Employee Retention and Company Culture is EVERYONE’s Responsibility

It’s difficult enough to find the right person to fill an open position. Recruiting efforts take time and money. Jobs sometimes take months to fill, and if everything goes well, the right person is placed in the job. Sounds difficult? It is. But that’s actually the easy part. Once someone has been placed, what is being done to keep them?

In the past, people would take jobs for life (or close to it). They’d work for a company for 20 or 30 years, work like a dog, get no respect, then someday (hopefully) get to retire with a retirement party, cake, cheesy speech and a small pension. 

That was the past and thankfully, those days are over. Today’s employees have options and opportunities. If they aren’t happy, they will leave. They will find a new job and the company will be left with an open position to fill – which takes time and money. Lots of time. Lots of money.

Retention is a big issue. Knowing what makes people happy in their job and doing the right things to make sure they are happy, will not only help the company’s bottom line, it will make the company culture a positive place to be. Who wouldn’t want to work in a positive environment?

Company Culture is EVERYONE’s Responsibility

Here’s the problem. Many people think company culture is created from the top down, from HR, or other places. While that may be partially true, in the long run, that method of creating, maintaining or changing company culture only works in instilling very general elements of the culture. Why? Because leadership and HR are often not working alongside the rest of the organization on a day to day basis. It is difficult to instill a company culture if you aren’t regularly spending time with most of the people in the company. While it can be trickled down through the different management levels, it isn’t always the most effective way to ensure everyone gets the same message.

In companies, like in any other group, most cultural attributes develop among the people. Who was it that decided Jazz would be a big part of New Orleans? Was it the mayor? Who decided that California cuisine would be healthier? Was it the governor? In both cases, these cultural elements evolved from the people.

I used to work at a company where one woman was the department’s leader. She wasn’t a manager, but she was clearly the leader. Everyone would go into her cube every morning for the “update.” She would decide who was part of the inner circle and who was not. Nothing ever happened without running it by her first. She was also very negative and created a very negative atmosphere. Many people followed her actions and very quickly the department took a negative turn. This didn’t change until she left.

She wasn’t officially in charge, everyone gave her the authority – even the group’s managers. If managers and/or everyone else had decided the negativity had to stop, they could have easily stopped it. As everyone empowered her, she established the culture in that department.

Company culture has a big influence on employee satisfaction. I recently asked people on LinkedIn which factors of the culture have the biggest impact on retention. I listed a number of choices, and everyone was also able to add other factors which were not listed. Responders commented on the post itself and I also received a number of private messages. 

The results show that even though there is so much talk about creating a company culture, many companies are missing the mark. The fact that respect was the one factor that was mentioned far more often than the others says much about what is really happening in many companies today. 

Everyone needs to stop only looking toward leadership to create and maintain the culture. Everyone needs to take responsibility for it on their own.

For every element in a culture, employees can take actions to improve the culture and their place in it. Sometimes they may need to have difficult conversations with their managers and managers are not always willing to accommodate their needs and requests. When this happens, employees need to decide what will work best for them, to stay in a place which doesn’t satisfy these needs or to seek other employment. It is all about choices and it is the employee’s choice about how to proceed. 

Below is the list of cultural factors impacting employee retention, which was discussed on LinkedIn. It is listed in the order of most to least frequent mentions.

#1 Respect – From Boss and Peers

This was mentioned significantly more than any other factor. People want to be respected as people, for their knowledge and for their work. Respect also comes in the form of trust – trusting managers, employees, and peers. (Trust was not on the original list but was mentioned frequently.)

Senior leadership can have some impact on respect in the company, direct managers have more. If direct managers view their employees as co-workers instead of subordinates, empower them to make decisions and demonstrate they trust the employee’s abilities, employees will feel more respected. Direct managers can and should always model respectful behavior.

Respect is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone in the company plays a role in creating and maintaining a culture of respect. Everyone should discourage backstabbing, malicious gossip, name calling and rumors. All employees should understand, appreciate and value everyone’s role as a vital piece in the organization. Both managers and individual contributors should be viewed as important – whether they are at the top of the company or somewhere else. No one should feel ostracized, ridiculed or excluded. Everyone is responsible for creating an atmosphere of friendliness and comradery.

#2 Career Path / Advancement – Potential for Promotion

Career path / advancement was the second most mentioned factor in this discussion. In general, people like to advance their career because it provides more money, greater challenges and growth opportunities. Well defined career paths give employees something to aim for. Each company has a different view of career paths. In some companies it is documented and well known. In others, it is understood. In some, it is non-existent.

In an optimal scenario, there is a career path for every employee. Unfortunately, focusing on career paths is something which doesn’t happen often enough and needs to be addressed. Managers should take the lead on establishing career paths. They can help employees to identify future opportunities in the company and ways to get there. By providing appropriate, constructive and timely (regular) feedback they can help their employees grow. They can identify and encourage training.

Career Path / Advancement is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Every employee is responsible for managing their own career path. If you were to ask employees what they would like their next role to be, they can usually answer that question. If you were to ask them their long-range career goals, you will find that many have never even thought about them. Employees should set career goals, share them with their manager and work together toward that goal. They themselves should look for internal and external training to prepare themselves. They need to seek new tasks and experiences which will help them grow.

