Having been in management since 1978, I have attended hundreds of meetings dealing with employee retention issues. The debate has raged for years about what the biggest drivers of satisfied employees are.

Most people default to pay as being important, which it obviously is, but it does not seem to be the most important factor. Plenty of people leave well-paying jobs to pursue other opportunities, and lots of people select jobs that pay less than other options because they are motivated by a desire to serve. Most teachers would fall in to this category, I suspect.

So what are the elusive factors that determine whether you as an employer can attract and retain the high-quality people you need to do your job well? Is it the quality of the facilities, the benefits package and the retirement program, or is it something else?

This is where it gets a little tricky.

When someone is looking for a new job, he/she will rightly consider all of the factors associated with a company, including those listed above plus issues like opportunities for advancement in rank or status. Therefore, during an active job search every issue will come in to play in helping a person decide which job to take.

But the dynamic is different when someone is already an employee of a company. In this case, the employee typically doesn't look for competing job offers unless he/she is unhappy with something at work.

For most bosses then, the real impact they can have on the retention of their employees is to understand the three real drivers of employee satisfaction with their current employer. These sound simple, but they are potent issues for most people.

First, employees want to know that the work they are doing is important, that it makes a difference to the world.

Second, employees want to feel that they do their job well. They want to feel that their effort contributes to a good result for a good cause.

And third, employees want to know that their leadership appreciates the good work they do for the organization.

This doesn't necessarily mean they expect a trophy for employee of the month, but they want leadership to acknowledge their time dedication and effort as valuable. A well-placed thank you or sincere praise for a job well done carries much more weight than any other factor in developing employees that love their jobs.

We are all so busy trying to get things done that sometimes we simply forget to appreciate the tireless efforts of our people.