Experts and Studies Agree That Developing the Right Workplace Culture Is the Key to Employee Retention

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Writing or talking about corporate, business or workplace “culture” is easy, but it’s a difficult concept for many employers to grasp—literally—because it’s an intangible and doesn’t clearly register on the senses. As true as that might be, the 21st-century employer is faced with certain facts that require him or her to make the company’s culture more tangible and inviting to employees, so more of them (especially the important and productive ones) are retained longer.

First, the national average length of employment is approximately one and a half years per job. Part of the reason is that employees are prepared to change jobs if their current employers don’t create a culture in which workers recognize an effort to provide choice, balance, development and care. Second, every labor study suggests the available workforce will significantly shrink during the next ten years as Baby Boomers retire. A third fact is that employee retention can no longer be considered a function of the rises and falls in the economy. Progressive companies must make retention a long-term, strategic goal.

Small-business owners are particularly vulnerable because rapid turnover, especially if it occurs during a short period of time, can disrupt sales, productivity and customer service so much as to endanger the very existence of the business.Any business owner can make his or her culture more tangible and attractive to employees by addressing the four drivers mentioned above.

Choice – Put simply, employees expect more choices in the workplace; in terms of the methods and tools they use to complete their jobs, the general and specific benefits of the work experience and schedule flexibility. Many companies have already responded to that last point with telecommuting and flex-time. All the studies prove that there is a strong, direct link between employees being empowered to control how and when they work and their willingness to continue to work for their employers.

Balance – More women in the workplace—and more of them highly educated—has had many profound effects on the company culture, but maybe none more important than changing employers’ mindset about balancing work and private life. Many companies have recognized that it’s necessary to help employees find that balance, which is why flex-time, family leave, family-based benefits and other policies are somewhat common. Some companies are even making vacations mandatory, especially for employees in highly stressful professions and occupations.

Development – Today’s employees have no interest working an unchallenging, tedious job, or working for an employer that doesn’t offer opportunities for personal development and advancement and the proactive programs to reach those goals. The studies show that employees’ immediate supervisors can do the most to create a culture of development. By working closely with employees, managers and supervisors can learn more about their career goals, and then guide them, accordingly. Scheduling regular meetings with employees to discuss why they might want to leave or what can be done to retain them longer is a straightforward solution any employer should consider.

Care – Research has determined that employees who work where employee retention is high and turnover low are more likely to be inspired by their jobs. The form of their inspiration may be a recognition that their contribution is to everyone’s benefit, a commitment to company goals or the willingness to follow an outstanding leader. Whatever inspires employees, it must result in a caring attitude about their work and the company. It’s also important for employers to demonstrate that they care about their employees: they should be heard, respected and recognized for the work they do.

When employers are able to create strong, robust company cultures built on a framework of choice, balance, development and care, employees take notice and are apt to remain much longer than the average of one and a half years.

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