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Kansas Wesleyan University

With unemployment rates at a historical low nationally, a big question looms: how do businesses retain their staff? Dr. Trish Petak, Kansas Wesleyan University’s Associate Professor of Business and Accounting, offers a simple answer.

In her recently published paper, “One Thing Managers Need to do to Inspire, Excite, Motivate, and Retain Employees – Recognize Strong Work Performance,” she emphasizes the need for positive relationships between managers and their staff.

“Previous research has proven organizations benefit when employees display inspiration, excitement, motivation and plans of retention,” she said. “I wanted to measure if management acknowledging an employee’s efforts and contributions had a strong, positive correlation with those benefits.”

The paper, published by the Journal of Business and Educational Leadership – and additionally voted the best article of the 11th volume of the publication – provided evidence for Petak’s claim.

By surveying 63 volunteers, Petak discovered that good management practices, particularly those that involved praise and recognition of employees, almost always resulted in employees expressing positive feelings towards their place of work.

Of the 26.96% of the volunteers who strongly agreed that their management “recognized strong work performance,” upwards of 80% cited feeling more inspired, motivated and likely to stay with their company. Those who answered the same question, but did not agree with the sentiment, reported feeling the opposite about the workplace.

She noticed this correlation in her own career, particularly during her last seven years at KWU.

“I’ve been blessed to be influenced and inspired by people who recognize my work performance,” she said. “From Dr. [Daniel] Botz, who is a tremendous colleague and teammate, to students who go out of their way to show appreciation.

“It’s our job as managers to make others feel good about themselves by recognizing their workplace contributions.”

Petak applies the concept explored in her research paper to her roles as educator, advisor and coach of KWU’s DECA program.

“The findings within my research reiterate the power of positive feedback,” she said. “I try to be intentional about providing my students meaningful, frequent and real-time feedback.”

In addition to the current publication, Petak will be presenting a new research study in March 2022 at the 29th The American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences conference in Las Vegas.

While her findings from this paper have yet to be released, it could not have been done without the positive relationships Petak built with her colleagues and students. With their help, she completed a second paper, entitled “Buyer Beware: The Influence Online Reviews Have on a Consumer’s Willingness to Buy.”

“Last spring, students in Dr. [Paul] Hedlund’s Marketing Research course helped me fine tune my research survey questions after presenting them a rough draft. Once the survey went live, many KWU students, staff, faculty and administrators completed it,” she said. “Students were the real MVPs of the data collection, and many had their friends and family complete the survey. Because of their efforts, we collected data on 503 anonymous online shoppers.

“This really shows the Power of the Pack.”

To read “One Thing Managers Need to do to Inspire, Excite, Motivate, and Retain Employees – Recognize Strong Work Performance,” visit

Story by Skylar Nelson