MaxBrain Logo

Employee Retention: Interview with Michèle Marbach on Employee Retention Factors (2024)

Employee retention Interview with Michele Marbach TwoHours | MaxBrain Blog

Employee retention (summary)

Michèle Marbach, managing director of the training provider ZweiStunden - Wissen kurz&bündig and personnel development expert discusses the following factors for employee retention: 

1. market competitive wages,
2. personal growth opportunities,
3. company culture,
4. strong leaders,
5. recognition,
6- work environment,
7. work-life balance,
8. job security,
9. "Purpose,"
10. open communication.

Continuing education is the central factor that positively influences all others in order to strengthen employee loyalty.

Andrea Anderheggen from MaxBrain (Andrea): Good morning, Michèle! It's a great pleasure to talk to you today about a far-reaching and exciting topic for all companies: Employee Retention.

ZweiStunden is, after all, recommended by MaxBrain as a course provider for many topics related to personal development. You have probably worked with hundreds, if not thousands of HR specialists. So your expertise is very relevant to the readers of our blog. Thank you very much for this interview! 

Michèle Marbach from TwoHours: Good morning! The pleasure is all mine! 

Yes, that's right: At ZweiStunden, I have been holding discussions with HR managers for years; among other things, on the topic of employee retention, or "employeeretention" as it is called in many places today. And that's not all: we offer special seminars on this and other topics and help directly to inspire employees!

Continuing education is a critical factor in employee retention.

Introduction: Why employee retention is important for companies

Andrea Anderheggen: Why is it important for companies to prioritize employee retention in the first place?

Michèle Marbach: Successfully retaining employees is important for several reasons:

First, employee retention ensures that employees' expertise and experience stay within the company and do not migrate elsewhere.

This is critical to success, because employee know-how is the most important asset in many companies. If internal expertise is lost permanently or for a period of time, a company can risk its raison d'être.

Second, employee retention reduces costs much more than many executives realize.

Calculate what it costs to recruit new employees and train them for weeks or months.

The challenge of finding and retaining talent no longer affects only individual companies: Many industries are now suffering from a shortage of skilled workers or a general lack of employees and are struggling to successfully fill positions. The competition for talent is huge.

Employee retention is therefore about much more than a well-intentioned feel-good culture.

Michèle Marbach - Interview on employee retention
"Employee retention, then, is about much more than a nicely-intentioned feel-good culture."

The 10 factors for employee retention

Andrea Anderheggen: Let's dive a little deeper into the factors that are key to employee retention. What do you think these are?

Michèle Marbach: That's a wide-ranging question. There are different answers depending on the company. It has a lot to do with the culture, the industry and the goals of a company. Nevertheless, there are frequently recurring answers about how effective employee retention works. The 10 factors most often cited by HR leaders are:
  • Wages in line with the market and/or other benefits
  • personal growth opportunities: In terms of one's career and personal competencies,
  • corporate culture and the corporate values on which it is based,
  • strong leaders,
  • Recognition for the work performed,
  • a positive working environment,
  • a healthy work-life balance,
  • Job security in general,
  • the meaning of one's own work for the company or society, known as "purpose" in new German,
  • the open communication.

1. wages and employee retention

Andrea Anderheggen: How relevant are wages in line with the market really? After all, there are many people who obviously prefer work that is comparatively less lucrative, but more exciting and fulfilling?

Michèle Marbach: Yes, that's true. After a certain point, money is not that important for many people. That has always been the case: people strive for fulfillment. Money is at most a means to an end, and even then only up to a certain point. -

Besides, in our affluent society, one's money is something most people don't have to worry about every day. Fortunately.

Nevertheless, competitive wages are fundamental for most employees. After all, employees need to feel they are being paid fairly for their skills and contributions.

Not only that: recognition is also very effective in motivating employees and retaining them in the company. And paying good wages is one of the ways companies can credibly express appreciation.

It's risky in the long run to praise an employee or emphasize how grateful you are for their work when, at the end of the month, a salary is paid that is below market value or below employee expectations. At some point, appreciation turns to frustration.

Michèle Marbach - Interview on Employee Retention
"Money is at most a means to an end for this, and even that only up to a point."

2. personal development is extremely motivating.

Andrea Anderheggen: Sounds plausible. How do you see the second factor you mentioned for retaining employees, i.e. personal growth opportunities?

Michèle Marbach: Personal growth opportunities are extremely motivating for most people. 

The fact is, employees are more likely to stay if they are successful or see a way to develop and advance their careers.