#3 Professional Growth – Training and/or Mentors

Professional growth (training and mentors) was the 3rd most popular choice. This ties closely into career paths, as structured career path programs typically incorporate training programs. Larger companies often have extensive in-house training programs. Smaller companies typically do not. In spite of this, many managers discourage training or think it is a waste of time. They want their employees to work better, faster, more efficiently, but they aren’t always willing to let employees take the time for training. 

Professional Growth is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone in the company needs to take charge of his/her own professional growth. While there are some managers who encourage professional growth, there are also many who discourage it. It is up to the employee to identify courses to take and explain to the manager how these courses can help accomplish their tasks and projects.

Mentorship is also important. If the company doesn’t have a mentor program, employees should take the time to find someone who has accomplished similar goals. This can be someone inside or outside of the company. Employees take charge of this by scheduling time to meet with their prospective mentor, preparing a list of questions about how they got to where they are and asking them for guidance. Most people are willing to help someone else, but if someone is not, there are plenty others that are.

#4 Money  – Salary / Bonus

Responders’ views on money vary, based on their satisfaction with their current salary. Several responses mentioned that if money is satisfactory, other issues would be more important for retention. 

Money Earned is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone is responsible for their own compensation. While it is true that the company sets the salary, it typically falls within a range. It is important for everyone to know their market value and ask for compensation within that range. Read more about this in an article I wrote, called: Know Your Job’s Market Value and Get Paid What You Are Worth.

#5 Recognition – For Good Performance

Recognition to many is acknowledgement of good performance, based on results. Recognition is one the best ways to make employees feel appreciated. (Appreciation was one of the frequently mentioned factors which was not in the original list.)

Recognition includes verifying how good performance contributes to the success of the organization. In many cases, respect and recognition were mentioned together, and frequently it was clarified that respect is more important.

Some companies have formal recognition programs. They distribute awards, make official announcements, or offer other benefits. These official programs work well, but employees can take a more active role in this also.

Recognition is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone should encourage recognition in the company. Employees who take the time to congratulate other employees find they are often congratulated in return. Employees can change the culture by actively recognizing good work and success. They can even take it one step further by suggesting and implementing new ways to celebrate successes.

#6 Personal Growth – Learning New Skills (Tied with Challenge)

Certain skills may not be directly tied to a job but can impact it in the long run. Personal growth skills are skills that can easily be translated and used in most jobs and throughout life.

Personal Growth is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone is responsible for his or her own personal growth. Presentation skills, writing, goal setting, are all examples of skills which may or may not be directly tied to a job but are all types of personal growth. If training is not available in-house for these types of skills, employees should seek training elsewhere. Not all training needs to have a cost. Training can take many forms and there are many YouTube videos and podcasts which are free of charge. 

#6 Challenge – New and Interesting Assignments (Tied with Personal Growth)

Challenge was mentioned as often as personal growth. Challenge keeps people interested in their work. Challenge is a driver of innovation and creativity. Successfully accomplishing new challenges is personally and professionally rewarding.

Challenge is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone is responsible for seeing to it that they are challenged. If employees do the same thing day in and day out, they will get bored. Employees who feel this way should discuss ways to be challenged with their manager. Employees can seek or find challenging projects and offer to do them. If a manager does not want their employee to step out of their role, the employee needs to discuss the reason with the manager. 

#7 Time – Flexible Schedule / Hours

Issues around time and flexibility often center around family life. It did not get nearly the number of mentions as some of the other factors, but those who value time and flexibility strongly believe in its importance.

Time and Flexibility is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone needs to find the work situation that works for them. If this is an important requirement, employees should discuss it with their manager. If an employee needs flexibility and the company does not offer or allow it, employees may want to take or look for a different job. It is often easier said than done, but if it is truly a high priority, it is possible to find. 

#8 Co-workers – Socializing Outside of Work

Relationships with co-workers can make the environment good, tolerable, unbearable, or anything in between. In spite of this, the responses on this factor were mixed. Some people thought it didn’t impact employee retention at all, some felt people give it too much importance, while still others believed socializing with co-workers helps to create a support system at work.

Relationships with Co-workers is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!

Everyone is responsible for creating positive relationships with their co-workers. If an employee is having a difficult time with someone, they should reach out and try to fix the relationship. Socializing, eating lunch together, etc. are ways to form strong bonds with co-workers. Sometimes this extra time and effort goes a far way.

#9 Commute – How Easy it is to Get to the Office / Meeting

This is the factor that came in as least important. In some of the major metropolitan areas, commuting times can be quite long – extending to one or more hours (well over the average). It is likely that since people are generally aware of the commuting time or remote work situation when they accept a job, this typically won’t impact retention.

What Does It All Mean?

It means that while it is true that leadership can create some of the culture, employees can influence it as well. Every employee can have a share in creating, changing or maintaining the culture. It is time for employees to look at themselves and take charge of their own experience at work.

What are you doing to improve the company culture where you work?

Photo Credits: Pixabay

(Originally posted at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/employee-retention-company-culture-everyones-ann-lustig/)

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