seal  Purdue News

August 26, 2003

Book targets strategies to recruit and retain top employees

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Every employer's dream: an employee who is self-motivated to be a peak performer and always goes beyond the call of duty with little or no supervision.

Alan Dubinsky

What motivates these outstanding employees and how can you find and hire them?

Alan Dubinsky, a professor in Purdue's School of Consumer and Family Sciences, and co-author Steven J. Skinner, Rosenthal Professor of Marketing in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky, tackle these questions in their new book, "High Performers: Recruiting and Retaining Top Employees."

Dubinsky says recruitment and retention are even more important in the current economy, in which employers have more applicants than open positions. This makes trying to select the best future employees from the pool of contenders a daunting challenge.

"Large companies and small businesses are forced to get by on less with fewer employees and resources, " Dubinsky says. "In their efforts to be leaner and meaner, their employees must do more if they are to be successful.

"Through a series of interviews with nearly 200 employees from all kinds of organizations in all kinds of positions, we identified 13 motivators which impel individuals to go beyond the call of duty and expend the extra effort."

In the first chapter, the authors illustrate their point by sharing a story of a businessman who was traveling home from Lexington, Ky., to Seattle. During the long trip, he had no time to catch a meal, but snacked on the free peanuts during his flights. He was looking forward to finally reaching the Atlanta airport where he would buy some of the fresh popcorn he was craving.

He hurried out the gate to find a "closed" sign on the popcorn machine. Disappointed and hungry, he boarded the plane and took his seat. The flight attendant asked him how his day had been, and he said not bad other than the fact that he was starving. She offered to get him some peanuts, but he mentioned that he had already had plenty of peanuts and had been looking forward to the fresh popcorn sold at the Atlanta airport. The flight attendant disappeared and minutes before the airplane door closed, a gate agent ran into the plane with a bag of freshly popped microwave popcorn that the flight attendant had ordered from the plane.

Instances like these – in which an employee takes it upon themselves to go the extra mile – caused Dubinsky and Skinner to seek an explanation for this behavior.

"We found it particularly intriguing that those individuals who go beyond the call of duty are not just those who work at the upper levels of an organization, but those who come from all walks of life, are employed in every profession and span all levels of management," Dubinsky says.

Skinner says the book also is helpful to individuals seeking employment in the tight job market.

"Job seekers will find the book helpful because they can learn to share their own anecdotes from their previous work experience and demonstrate their abilities to job recruiters, helping them separate themselves from other candidates and giving their potential employer insight into their work ethic," Skinner says.

The authors also point out that it is important for an employer to understand what motivates each individual in the workplace. Some of 13 the motivators identified include concern, reciprocity, promotion, money and upbringing. But the authors are quick to point out that while money is important, it's definitely not the only motivator and not a consideration for everyone.

"We hope our book will help employers to better understand their workers and what motivates them to be high performers," Dubinsky says. "Our research leads us to believe that all workers can rise to the occasion with the right motivating factors. Knowing this, managers can help workers learn to go that extra mile by creating a culture in which they will want to do more than just show up and meet the basic requirement."

Writer: Jesica E. Webb, (765) 494-2079;

Source: Alan Dubinsky, (765) 494-8305

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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