Among all living beings, man has the greatest freedom to develop himself. The more knowledge, the more possibilities. The more possibilities, the greater and more fascinating the personal potential for the future.

The offer to learn new skills to work more effectively, more easily or faster is therefore extremely attractive for employee retention.

A company that invests in employee training demonstrates that it is genuinely interested in the personal well-being of its employees. The company can thus employee branding in order to attract further talent, which in turn can increase the success of a company. A positive upward spiral develops.

Andrea Anderheggen: Yes, I can confirm that. Our MaxBrain customer, Zweifel Pomy Chips AG, follows exactly this idea as far as employee branding is concerned and specifically offers its own, very inspiring company academy for this purpose.

Michèle Marbach: That doesn't surprise me: Companies like Zweifel, which have made a name for themselves as top employers, place a lot of emphasis on such measures.

In contrast to the issue of wages mentioned earlier, the interests of employees and their company are much more congruent when it comes to training: The more productive employees are thanks to training, the more value they create for the company.

Continuing education is therefore something that is actually a complete "no-brainer" for employee retention and should be offered by every company today.

Andrea Anderheggen: "Actually"? Why "actually"?

Michèle Marbach: In practice, many companies find it difficult to offer effective training.

It starts right at the top: Management must become fully aware of the importance of employee productivity, consequently skills, and consequently training.

That's not so easy when you have to manage X number of departments at the same time, inspire customers, develop competitive products, satisfy shareholders, or constantly deal with small operational crises. Even if you understand and appreciate the importance of continuing education as a management, the question remains when you can make time for it.

The problem of time does not only affect the management.

It goes through all levels of an organization. If a team is under pressure to meet a deadline for a customer project, a sales deal or product development, there is little time left for long-term valuable training.

Short-term priorities often get in the way of long-term success.

In summary: Continuing education must have a permanent place in the hectic daily work routine. Otherwise it will not work.

Once the time has been freed up for this, other questions immediately arise:

What exactly do you want to achieve with employee training? What learning content or development measures make sense? What do the employees actually want? How exactly does one organize continuing education? Which learning platform should be used for a company academy or learning program? How can learning programs be designed to be as relevant and personalized as possible?

For effective, professionally organized continuing education, these questions must be answered. Otherwise, it will remain an offer that no one will be permanently enthusiastic about.

Fortunately, there are companies specializing in this area, such as ZweiStunden or MaxBrain, which can contribute crucial value to continuing education initiatives. In cooperation with talented HR managers and the management, learning forms can be created that have a strong positive influence on the success of a company.

Michèle Marbach - Employee retention and training
"Continuing education must have a permanent place in the hectic workday. Otherwise it doesn't work."

3. managers make a significant contribution to whether employees stay or not.

Andrea Anderheggen: Let's discuss some other factors for employee retention. You mentioned the strength of leaders earlier. What does that have to do with employee retention?

Michèle Marbach: Effective leadership means setting a clear direction, communicating transparently, giving employees trust and freedom to act, and supporting them in achieving their goals.

When employees value and trust their leaders, they are more likely to stay committed to the company.

One must never forget that employees and managers are people who have different relationships with each other. Managers who not only challenge but also encourage and pull together with employees to make the company more successful are inspiring.

As with friendships, people feel committed to others to whom they owe a lot, whom they like or in whose presence they feel good. Good managers are therefore able to retain good employees.

"Leaders who not only challenge but encourage and pull together with employees to make the company more successful inspire."
Michèle Marbach - Employee retention and managers

4. a positive working environment retains employees.

Andrea Anderheggen: The working environment also plays a role, doesn't it?

Michèle Marbach: Absolutely. A positive working environment in which employees feel respected, listened to and valued can significantly strengthen loyalty to the company.

The work environment is shaped by many factors, from a culture of inclusivity and respect to the physical design of the workplace.

The working environment is closely related to all other factors. It is decisively shaped by all those involved, lived by all employees, strengthened by the employees' personal growth and supported by the corporate culture.

5. work-life balance: only with the right balance.

Andrea Anderheggen: What about the balance between work and private life?

Michèle Marbach: The work-life balance can be of crucial importance. If the balance gets out of whack on one side or the other, it often has dire consequences for everyone.

Employees need time for personal interests, family and themselves. Companies that respect these needs and offer flexibility in working hours or home office options tend to have happier and more productive employees.

However, the level must not swing too strongly to the side of the employees' personal needs.

The most successful companies in the world are still the ones where people work hard. It is an illusion to believe that the most successful companies in the world, such as Apple, Google, Amazon and all of their names, would be so successful if the employees there only cared about personal interests, family or themselves.

