Following part one of our three-part blog series, which explored the role of novelty and adventure in employee retention and engagement, part 2 examines desire as another key driver in retaining your people.

Desire as a pull mechanism of retention

Employee retention is a result of a combination of push and pull mechanisms. Desire is a key pull that will not only build retention but also impact your ability to attract the right talent to your organisation. What does desire translate as in the workplace?

In matters of career, we are a goal orientated workforce. We look for growth, succession, value creation. We rely on the concrete of achievement to fulfil our work desires rather than the subtleness of connection and enjoyment as a function of our fulfilment. It is more about the end results than the journey itself.

We believe, with well-defined goals, a good plan and solid organisational skills and hard work, that anything is possible. This is the thinking of corporate optimism. Hard work is rewarded with success.

In this paradigm, a career is divided up into separate functioning parts. This emphasis on physical achievement, rather than pleasure and enjoyment of your work, goes hand in hand with the emphasis on goals without the focus on enjoyment of the journey.

With this thinking, we are missing the key ingredient for retention.


Desire to stay or go. Desire for one company over another.

Desire for your career. Desire for adventure, for success, for experience and contribution.

It is the igniting flame for whether someone seeks employment outside their current organisation or remains committed.

As a nation we pride ourselves on efficiency. But here is the catch, desire and enjoyment are not efficient. They like to squander time. We glorify efficiency and achievement but fail to acknowledge that the imaginative space of enjoyment and desire are as important to one’s career as achievement.

Boxes of fruit, free yoga, allowances for gym equipment or whatever else you can think of are not influences on one’s desire.  They are merely window dressing, built on passing trends. They are not fundamental to the happiness and consequent retention of your people.

What are the elements of desire in relation to work?

Everyone understands what it looks like when a work relationship is dead. It lacks vitality and desire. Work becomes a drain. When working relationships are just surviving, they lack intensity, they are gasping for air. Conversely, we understand and know the difference when we see a working relationship that is alive. It’s vibrant, it has energy, it’s generative, it’s creative, it’s imaginative and playful. We all know the difference between an individual that’s thriving at work and one that’s merely surviving. It’s easy to spot.

Desire is a fundamental element in in thriving and therefore a fundamental element of retention. Quiet Quitting is an example of collective behaviour that demonstrates a lack of desire.


How do you cultivate desire?

  1. Having a manager that cares was frequently mentioned in the McKinsey report 'Great Attrition or Great Attraction, the Choice is Yours' which focused on what employees really want post-pandemic. Respondents to the survey shared they wanted a manager that cares about them. So how do you show care in an authentic manner not in a transactional sense?You seek to understand. You ask questions.
    Asking your people questions about their desires is a simple first step to understanding them, showing them that you deeply care. It also provides the opportunity for you to help navigate them in the direction of their desires.
  2. Desire is also cultivated through the exploration of new opportunities and adventure, through novelty. In an employee retention sense, this translates into investment in people. Investment includes career pathways, learning and development opportunities, upward or adjacent moves for renewed experience and novelty.

    Any sort of investment into learning and the career journey appeases the human need for adventure and novelty, providing the guardrails within which you can cultivate desire.

Just imagine how it would feel if your manager asked you – what are your desires? What do you want?

And then said, let me see how I can support your journey in getting there by giving you the opportunities to learn or experience something completely new.

So simple, but incredibly powerful.


Reo Group CEO, Stella Petrou Concha, poses the following questions for reflection on this topic:


As a leader, ask yourself:

  • Have you spoken to your team about their desires, hopes and dreams.
  • Do they feel safe enough to share this information with you?
  • Have you considered your own desire and how strong that pull is towards your job, your colleagues and your company?
  • What are the elements of work that fuel your desire to burn bright?
  • What shuts your desire for work down?
  • How can you manage this for yourself?

Now Flip this on to you team:

  • How can you lead your team to stoke a burning desire for their work?


*This blog is adapted from a keynote address on ‘Talent Retention and Engagement for Today’s Economic Climate’, delivered by Reo Group CEO Stella Petrou Concha, and divided into three separate parts. This is part two. You can read part one here.

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