The Secret to Employee Retention

“SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY!” In the last 14 years, you’d be hard pressed to find a more memorable movie quote than this classic delivered by Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire. In fact, if you can think of one that has had more widespread appeal and longevity, feel free to drop it in the comments section and we’ll open it up for debate.

Those four simple words summed up the collective mindset of multiple generations of workers across all industries. Simply put, if you really value my contribution, prove it. After seeing that movie for the first time, we all went into our next performance review with the “show me the money” attitude. The sobbing you heard in the theater wasn’t your girlfriend’s reaction to Tom Cruise telling Renee Zellweger, “you complete me.” No, that sobbing you heard was CEOs and Managers recognizing that Gooding Jr. had just given their employees a new-found sense of confidence and empowerment. Instead of dreading performance reviews, we now were looking forward to them.

After all, there’s a big difference between just being key talent and knowing you’re key talent. When you have the confidence in yourself to know you’re key talent that makes it more difficult for your organization to hold on to you. Let’s face it, these days it’s not finding talent that’s challenging for employers, it’s retaining it. The good organizations are actively searching for ways to improve employee retention.

So what’s the secret? As Gooding Jr. later states in the movie, the secret is…the kwan. The kwan?

“Yeah, man, it means love, respect, community…and the dollars too. The package. The kwan.”

That right there is the quote from this movie that those same CEOs and Managers should have memorized. There should be a “Kwan” motivational poster (patent pending) on the wall of every HR department. The kwan is the secret to employee retention. It’s not just the money. It’s not just love. It’s not just respect. And it’s not just community. It’s the package. When an employee says “show me the money,” the response should be, “I’ll do better than that, I’ll show you the kwan.” As expected, the employee’s natural response would then be, “you had me at hello.”

Love your employees, respect your employees, provide your employees with a healthy work environment, and compensate your employees well. If you’re lacking in ANY of these areas you just might lose your best talent to the competition.

Fun Fact: Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds?

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  • Comments (2)
  1. Thanks so much for the reminder. In good times and in bad, it is always just so very, very true.

    Curious: Is KWAN an acronym that stands for anything? If not, what is the etymology of the word?

  2. You’re right! Research is confirming that intrinsic motivators really are what keep employees engaged. The Conference Board has developed some global questions to actually “measure” degree of employee engagement. Useful!

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