I don't mean to praise these companies as role models. Not at all. But the fact is that it takes a lot of effort and performance in any company to be successful in a competitive market. Successfully building up or expanding a company is no walk in the park.

Andrea Anderheggen: Don't I hear some criticism there?

Michèle Marbach: Yes, you just have to remember sometimes that little usually comes from little and that success occasionally requires some effort.

Employee retention is not a one-way street. It requires a "commitment" to the company from all sides, from managers and employees alike. Otherwise, the company will not be successful in the end.

And if the company is not successful, what do you think the employees do?

Andrea Anderheggen: Looking for a new job?

Michèle Marbach: Exactly - in the expression "work-life balance", one should therefore not only consider "life", but also "work" and "balance". Only in this way can the company be successful, inspire and retain employees.

Michèle Marbach - Work-Life-Balance
"It takes a "commitment" to the company from all sides, managers and employees alike. Otherwise, the company will not be successful in the end."

6. job security: a fundamental concern. 

Andrea Anderheggen: You mentioned job security in addition to recognition.

Michèle Marbach: Job security is a fundamental concern. When employees know that their jobs are stable, it gives them the security that has a positive impact on their overall satisfaction and performance.

Technological progress is moving faster today than ever before. As early as next year, the future prospects of many companies could look radically different and job security could be called into question.

Andrea Anderheggen: What can you do about it?

Michèle Marbach: The answer is simple: continuing education.

If employees continue their education in order to stay "up to date" or even help shape the future, they are more likely to help shape the company in a future-oriented and flexible way. And this then results in greater job security for everyone.

The connection between job security and continuing education is hard to see without this context. Continuing education has probably never been so important for job security in the history of mankind.

7. purpose: an important factor for employee retention, but not the only one.

Andrea Anderheggen: Interesting, yes. Earlier you mentioned that the meaningfulness of one's own work also helps to retain employees. Can you explain that a bit more?

Michèle Marbach: Yes, in management literature this is sometimes called "purpose. If employees see a purpose in what they do, they are more likely to stay with the same employer.

Generation Z in particular, i.e. today's 18 to 25-year-olds, is said to have a comparatively strong interest in purpose, in perceiving the value of one's own work for society or for "the world". Companies that are not interested in the well-being of society or the environment and do not create any recognizable added value have a harder time finding and retaining young talent.

But purpose has its limits, even among idealistic exponents of Gen Z. One look at most Instagram profiles is enough to see that what money can buy does have its value; for example, nice trips, experiences, good food, nice clothes. So the principle that you work to earn money has certainly not died, despite the search for a purpose.

The Purpose can also refer to other aspects than just the product or service of a company.

If a team works very well together, experiences a lot of positive things together or - on the contrary - masters a crisis together, a strong feeling of solidarity can arise. The bond of the employees to the company is then the consequence of the bond to the team. The team then becomes the Purpose itself.

" Purpose, moreover, can refer to aspects other than just a company's product or service."
Michèle Marbach - Purpose

8. corporate culture: Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast.

Andrea Anderheggen: That means it's worth investing in team building?

Michèle Marbach: Yes, or generally in the corporate culture and open communication.

There's a famous saying by management guru Peter Drucker:

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."

Peter Drucker Culture easts Strategy for Breakfast

Corporate culture is much more important than any strategy and is a crucial factor in retaining employees. 

Why? Because an inspiring, motivating corporate culture creates the conditions for coming up with great ideas, deriving the best strategies from them and working on them with enthusiasm.

However, a corporate culture can hardly be fixed.

Managers who try to define corporate cultures in writing almost always fail.

Culture, too, can be compared to a friendship: it develops dynamically from people being together, from their dealings with each other and their common goals. You can't "settle" what corporate culture you have. You either live culture or you don't.

Communication also plays a central role, of course. Do you always want to communicate openly with everyone about everything, ups and downs, or would you rather just communicate in small, efficient teams? This is not a simple question and depends very much on the industries in which you work and how well employees can handle information.

If the goal is to increase employee retention, open communication is certainly more recommended.

"An inspiring, motivating corporate culture creates the conditions for coming up with grandiose ideas, deriving the best strategies from them, and working on them with enthusiasm."

9. open communication: to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Michèle Marbach: Communication also plays a central role, of course. Do you always want to communicate openly with everyone about everything, ups and downs, or would you rather just communicate in small, efficient teams? That's not an easy question and depends very much on the industries in which you work and how well employees can handle information. 

