15 Culture Drivers That Improve Employee Retention

by Energage

How to Retain Your Best Employees and Reduce Employee Turnover

A healthy economy is a good problem to have, but it also presents some hiring challenges. Because when everyone is drawing from the same limited pool of candidates, you’re left with three possible options:

  1. Settle for the 3.7% of available job seekers and cross your fingers a talented candidate happens to be out of work.
  2. Persuade someone who’s not looking for employment – perhaps an active student, retiree, or stay-at-home parent – to stop what they’re doing and get into the market.
  3. Convince someone with a steady job to leave their organization for a better opportunity.

Obviously, option three is the most popular one. But don’t be too smug about snagging a key player from a competitor. Because while you were out hunting down that great hire, they were out there doing the same thing to your organization.

So, how do you make sure you’re not losing experienced employees faster than you’re able to attract new ones? If you don’t want to fight the war for talent on two fronts at once, you need both a good defense and a strong offense.

In other words, now’s the time to make sure your culture is in great shape so you can improve employee retention and reduce employee turnover. Top Workplaces already do.

Employees of Top Workplaces want to stay put

Top Workplaces prevent employee turnover through the strength of their culture, a positive workplace experience, and external recognition as an employer-of-choice. Here’s what our data shows:

Employee Retention at Top Workplaces

Almost half – 44 percent – of employees at typical organizations admit they’ve searched for a better job in the past month. But it’s a different story for employees at Top Workplaces. Only 36 percent have recently considered a new opportunity. And what about the highest-ranking Top Workplaces? Just 14 percent report searching for a new job. Needless to say, Top Workplaces excel at employee retention.

Think relation, not transaction

As senior leaders come to understand the indisputable fact that engaged employees deliver superior business results, they jump to the wrong conclusion: If they can make employees engaged, better results will follow. They embrace transactional approaches to engagement, such as rewards, free food, bring-your-dog-to-work day, office parties – you name it. Sure, these are welcomed by your staff. But they only serve to build entitlement, not engagement. Because here’s the catch: You can’t make employees be engaged. They become engaged or they don’t.

Create a workplace culture that attracts, retains, and develops talent

Focus on workplace culture. Strive to create the kind of environment that attracts, retains, and develops the talent needed to ensure success. This is the type of workplace employees become engaged with.

It’s easy for leaders to make employees feel disengaged through poor leadership behaviors. Similar to trust, engagement is built up over time but can be damaged in an instant.

So, what are employees looking for? After 14 years of researching what leads to higher engagement, we’ve identified 15 key culture drivers.

15 culture drivers that improve workplace culture

Top Workplaces excel at many things, including the 15 culture drivers that lead to higher engagement. We’ve organized them into four themes or “imperatives”:

Imperative #1: Align

Employees are aligned with company goals and objectives:

  • The organization operates with strong Values.
  • Employees are clear about the future Direction of the organization.
  • Meetings are efficient and help get the work done.
  • There is strong Interdepartmental Cooperation.

Imperative #2: Connect

Employees feel they belong and they are valued:

  • Clued-in Leaders know what is really happening in the organization.
  • Employees feel Appreciated.
  • Employees find Meaningfulness in their work and believe it contributes to a greater cause.
  • Clued-in Employees feel well-informed about important decisions.

Imperative #3: Coach

Employees get support and attention from their immediate manager who:

  • Cares about team member Concerns.
  • Supports career growth and individual Development.
  • Is Helpful in supporting the work of team members.
  • Does whatever they can to help their direct reports achieve their full Potential.

Imperative #4: Perform

Employees believe the organization operates effectively with:

  • Open-mindedness, because the way things have been done in the past may not be the best way moving forward.
  • Innovation, because things can always be improved.
  • Great Execution, because nobody likes to battle inefficiency.

Want to get intentional about culture? Start with an employee engagement survey that measures these 15 culture drivers. Look to the insights to see where your organization excels and where it falls short. And then focus on improvement.

Build your defenses by paying attention to culture

Employees rarely leave because of money. They leave because they’re looking for a better opportunity or a better work environment. Clued-in leaders understand this. They also understand workplace culture is dynamic – and it changes over time.

“Our biggest strength is our company culture. Our challenge is to support growth while ensuring culture doesn’t get warped in the process.” Andrew Rosen, Human Resources Manager, Ohio Real Title

When you’re not intentional about guiding your culture, it will change. And if left unsupervised, it may well change for the worse. If you want to understand and improve your culture, here are the three key steps to follow:

Step 1: Find out where your culture stands

Whether you’re tackling culture for the first time or you’re a veteran on the topic, your efforts should be informed by qualitative, objective data rather than instinct. Leaders are notoriously poor at evaluating their own competencies. And they’re equally poor at “situational sensing” – in other words, getting a grasp on what is really going on inside the organization.

