You’ve got to focus on culture (to win and keep talent)

By March 2, 2020Culture

Are you doing everything you can to find and keep the kind of people your company needs? Does it feel like you’re constantly trying new things and still not getting the results you hoped for? Experts are clear, talent attraction and retention are not won with: “Friday happy hour ping pong tournaments” or “ lunch for the team and an all-you-can-eat 24/7 cereal bar” or even “we pay better.” In the “battle for talent,” people are passing right by fancy snacks, foosball, company retreats and that’s right, more money. The one thing that matters most is to focus on culture. 

First, we have to define culture. Here’s how we see it: Culture is created from your people’s values + beliefs + behaviors. When you’ve got a great workplace culture people feel connected, valued, and free to do their best work.

Culture is hard to define, it’s hard work to get right, and a lot of folks don’t know where to start. As a result, they default to rewards and incentives. That’s when we get phone calls for help, we show up with our culture assessment and a big bag of culture tools and strategies.

What we’ve learned from our work helping companies focus on culture and get it right so they can get and keep top talent, is that you must actively work on 3 things.

A shared vision and core values

Workplace research has shown people will take a pay cut in order to work for an organization where their sense of purpose and values are aligned. It’s a top reason people leave companies too. If your organization isn’t clear on core values, (i.e. what matters most; the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions) it’s time to get to work. People will come and stay with you because they believe in what your organization stands for.

By the same token, you need a shared vision for the future. You need to be clear on the direction and impact your organization intends to create in the world. Bottom line: people show up to work, 8, 10, 12 + hours a day to do something that matters. Everyone needs to be clear about what that is.

Note: If you’re going to work on vision and values, make sure everyone has a voice. No one wants to be told what to believe. Humans support what we help create.

Clear learning and growth paths, for everyone

The number one reason people start looking at recruiting sites? They can’t see a future for themselves where they are. They can’t see opportunities to learn and grow. The mistake people make is thinking people need to grow vertically through an organization – nope. People just want to grow and develop, it’s innate in most of us.

Each position in your organization should have clear learning paths. Your leaders need to be available and capable of sitting down with each of their people for job crafting (connecting their skills, talents, and strengths to their job description), tweaking and flexing position roles to fit the person doing them. When people see a path to grow and can participate in designing that, they feel valued.  

Flexibility wherever possible

No more excuses. Flexibility is a must-have for most professionals, especially people who are caregivers to children or elderly family members. If any part of the kind of work you do can be done remotely, make that possible. Can your shifts be flexible? Allow people to flex them. If you have people willing to step up and create their own schedules to cover for each other during busy seasons when someone needs to attend a school play, get someone to the doctor, or just have a family dinner, encourage it. Figure out what matters to your people and make the things that matter possible for them.

What about work/life balance? Ha! Many of us have so little slack in the way we live, people seek out and stay in organizations that are committed to work-life integration. Show your commitment to that by creating flexibility wherever you can.

Note: Younger employees are watching. They’re seeing how new parents, people caring for older parents, and people needing medical leave get treated. If it’s looking too difficult, they’ll be looking for a new job.

Culture work isn’t always easy, but over and over again, we see how much it pays off for the well-being of people, for the quality and quantity of work, and for the bottom line. If you focus on culture, the other pieces will fall into place much more naturally.

Want to learn more or need some support with your workplace culture? Get in touch here.

We love hearing stories about how you’re working to create a thriving culture where you work. If you’ve got a great story or helpful tip, reach out here and let us know. We’d love to feature you in an upcoming blog or video!

Jen Margolis

About Jen Margolis

My passion is helping people find and use their strengths to move toward their biggest vision. My career began as a community organizer with refugees and grew to designing and facilitating programs for international professionals including grassroots women leaders in Egypt. These experiences led me to management consulting focusing on strategic planning, leadership development, community and education based program development and executive coaching.