Real Leaders

Want to Keep Key Employees? Put Company Culture First

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Eighteen months after the battle began, businesses continue to fight the impact of a vicious virus.

As they do—now more than ever—employers struggle to retain and hire key staff members. And yet, in too many cases, furthest from a business leader’s mind today is perhaps exactly what can stop the employee mass exodus and boost potential hires’ interest.

The health of their work culture.

Specifically, ensuring their company culture doesn’t suck by making certain that everyone treats others, in every interaction, with respect.

Why is a respectful work culture so important?

Employees—of all generations—desire and deserve workplaces where they are respected and validated for their ideas, efforts, and contributions, every day.

The reality is that far too few leaders ensure their work cultures meet this standard. And when employees don’t experience this post-pandemic standard, in large part fueled by the freedom and autonomy experienced while working from home, is being met—they leave. For many companies with less-than-healthy, disrespectful work cultures, “The Great Resignation” is real.

Company Culture: Current Reality

Chances are—even though your organization may excel in many other areas—your work culture doesn’t always make people feel valued or respected. That work environment may not be inspiring or driven by purpose, or compassionate, or fun, or productive. Daily, it may—and often does—contradict the company’s stated core values (inclusion, trust, etc.). You see these cultural shortcomings firsthand—and you know your company can do, and be, better. 

As a leader, you want your company to become a better place to work—one where top talent feels they truly belong. But if you’re like the vast majority of business leaders, you don’t know where to start. 

For many in the C-suite, not knowing how to change culture—and stop top talent from going elsewhere—is a challenge.

The fact is that no one taught us how to proactively manage a work culture that values respect and results equally—in other words, a work culture where good comes first. Until recently, chances are no one ever asked you to manage company culture actively—and perhaps you never thought it was necessary. But today, that detached, reactive rather than proactive approach to company culture is decidedly outdated. 

Since Social Age thinking replaced Industrial Age “best” practices, how we think about company culture has changed significantly. Most notably, we realized the importance of intentional, focused culture leadership. In the middle of an ultra-competitive post-pandemic period—where employees are leaving unfulfilling positions in record numbers—intentionally creating a respectful culture is a high priority for every self-aware leader.

Company Culture: What’s Next?

When working from home became a norm for many and being laid off reality for too many others, the pandemic gave many employees a chance to consider what is most important to them. It offered a moment to reprioritize life—and to reconsider what they wanted from their employers.

The result: Business leaders should be worried. 

Bankrate’s August 2021 Job Seeker Survey found that 55% of Americans say they are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months. The survey also found that nearly twice as many Gen-Z (77%) and Millennial (63%) workers as baby boomers (44%) plan to hunt for new employment. In addition, 45% of Gen-X workers will join that hunt.

Now, as many of those worried leaders realize, culture change is crucial to effectively stop top talent from turning in their badges as we inch toward a post-Covid world where the “old normal” isn’t good enough. To current employees with rearranged priorities and potential new hires, culture change is undoubtedly needed. Or your company won’t be able to attract, retain, and celebrate talented and engaged players of all generations—the top-tier players necessary to help your company excel.

As a leader in your team, department, or organization, you can completely change this all-too-real, post-pandemic reality.

First, though, you must develop a new leadership mindset. That mindset requires accepting that managing results is half the leader’s job. The other half: Managing respect across your work culture.

Creating a Purposeful, Positive, Productive Work Culture

There is a proven process, including the practical tools required, that the world’s best leaders leverage to co-create a workplace where people expect respect while driving results. Through a carefully crafted culture refinement process, they’ve nurtured work cultures that don’t suck. They’ve developed workplaces people find not just civil but innovative, gratifying, productive, and even fun.

These leaders:

  • Define a work culture that puts good first, valuing respect as much as results.
  • Create a workplace where trust is contagious, validation is pervasive, and growth—both personal and professional—is constant.
  • Craft a servant purpose that ensures fair treatment of all stakeholders (not just shareholders).
  • Monitor, measure, and reward alignment to agreed-upon standards for behavior.
  • Show current and potential employees the leadership team cares about the world outside work and is proactively helping to resolve local and global issues such as inequality, poverty, health crises, and climate change.

Yes, these are lofty goals. They are also the heart and soul of a purposeful, positive, productive work culture.

More than that, these are proven, tangible steps business leaders can take to attract and retain top talent. This mindset, in turn, dramatically improves customer service levels, increases employee engagement, and generates higher levels of productivity and profits.

Stop watching key employees leave. Stop leaving company culture to chance. Instead, ensure Good Comes First in your workplace by making respect just as important as results.

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