“Fifty percent of our employees will be eligible to retire in the next two years,” said Peter, the CEO of a major utilities company. “I want to be sure we’re doing what’s necessary to keep our young employees and motivate the older ones to mentor them.” Sound familiar? It’s a troubling chorus that’s echoing down corporate halls across the nation.

Peter approached me after a presentation I gave called “Getting Your Voice Heard, Across Generations” and asked about an all-inclusive, one-size-fits-all approach to rewarding employees, one that would motivate his staff to work harder and stay with the company longer. “We have the benefits package,” he explained. “But some employees care more about things like vacation or being able to telecommute.”

I could have suggested several perks that appeal to workers of all generations, but the answer to Peter’s problem – retention and fostering a culture of collaboration – wasn’t as simple as that. Research shows that employees, young and seasoned, will work harder and stay with the company longer if they feel valued and trust their leaders. And that’s an investment that requires time, not money.

Want to motivate and retain your employees? Try these powerful techniques:

Listen. According to last October’s issue of the Harvard Business Review, “Employees … won’t whole-heartedly participate in customer co-creation unless they’re [given] the opportunity to design and manage their own work experience and to help identify and solves problems.” Most employees want to help the company succeed. Yet, many leaders dismiss new hires’ ideas. This is a mistake on many levels. Not only do they have a fresh perspective that could add value, but making sure they feel heard will help build trust in you.

Trust. “Just 47 percent [of employees] think their leaders are trustworthy,” reports Talent Management Magazine (September 2010). Trust them and watch how they begin trusting you. What if their ideas are ridiculous and useless? Consider coaching them. Ask how they came to these conclusions, why they think these ideas will work and what additional research they could do to strengthen their arguments. Doing so will show you care about their opinions and long-term success. Added bonus: You may start a trend.  If your seasoned employees see you taking the time to mentor, it might inspire and foster a culture of mentoring.

Care. If you care about your people, they’ll care about you – and the vision you’ve set forth. Yet, “only 38 percent [of employees] think their leaders have a sincere interest in their well-being,” according to Talent Management Magazine. Having coached dozens of executives, I’ve seen first-hand what employees will do for a boss who cares.

Benefits and vacation packages are important, and other perks are certainly appreciated by most employees. But gym memberships, 401(k)s and telecommuting won’t keep your talent on board if they’re unhappy. And you’ll never know if or why they’re unhappy unless you listen.

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations

P.S. Order your autographed copy of “Can Anyone See Me?: Unveiling the Hero Within.”  Click here to secure your order.

P.P.S. Book launch party: “Can Anyone See Me?: Unveiling the Hero Within” will be launched on June 2, 2011, at The National Press Club in Washington DC. Interested in getting details as soon as they come out, email info@inspirionllc.com – subject line: “June 2011 Book Launch Party”