Reshaping the Big Picture

What Top Employees Want

This may sound familiar… top employees want to have it all… but there’s a difference today.

Having it all includes having financial success. Total financial freedom would be great but may not be realistic for most of us. But partial financial freedom – the kind that affords us some flexibility beyond our basic needs and our nice-to-haves – is both desirable and achievable.

Whether we figured it out the hard way or were able to discover it through others, many of us today are shooting higher than mere financial success and its shortcomings and trappings. Financial success, however, can be a key milestone enroute to a greater destination.

“Traditional success alone is a milestone, not a destination.”

-Peter C. Atherton

In addition to some financial freedom, top employees want greater meaning in their lives and purpose in their work. Top employees also do not want to stop growing once they have mastered their craft and made a name for themselves. These accomplishments are also just milestones. Top employees want to build on those milestones in order to become the full person they were meant to be… and have the impact in life they were meant to have.

These wants are not simply the dreams of our past, captured in our senior quote or college essay and then forgotten.  Our dreams are wired within us. Sure, the grind of 8:00 a.m. classes and finals weeks, figuring out what we’re going to do after college, and then landing that first job may have buried them a little.  And yes, the 10, 20, or even 30 years of mastering our craft, making a name, and raising a family, may have buried them a bit deeper, but they are still there.  They are there when we take the time to reflect, and they are often there at the root of our frustrations related to work and life.  This is why many of us find ourselves at or approaching a point of seemingly dramatic action.


So other than financial success and greater meaning, purpose, and growth, what do top employees want?


First, they want a little help managing the realities of work and life today.  We, including top employees, want more flexibility and control over our time so that we can better integrate and balance all that we want to accomplish.  We also want some help keeping our perspectives.  We could use some wise counsel and coaching on how to best prioritize and transition between seasons.  In our world of busyness, we want to be reminded from time to time of the big picture and the goals that matter most, not just what it’s going to take to meet this quarter’s budget.  We want to maximize our ability to achieve our goals today but not at the expense of our dreams or our future. Top employees will not settle forever.  If we don’t get help from the organization, we are certainly capable of getting it ourselves.  It may take a while to get out of the burnout-disengagement cycle, but top employees eventually will.

In my book, Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, I share what can happen when leaders and organizations fail to address burnout and disengagement, but…

What if “a little help” along with the opportunities for reward and greater meaning, purpose, and growth are provided rather than forcing or waiting for top employees to figure it out themselves?

Well, there is a tremendous upside for those willing and courageous enough to provide it.


There is still more, however.  Top employees today are interested in developing their own brand and their own platform.  They want to have an identity and stand for something – their BRAND.  They want to have a setting or a stage where they can share what they have to offer and deliver the impact they want to have at work… and in life – their PLATFORM.

This is a mindset top leaders and organizations need to embrace when dealing with top talent.  Top leaders and organizations will learn to leverage this rather than fall prey to our natural tendency to be threatened by it.

“Top leaders and organizations will design opportunities to align brands and platforms with top performers and to co-create opportunities, products, and services that work for all.”

-Peter C. Atherton

Knowing what top employees want, top leaders and organizations will begin to treat top employees more as cherished volunteers and donors.  They will also embrace the security top employees feel when their careers are portable.  As a result, they will work to inspire engagement and build trust.  The power has shifted.

Today, it is the role of leaders and organizations to inspire that engagement and build that trust.  It is an employee’s decision whether what’s offered is motivation enough to be retained… or whether the trust extended is authentic enough to build loyalty, respect, and even reverence.  Whether or not an employee stays or decides to pivot away, it will always be in the leaders’ and organizations’ best interest to embrace both the decision and the person.

This is what top employees want.  Sound familiar?… it is what we want today too.


To your winning,

PS – I invite you to schedule a free, no-obligation 30-minute conversation HERE.  We will walk through the I.M.P.A.C.T. process and I guarantee you will leave the call with a few new ideas and a clearer vision.

PSS – Click HERE or sign-up below to receive a free download of “10 Top Leader Traits to Thrive Today”

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Pete Atherton

About the Author

Pete is the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC and author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners. ActionsProve works with professionals and business owners to create greater growth and profits through more effective employee attraction, retention, and impact.  Prior to founding ActionsProve, and for more than 20 years, Pete was a very successful and accomplished professional engineer. Pete sold his engineering firm ownership to focus on designing systems for you and your organization to grow and succeed in more relevant and effective ways. For over a dozen years, Pete has also been serving in multiple capacities in the non-profit sector to achieve both local and global impact, and is a co-founder of the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Knoxville and the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Southern Maine.

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What Top Employees Want