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Employees Want Stimulating Work More than Salary

Cisco's Action Learning Forum program is a talent incubator companes can learn from to motivate and retain employees, said leadership and work talent author Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

Cisco's Action Learning Forum is a talent incubator companies that develops new projects for the company keeps employees challenged and engaged.

Americans want to work on challenging projects even more than they want big salaries.

“The number one reason that talented people love their jobs — far outstripping compensation and recognition — is having stimulating and challenging assignments,” said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business Is Down and “Winning the Talent War,” a blog on Harvard Business Review digital. Employers can keep employees happy longer by ensuring they’re challenged at work.

Hewlett suggests the recession is the perfect time to exercise this formula for worker satisfaction.

A thoughtful team leader can use straitened circumstances to help strong performers gain access to stretch assignments or cross-functional roles that boost their skills and expand their professional network of colleagues and clients — opportunities that normally would not be available to them. Although managers may not be able to enhance salaries or titles, they can “promote” smart staffers among their colleagues by regularly spotlighting and sharing significant accomplishments.

As an example, Hewlett cites Cisco’s Action Learning Forum, a 16-week business incubator program that selects 60 top-performing employees across the organization to work on strategic start-up projects for the company alongside faculty from MIT and Stanford. The program kills two birds with one stone: developing new revenue streams and keeping top employees engaged, which drives higher rates of retention and loyalty.

(Image by gtmcknight via Flickr CC 3.0)

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