Compensation will always be table stakes for employees but leaders know that it takes more than a paycheck to keep workers happy and engaged in their work.

In an article for Entrepreneur, six founders from companies across industries shared insights and top tips for retaining star talent. Here’s what today’s workers want most from their jobs and the companies where they work:

Mission-driven culture

Purpose-led companies aren’t new but as workers reevaluated their careers amid the pandemic, they sought out meaningful work and organizations where they could add value. In today’s modern workforce, employees want to align their values with their employers. Committing to a mission is one way companies can demonstrate their purpose-led culture. “Since becoming B Corp certified in 2020, we’ve retained almost three-fourths of our first 50 employees and attracted our next 50 ‘keepers,'” Tomás Froes, founder and CEO of Kencko, told Entrepreneur. “Through employee surveys, we’ve learned that our B Corp status and our mission-led approach are a key driver for bright, competitive talent to join our team. Great people want to work for companies that walk the talk.” 


Putting employees first is good business. Beyond a competitive compensation package, employees have real needs. If the pandemic taught leadership anything, it’s that listening to their team members is critical for fostering an organization that thrives. Today’s workers want flexibility when it comes to their work schedules and environments. They want benefits that support them and a company that’s committed to a mission (see above) that they personally feel aligned with. “I know I’ll only get good work out of my team if other aspects of their lives are relatively stable, so I give people a lot of rope,” Brooke English, founder and CEO of Goodly, told Entreprenur. “I don’t micromanage, and I give people the time and flexibility they need to take good care of the important things in their lives. I trust that they will reciprocate with strong work, and guess what? They always do.”

A sense of ownership

Many of today’s employees are active participants — they want to contribute to their organizations in a way that creates real, meaningful change. In other words, they want ownership. “Fair pay, benefits, and respect matter, but those are table stakes. Once someone feels looked after, the next thing they’re looking for is purpose,” Dan Demsky, founder and CEO of Unbound Merino told Entrepreneur. “And that comes from autonomy and feeling like your work makes a difference. Everyone in the company owns their piece of the puzzle. It’s challenging and requires them to show up, but it feels like their work and is acknowledged as such. That’s the most important piece.”

Professional development opportunities

Gone are the days when employees want to simply clock in and clock out. For many — especially Gen Zers (the largest generation to enter the workforce — they want to know their roles will evolve. They want to grow in their careers and ideally, have their companies support them in this vision. “We retain people by running the business as a meritocracy. The best ideas and work rise to the top, regardless of tenure or title. Our strongest team members know that if they stay, their careers will grow exponentially faster than they will elsewhere,” said Jolijt Tamanaha, co-owner and VP of growth, Fresh Prints. “For example, we have a 26-year-old associate director responsible for leading $10 million-plus marketing campaigns who started as an entry-level associate four years ago.” 

Today’s competitive job market is challenging employers to develop savvy talent acquisition and retention strategies. Gone are the days when employees simply collected a paycheck. Candidates are seeking meaning and purpose in their careers. Employers that look beyond a role to fill will not only find that their businesses will endure, but that they will thrive as well.

Discover more founder stories here.