fly people around the country, the employees see that the company is willing to invest that money in them. That human connection piece has significant value, making individual employees feel like they’re not working in isolation. Have you considered a similar approach to creating that connection among your team members?

Employee Retention Performance Development HR Recruiting Recruiter Leadership ManagerUnderstanding the Why

When you’re mired in the thick of strategy and focusing on the numbers, it can be easy to lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. When leadership consistently communicates why the company exists and what the mission and purpose is, employees will feel their part of something that matters. John recently read a statistic revealing that almost half of GenZ won’t even work for a company if they don’t align with their mission and values. (1)

You may want to consider leveraging a practice similar to what Carrie sees at Purchasing Power. They start off key meetings by reminding everyone that their mission is to empower people to a better life and then review how many customers they helped do that, focusing on what impact the company had on its customers. What are you doing to keep the mission front and center for your employees and ensure new hires know their work is meaningful?

Nickel and Diming 

Recently, one CEO decided to haggle over a relatively small amount in salary and it resulted in huge losses for them. Josh was helping them recruit for a key position on a critical team. They’d gotten into the final rounds of negotiation with a candidate that was asking for $150,000. This CEO was stalling over $3,500, which ends up being less than $300 a month. 

Ultimately, the highly qualified candidate took a better opportunity elsewhere and the client saved themselves $1,500 in recruiting fees by settling for a new hire that wasn’t as qualified. After massive issues with the team, four employees resigned and they had to shell out an additional $60,000 in replacement fees. That kind of penny wise, but pound foolish situation is all too common. Was it really worth it? 

Making the Effort

You wouldn’t expect the CEO of a 200 person company to take the time to create personalized notes for candidates, but that’s exactly what Josh found one company leader doing. Every Monday morning, he and his assistant dedicate a little bit of time to looking over the resumes of anyone lined up for interviews that week. He records a short video message for each of them that says he appreciates their time and the company is excited to have the candidate come in for their upcoming interview. 

That 15-20 minute investment of his time results in candidates and new hires that are more enthusiastic and engaged. It has a major beneficial impact on their company culture and employee experience. The negligible time taken by that CEO has directly resulted in new hires that are more invested in maintaining a positive company culture. Would you be willing to set aside 15 minutes a week to get that kind of result?

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Knowing what current salary expectations are is only part of the equation. Josh recently worked with a candidate that took a job paying $20,000 LESS simply because that company gave him personal attention and treated him as a whole person, not just a tool. 

Companies that are consistently facilitating conversations, offering training and development opportunities, and providing measurable steps to the next levels have noticeably higher retention rates and productivity. Are you creating that intentionality around employee centered growth and values?  

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Most companies do exit interviews, but by then it’s too late. That employee has already made the decision to leave. Carrie suggests implementing stay interviews. 

These touches allow you to gauge the pulse of the company and the employee experience. It gives team members the opportunity to discuss their needs and builds trust with their managers. Have you considered using a similar method to avoid nasty surprise resignations? 

Here’s the Bottom Line

There is no silver bullet to fix employee retention or motivation, no magic recipe that universally guarantees you’ll attract the best candidates. Great leadership means adapting to the needs of your best resource: Your Employees. 

Communicating, empowering, and making your employees feel the love will go a long way. Moving into the future, most organizations will be focusing on an employee experience strategy. Being able to attract or retain the best people is how you’re going to run and grow a business, no matter what the economy is doing. People are everything. You take care of your people and they’ll take care of the customers. 

Will you be implementing any of these suggestions in your company to create an exceptional candidate and employee experience? 


  1. Meet Gen Z: The New Face of Work. MetLife.
Carrie Vruno executive Chief Accounting Officer Purchasing Power Attract Keep Employee Talent Retention Employee Experience

Carrie Vruno has been the Chief Accounting Officer for Purchasing Power for the last two years. Purchasing Power, LLC, is an Atlanta-based voluntary benefit company celebrating more than 20 years as the leading employee purchase program for consumer products and services through payroll deduction. Helping employees achieve financial flexibility, Purchasing Power is available to millions of people through large companies including Fortune 500s, associations and government agencies.

John Duisberg is a Co-Founder of Cooleaf, the leading experience platform that helps top companies to engage, motivate, and connect their people. Cooleaf makes it easy to acknowledge team members for living the core values of the business and achieving milestones while keeping employees connected, even when working remotely. Their technology platform serves as an employee community that promotes internal communication, provides recognition and rewards, and increases overall employee engagement.

Hiring Recruiting Jobs Recruiter Josh McAfee Tech Jobs

Josh McAfee is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Humans Doing. With over 26 years of recruiting and team-building experience, Josh has worked with startups, SMBs, and large companies to determine hiring needs, develop our recruiting strategies and processes, and connect top talent to fuel growth. In 2021, he became a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author with his book Measure Up: Mastering Your Career Search Like a Boss.

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