Build a workplace culture that keeps — and attracts — top employees

In 2021, more than 47 million U.S. workers voluntarily quit their jobs. The following year, another 50 million did so, in a phenomenon that’s since been dubbed “the great resignation.”

Since then, employers of nearly every stripe have been struggling to retain and attract skilled employees, with many sectors experiencing an overall quit rate of more than 2% of their workforce.  

In such a challenging labor market, employers must prioritize building a positive workplace culture if they hope to attract and retain skilled workers.

Of course, with many workers now operating in remote or hybrid positions, it can feel especially challenging to support connection building between employees and the workplace — particularly if they’re rarely there in person. 

But building true workplace connections with staff, whether remotely or in person, isn’t impossible. It does, however, take intentionality. Creating a positive workplace culture requires much more than simply installing a staff juice bar or peppering your team chat with smiling emojis. 

Recent years’ sweeping worker reshuffling has made it clear that employees today tend to walk away from jobs when they believe their company’s core values and attitudes to work-life balance do not mesh with their own. On the other hand, when these things are in alignment, they’re more likely to stay.

Want to build a corporate culture that retains and attracts top workers? Here’s how:

Prioritize culture building at every stage of the company life cycle

New companies should focus on culture from day one. Start by creating a vision for your business, including specific goals for staff collaboration, team building and career development.

In your vision plan, establish how staff performance will be evaluated and how corporate decisions will be made — whether, for example, by department heads alone or through a more inclusive team approach.

Such decisions help bring the company’s corporate operating procedures and overall workplace culture to life, so be sure to prioritize both considerations simultaneously. By creating a compelling corporate vision, you can inspire high-quality performances and a positive overall work culture from your staff.

Similarly, growing and mature companies should perform at least an annual check-in to keep culture building at the forefront of their operational priorities. Seek out employee feedback regarding aspects of culture and staff engagement to help ensure your current policies and performance have not strayed away from your founding vision.

Issuing routine, anonymous “pulse” surveys to get a feel for employees’ thoughts on the health of your workplace is a great way to signal to workers that your office legitimately cares about creating and maintaining a healthy work culture. Even more importantly, employees tend to be more engaged and committed to a workplace culture when corporate strategies are shaped by their own feedback and ideas.

Ask for feedback on issues like the types of benefits or perks employees value, whether they feel they have ample opportunities within the company to grow and where the company may be falling short of meeting customers’ or employees’ expectations.

The feedback you receive can help alert you to cracks in staff morale or other culture pain points before they become major obstacles.

Engage employee stakeholders in your overall business success

Help your employees feel valued and invested in their jobs by including them in discussions and decision-making about your company’s future direction and goals for success.

You can strive to build engaged and fulfilled workplace teams when you:

  • Recruit for culture: Hire for character and “team fit,” especially if you can teach some essential skills on the job. This does not mean everyone has to think, look or work the same. Look for staff members who can work well together and who share your company’s ideals about integrity, respect and other core values.
  • Celebrate wins often: Acknowledge people and business practices that embody the company culture. Create retention plans, succession plans and development paths in alignment with your ideal culture, so the “right” behaviors are regularly reinforced and rewarded.
  • Face hard conversations and decisions head-on: A strong culture can withstand tough love. Ask employees for feedback that could be hard to hear. Then, once you’ve made a stand on culture, don’t waver. Operational policies — including benefits and purchasing and pricing decisions — need to align with your culture goals. In practice, this could mean favoring slightly lower productivity in exchange for greater work-life balance for employees, for example.
  • Make things easier when you can: Not everything has to be hard. When possible, leverage technology to streamline collaborations, eliminate staff headaches and make work more flexible. Show employees you care about them by removing barriers to efficiency and letting them focus time on tasks that bring them joy.

Remember that true culture building requires a high level of trust between leaders and staff.

Workplace culture can, and should, grow and mature over time. When companies commit to engaging fully with their staff members to create a positive, supportive work environment, real, lasting results are possible — both in staff retention and overall corporate success.

How Wipfli can help

Wipfli’s skilled technology specialists can work with you to assess the strength — and growth potential — of your current corporate culture, so your teams can achieve new levels of organizational success. Reach out to learn more about how Wipfli can help your company boost current performance and accelerate future growth. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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