So, before you seek to change, seek to understand. A research-backed engagement survey is a powerful, yet easy way to capture valuable feedback and constructive data that will provide an objective basis for your change efforts.

“The employee engagement survey has been an extremely helpful tool for us. We can have observations, but the survey bears them out. The numbers don’t lie.” Jeanne Lynch, Vice President of Human Resources, Griffis Residential

At Top Workplaces, senior leaders are clued in to what’s really happening throughout the organization. There are two reasons why this is important. First, uninformed managers act on assumptions – and then they make the wrong decisions. Second, clued-in leaders are vital to an engaged workplace culture. Because when employees believe the folks at the helm have a good grasp on reality, there’s a boost in confidence and trust.

Step 2: Find out what good looks like

While your engagement survey will provide you with great empirical employee feedback, it won’t tell you where you score relative to others. Energage has been studying Top Workplaces since 2006 and we can help you understand where you stand in relation to other best-in-class organizations.

Furthermore, the size of the Top Workplaces dataset allows you to zero in on specific benchmarks at an individual level to achieve greater insights to set actionable goals.

“We’re very, very protective of our culture. If you come in, you’re positive, and you jump in and work well with others … we’re going to have a long, happy career together. If not, it might be a short road.” Mark Tyler, Assistant Superintendent, Hamilton Township High School

Step 3: Up your culture game

Now it’s time to improve your culture. You’ve got to close the gap between your current culture and the culture you desire. Sound daunting? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

Changing the culture of an organization used to be a time-intensive exercise. It required the full-time attention of executives with an inordinate amount of elbow grease. An internal communications group came in handy, too.

But thankfully, times have changed. Today, you can tap into the power and scale of technology, which makes it possible to “hack” your culture and change things on a daily basis in small and sometimes subtle ways.

These small, intentional changes add up over time to big results. It’s a lot like going to the gym. You might not see physical changes the first day or week you work out, but over time, if you stay committed, you will see positive results.  Here’s how to up your culture game:

Build trust at scale

The work environment is littered with communication tools such as email, smartphones, and instant messaging. Yet, none of these communication technologies have helped to improve culture. If anything, they’ve caused oversaturation.

Culture technology is a new breed of software that allows senior leaders to know what’s going on. It also helps employees feel heard and appreciated. With Energage, you have software designed purposefully to address the 15 culture drivers.

By providing safe channels of communication, using anonymous feedback, and pulse surveys, culture technology fosters dialogue and problem-solving in ways traditional approaches can’t: It factors the human element into the dynamics of the workplace.

We’ve heard some HR managers say that employees suffer from survey fatigue. But we beg to differ. We believe they suffer from inaction fatigue. Because when feedback translates into visible improvements, employees know senior leaders are listening, making employees more than happy to provide valuable insights whenever needed.

Adopt a coach mindset

Managers are critical in supporting employees and unleashing individual potential. As we gradually put old-school managerial practices behind us, such as rank-and-rate performance appraisals, we are recasting managers into the role of supportive coaches.

Adopting a coach mindset and a contemporary approach to leading teams enables you to foster a culture where people feel valued and supported. As a result, these employees are more willing to bring their best to work and perform at their fullest potential.

When necessary, bring in the experts

But be selective. As your organization undertakes the journey from where you are now to where you need your culture to be, it can help to have an expert to guide you along the way. But a word of caution: Don’t hand over control of your engagement efforts. Your culture is what makes your organization unique. If you entrust too much of your change effort to external experts, you will fail to take full ownership and stand the risk of somebody else defining your future for you.

How external experts can best help you on your journey:

  1. Plan your strategy and tactics for putting activities into motion.
  2. Coach and brief your senior team.
  3. Collect and interpret survey results.
  4. Facilitate training and change workshops.
  5. Help with internal communication efforts.

Act like your business depends on it

Jeanne Lynch of Griffis Residential sums it up:

“Engagement is everything. If our employees aren’t engaged, they can’t be enthusiastic, and it affects the bottom line.”

In conclusion, changing your workplace culture takes time and effort. But if you don’t have a plan to understand, benchmark, and get intentional about your culture, you’re leaving it up to chance. And the odds are not in your favor.

Learn how The Energage Platform can help you retain your best talent.