Reducing Turnover Intention via Motivational Strategies

for Top-Tier Project Team Members in Denver, Colorado


By Dr. Steve Ford, Dr. Deane Desper, Dr. Kenneth Klosterman

Colorado, USA


The purpose of this study was to explore which project management strategies could reduce voluntary turnover rates among top-tier aerospace project members at Company X in Denver, Colorado. The study utilized a qualitative case study focusing on interviews with 10 members from the target population to investigate. The sample group met the following criteria: the participant must have had a salary of at least $75,000 per year, must have been employed by Company X for at least two years, must have been fully promotable (must have completed any professional development courses required to advance), must have worked on a project in the last six months, and must have had a desire to advance into a management position. The resulting data was consistent, trustworthy, credible, and repeatable. Key findings include a strong relationship between strong project management leadership and a reduced turnover intention among the population. Specifically, project managers are strongly advised to establish project goals clearly and team member expectations at the beginning of a project, enable a healthy team dynamic, confirm top-tier employees are being compensated fairly, ensure that employees are appropriately recognized for their accomplishments, afford challenging and meaningful work, actively safeguard against employee stagnation and burnout, resolve conflicts quickly, and establish a detailed individual development plan process for each team member.


Management as a discipline is primarily concerned with balancing interpersonal, informational, and decisional organizational roles in an effort to accomplish goals in the furtherance of corporate success (Mintzberg, 2009). In a sense, managers must fulfill several different roles and responsibilities to achieve corporate goals. Also, in general, corporate success is strongly correlated with project success (Kerzner, 2018; PMI, 2017). Interestingly, these two facts combine to imply that successful managers are those that ensure project success. Projects are generally defined as temporary efforts undertaken to create value (Kloppenborg et al., 2019; PMI, 2017). Project success is dependent upon many factors, one of which is a reduction in project team voluntary turnover, particularly top performers (Kerzner, 2018; Kloppenborg et al., 2019). Top performers disproportionately impact project health, with top-tier workers providing nearly 400% more productivity than their counterparts and costing nearly 250% of annual salary to replace (Boss, 2018). From a management and project management perspective, preventing or reducing top-tier project member voluntary turnover is, therefore, a primary function (Boushey & Glynn, 2012; Mintzberg, 2009; PMI, 2017).

A critical factor in defining top employees is that these workers typically earn more than $75,000 salary (Kahneman & Deaton, 2010). Importantly, this specific salary is highly correlated to how an employee falls on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs rather than the specific income number itself (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2013; Kahneman & Deaton, 2010; Maslow, 1943). In other words, Kahneman and Deaton (2010) used the average salary for employees that both fulfilled the qualifications of a top performer and self-identified as pursuing higher needs on Maslow’s hierarchy. Given this relationship between salary and Maslow’s hierarchy, one can generally interchange a salary of $75,000 with a location on Maslow’s hierarchy at the level of pursuing higher needs. This distinction is critical and helps determine which employees are considered top-tier.

Interestingly, project success is strongly correlated with top-tier employee turnover (García et al., 2019; Raziq et al., 2018). All things being equal, projects with lower turnover rates among top performers are highly likely to succeed, while projects suffering high turnover rates among top-tier personnel are more likely to fail (Yang, 2010). Also, top-tier employee turnover intention is strongly aligned with employee motivation. Top performers are far more likely to leave an organization or manager with insufficient or inappropriate motivational methodologies (Cho & Perry, 2011; Martin, 2017). In general, top performers are typically intrinsically motivated and desire to achieve higher needs, such as: exploring new challenges, pursuing educational opportunities, or self-actualization (Kahneman & Deaton, 2010; Maslow, 1943; Robinson, 2010). In short, top-tier performers have different motivational needs and warrant specialized consideration given both their production and cost to replace (Willyerd, 2014).


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How to cite this paper: Ford, S., Desper, D., Klosterman, K. (2021). Reducing Turnover Intention via Motivational Strategies for Top-Tier Project Team Members in Denver, Colorado; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue II, February.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/pmwj102-Feb2021-Ford-Desper-Klosterman-reducing-turnover-intention-via-motivational-strategies.pdf

About the Authors

Dr. Steve Ford

Colorado, USA


 Dr. Steve Ford holds a Bachelor of Science from the US Air Force Academy (2004), a Master of Science from the University of North Dakota (2009), and a Doctor of Management with a concentration in Project Management from Colorado Technical University (2021). Steve is currently the managing member of Advanced Applied Project Management Solutions (LLC), a project management consultant firm. He holds numerous project management-related qualifications, including Project Management Professional (PMP), LEED AP (BD+C), Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Professional, Project Management- Lean Process Certified, Lean Supply Chain Management Certified, and Lean Culture Certified. He has more than 20 years of aerospace and construction experience in project management. He can be contacted at Steve@aapms.net

Dr. Deane Desper

Georgia, USA


Dr. Deane Desper holds a Bachelor of Science in Management from National Louis University, a Master of Business Administration from South University, and a Doctor of Business Administration (specializing in leadership) from the Walden University. Also, Dr. Desper has a Project Management Professional (PMP), Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (LSSBB), SCRUM Foundations (SFPC) certification. Dr. Desper is a TRIDENT Fleet Support manager and has worked and managed supply chain, logistics, and business projects for the federal government for more than 25 years. Expertise includes the U.S. Navy as a Supply Officer followed by work as a defense contractor in support of TRIDENT submarines. Dr. Desper serves as a research supervisor with Colorado Technical University. Dr. Desper has also served as an adjunct professor from undergrad courses through doctoral studies and on dissertation committees at various organizations. He can be contacted at desper.deane@yahoo.com.

Dr. Kenneth Klosterman

Colorado, USA


Dr. Kenneth Klosterman holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) and a Master of Science in Management (MSM) from Regis University in Denver Colorado, a Master of International Management (MIM) from Colorado State University’s Global Campus, and a Doctor of Management (with an emphasis in global leadership) from Colorado Technical University. Dr. Klosterman is currently the Senior Director of Global Strategic Initiatives at PGi and has over 25-years’ experience in the Conferencing, Collaboration, and Meeting Service industry. Dr. Klosterman serves as an Assistant Professor with Colorado Technical University for both undergraduate and graduate business and leadership courses. He can be contacted at Dr_Klosterman@yahoo.com.