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Creating a Culture of Retention for 2014

Posted by Samara Parker
January 13th, 2014

Retention is one of the biggest buzzwords for 2014.

With a forecasted economic upturn comes expectations of job creation, and with expected job creation comes the swooshing sound of disgruntled employees everywhere dusting off their resumes. Hence, a reinvigorated focus on retention by HR pros and employers.

Another big buzzword this year is culture. It was also a big buzzword for 2013... And 2012. Let's face it, love it or hate it, corporate culture is an integral part of doing business in this social media-dominant world!

Personally, I love that companies are putting culture first and letting the culture they create drive their business. I also love what company culture can do for retention.

The culture you promote can mean the difference between retaining your best employees and losing them. In fact, many employees value aspects of company culture as much as they do rate of pay.

That's why smart companies (like Sapient, REI, Google, and SAP) act very strategically to cultivate a culture that rewards employees loyalty, and puts a premium on retaining their best people.

Follow their lead!

Here are great ways you can use company culture for retention:

Make your culture flexible

In employee satisfaction surveys, millennials consistently cite flexibility as being more important than rate of pay. Allowing your people to work malleable hours, giving them the option to work from home home on occasion, and creating programs that allow them to work in a different department, or at a branch located in a different part of the country (or different country altogether), are just a few examples of the kind of flexibility they desire.

Make your culture something to be proud of

You may not be able to increase pay, or hand out massive bonuses, but you can make employees feel good about working for your company.

If your company culture promotes good ethics, through charitable giving, fundraising projects, and community support, your employees have something other than a high salary that they can take pride in. Being proud of the company you work for is a huge motivator, especially amongst younger employees (us Gen Yers still think we can change the world, sssshhhhh, don't burst our bubble!)

Having a 'mission' is a great way to make doing good a signature part of your company culture. Whether it's improving your own environmental policy, giving a certain percentage of profits, or products, to charity, or organizing fundraising events with your staff.

Check out Tom's for a great example of a highly successful company that has a strong message of giving back, and excellent retention.

Create a culture of community

When your employees feel connected to each other and their superiors, they are less likely to jump ship.

You can cultivate a culture of community by organizing events that bring your team together. For example, every Friday let your employees stop work an hour early and share some beers, and/or snacks while talking through the week. Not only will this give them a chance to get to know each other better, but it will also give you some insights into how they're doing, and what the general vibe around the office is.

Another important way to make sure that your company culture promotes a strong sense of community is to hire for fit. This does not mean hiring employees based on their personal style, or hobbies, as so many recruiters seem to think it does. Hiring for cultural fit simply means hiring candidates that will get along with the team you already have, and enjoy working in the culture that you want to promote.

You can also use social media to give employees more encouragement to interact with each other. Try Campfire, Skype, or Slack to promote communication, and community within your company.

Create a culture of respect

The saying "Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers" may be an overstatement, but it is true that poor management has a huge effect on retention.

Make sure that you train your managers well, that they interact regularly with staff, and that all employees are made to feel heard and that you take their input seriously.

SAP does an especially good job of this. Check out this article for 10 ways that SAP encourages employee engagement, and thus showcase their culture of respect.

More than even financial motivations, social and emotional fulfillment can determine whether employees choose to stay and grow with your company, how much they contribute, and how well they perform.

That's why, for 2014, a year that marks the return of retention as a major issue for HR, company culture must be seen as a top priority.