Have you ever wondered what actually motivates your employees, and what the key to retaining your best people is?

In my experience as a recruiter, I have learnt from candidates that it is not always about the money. Beyond a competitive salary package and staff benefits, there are some intangible factors that employees seek in their careers and the organisations they work for.

Understanding these needs can help you increase employee motivation, which in turn will lead to higher job satisfaction, retention and productivity. Employees mainly look for:

1. A great boss

Surveys have shown that one of the key reasons people leave their companies is their immediate superiors. A difficult relationship with one's boss usually spells the end of one's career for most people - and that is why when the boss is the problem, it proves to be harder to retain the staff.

A boss who is well-loved by his employees is often rewarded with a high level of staff loyalty - even when all other work factors may not be ideal. People spend a great deal of their time at work, and the type of boss can make a huge difference in their work environment.

Do your people look forward to coming to work, or do they dread being in your presence? There is a fine line between high turnover rate and high retention rate - and more often than not, the boss is that fine line.

2. Trust and respect

Although it is a fairly simple concept, many employers overlook the significance that many employees attach to it. Showing respect to your staff means treating them like adults and trusting them to do their best for the company.

You need to be objective and fair at all times, and be receptive to both their strengths as well as shortcomings. It also means allowing room for failure and mistakes, and believing that they will improve.

Many employers are often quick to blame and pass judgment, disregarding their staff's opinions and explanations. Respect that people have limitations and work with them on overcoming the obstacles, rather than imposing your values and personal biases upon them.

When employees feel respected, not only will they feel more empowered, they are also more likely to accord the same respect (if not more) to you. They will also be more willing to go the extra mile for you.

3. Appreciation and recognition

Recognition is not just about paying lip service and stating it on your company's corporate collaterals. Employees want to feel that their contributions are appreciated, and that they are being rewarded for their achievements.

Recognition does not always have to be extravagant or costly. For many people, a simple thank-you note, a genuine compliment or praising their work in public or to senior management can carry a lot of significance and yet, hardly cost the employer anything to provide it.

For example, one company's managing director recognises his top performers by simply taking them out to dinner, at a restaurant of their choice. The more personal the recognition, the more rewarded the employees will feel.

When people know their efforts are being appreciated that much, they are intrinsically energised to perform better.