COMPANIES which try to boost their benefits packages to entice staff to stay on, in the face of rival job offers, often miss the mark. Exit interviews we have conducted with departing employees revealed that a primary reason for leaving was job dissatisfaction due to a failure to meet psychological needs. For them, more money, more training or a more pleasant office was not what they were looking for. Author and company chief executive H. D. Putnam - drawing from the hierarchy-of-needs theory developed by the late psychologist A. Maslow - believes that employees in an organisation have five levels of need. Level one refers to basic needs which mean purchasing power. A worker should be given a wage commensurate with his or her duties. Too little, and this basic need is not met. Too much, and the need is over-indulged; more is not necessarily better. Level two has to do with environment needs, such as having a suitable workplace and a sense of security. The corporate environment should be comfortable, safe and stable. There should be the right mix of routine, for a sense of order, and variety; for a sense of stimulation. Too much order results in rigidity, while too much variety causes confusion. Simple individual needs comprise level three. The employee needs to be proud of his or her work, to be recognised for accomplishments, and to be respected by colleagues. Enjoying one's work is also important. If any of these areas is lacking, dissatisfaction is not far behind. Level four advances to more complex individual needs, such as the need for higher achievement, for which a promotion would be a suitable reward, and the need for personal and professional growth, for which on-the-job challenges and career development planning are indispensable. Workers need to have responsibility and to be accountable. One without the other breeds discontent. Level five consists of the needs of purpose and significance. Employees need to have intrinsic reasons for doing what they do, and to feel they are making a contribution to society. Psychologically, no contribution is too small to be trivial. A company that understands this and provides the means for its staff to feel purposeful and important has a competitive advantage. In contrast, a company's failure to satisfy its employees' needs at any of the above levels engenders dissatisfaction, increasing the probability of mass resignations. Moreover, lower-level needs must be satisfied before higher-level needs can be addressed. For example, a company that attempted to offer quick promotions to its staff (level four), but failed to attend adequately to occupational safety (level two), eventually saw many of its employees leave out of discontent. But resignations are not necessarily bad, according to organisational researchers C. L. Hughes and V. S. Flowers. ''Turn-overs'' are employees who leave whom you will not miss, while ''turn-offs'' are those whom you wish would leave but do not. However, you hope that most of your workers are ''turn-ons'' - the productive ones whom you want to keep. You ought to be able to diagnose who is in which category, and to make sure you meet the psychological needs of the ''turn-ons'' in order that they do not leave. Recent work in psychological assessment and development has produced Chinese and English instruments that have been validated in Hong Kong to assist human resources managers in the above tasks. D. J. Lam and C. H. Hui are principals in the Assessment and Development Centre, a consultancy specialising in human resources management psychology. Enquiries may be directed to Tel: 810-0181 or Fax: 524-1128.