If the goal is to increase employee retention, open communication is certainly more recommended.

10. continuing education shapes all factors for employee retention. 

Andrea Anderheggen: At the end of this interview, I would like to briefly address a comment you made at the beginning: Namely, that all the factors for retaining employees are directly or indirectly influenced by the training offered by a company. As the provider of the MaxBrain learning platform, we naturally give continuing education a high, corporate priority. And as the managing director of ZweiStunden, you probably "tick" similarly to us in this question.

I'd still be interested to know what makes you think that all retention factors are positively shaped by continuing education.

Michèle Marbach: Thank you, yes, of course I expected this question.

In fact, continuing education can be seen as a central factor for employee retention. This is because all other factors can be influenced significantly and positively through continuing education.

At ZweiStunden, we work every day to ensure that people live their strengths and abilities authentically and thereby practice mutually benevolent interaction at eye level. Our vision is that by doing so, we will gradually make the world a better place for all of us.

Michèle Marbach - Continuing education as a central factor for employee retention
"You can actually see continuing education as a central factor in employee retention. Because all other factors can be significantly and positively influenced by continuing education."

In concrete terms, this can also be explained well on the basis of the 10 points listed earlier: 

1. wages: the better the training, the more competent an employee is, the more value he or she creates for the company. And the more value for the company, the more wages can be justified.

2. personal growth opportunities: Here, of course, continuing education plays a direct and evidential role. Those who continue their education grow and open up new opportunities.

You guessed it: corporate culture and training also go hand in hand for similar reasons. A culture in which employees are professionally and personally brilliant is automatically stronger, more inspiring and more successful. - Conversely, continuing education is a need that arises from a learning culture, which is advisable - not to say necessary for survival - for every company in today's market environment.

Strong leaders: Leading people is something that has to be learned. Of course, there are personalities who are better at leadership than others. But management is a craft, with rules, pitfalls and potential. And the sooner you learn this know-how through continuing education - such as effective management courses - the sooner the company can ensure that the quality of management is outstanding.

5 Recognition for work performed: Here, continuing education plays several roles: In order to do a good job in the first place, continuing education can be critical. In continuing education, employees often learn to better understand what they need to accomplish in order to create real value for their customers, for the company or for other employees. Ideally, recognition is then the result of a comprehensive view that goes far beyond personal self-perception.

6. the chances of creating a positive working environment increase automatically thanks to good, professional and personal training. We see this time and again after our courses and in feedback from HR managers.

7. continuing education also promotes a healthy work-life balance. People who know more can usually work faster and consequently have more time for other things. Effective continuing education can personally inspire people to achieve more and improve the "balance" with regard to "work" as well.

8 As far as job security is concerned, I have already briefly explained the connection with training. In a global economy driven by innovation and new technologies, it is enormously important for companies to help employees keep up with the times or even help shape the future. And that, in turn, creates the job security needed to retain employees in the long term.

9 Purpose, finding meaning in one's own work, is also strengthened by continuing education. Because effective continuing education ideally improves both professional and personal skills. And these in turn help to understand work and colleagues better, to work together more efficiently on common goals, and to become more tolerant when things don't go 100% according to plan.

10. open communication is promoted through further training that specifically deals with language, presentation and precisely communication. At ZweiStunden, for example, we offer a course entitled "Clear language: Get to the point!

The course teaches participants how to make themselves heard through clear messages in two hours. The course is very popular and usually results in an immediate, positive impact on participants' communication skills.

Andrea Anderheggen: Wow, yes, everything fully to the point, true to the TwoHours motto: "Knowledge in a nutshell". Dear Michèle, thank you very much for this very insightful conversation about employee retention. It's a multi-layered, exciting topic that absolutely deserves more attention from companies.

Michèle Marbach: Yes, retaining talent is indeed crucial to the success of a company. 

I would also like to thank the readers, MaxBrain and you very much. It gives me great pleasure to talk about this important topic and I hope that you can take away one or two ideas with this brief insight.

Questions for you:

What is your opinion? What is the best way to retain employees? Please leave a comment on LinkedIn

Did you like this article?

If yes, please share this article on your social media channels. Thank you very much!


The expert newsletter for continuing education

Sign up now for the expert newsletter and receive exclusive insights around continuing education, EdTech and artificial intelligence in education.

Share on social media:


More contributions

Recommended by MaxBrain:

Logo TwoHours

Continuing education that works.

The learning platform to boost your business

With MaxBrain, you realise the potential of your employees, your clientele and your business partners. Learn more: