Change Your Culture to Boost Retention

company culture

These days, employees leave one job and take another for a host of reasons. One reason that should never come up is a company’s toxic culture. In the hunt for talent, businesses can’t afford to lose valued workers because the work environment is dysfunctional, fear-based or insufficiently appreciative of their contributions.

Moreover, culture is rapidly emerging as a key differentiator when it comes to recruitment and retention. The best employees demand and deserve competitive salaries and benefits, but “they also want things that money can’t buy, such as an office environment that makes them happy and comfortable,” writes HR expert Rosemary Bryant, “whether that office environment fosters creativity, is laid back and relaxed, or makes work fun.”

Just as a great business leader determines the cultural quality of the company he or she leads, so ineffective leaders are responsible for a work environment that employees find uncomfortable (or often, intolerable) to work in. These individuals must first recognize the shortcoming in their leadership approach and then begin the hard work of changing their culture in order to keep their most valued employees.

Here are suggestions for achieving this critically important goal.

Understand what constitutes a thriving culture. Of course, “culture” can be a nebulous, catchall term meaning different things to different people. But, generally speaking, a strong culture is defined by these elements:

  • A workplace where people can ask questions and voice disagreements or concerns without any negative consequences
  • Flexibility in work schedules, recognizing the value of a good work/life balance
  • Ongoing employee coaching and development
  • An environment in which employees understand how their individual contributions affect the company’s financial performance

With these elements in place, employees are far less likely to leave and risk not finding a similarly vibrant environment elsewhere.

Cultivate transparency. One common complaint among employees is that they lack any access to how decisions are made by their employers. No one’s demanding “top-to-bottom” transparency on all key strategic and financial decisions, but sharing specific financials and outlining how a decision was reached to launch a new initiative, for example, “promotes a culture where everyone is treated like an adult who has something to contribute,” notes Mary Martinez at GoCo. A transparent workplace “will engender feelings of worth and value among all your employees.”

Foster a spirit of collaboration. Work environments where people feel like it’s “every man for himself” will hasten burn-out and a severe drop in morale. Look for opportunities to get people in one department to work more closely with colleagues in other departments—or any type of large-scale project that requires employees to work as a focused team.

In that same respect, consider taking employees off-site for occasional team-building exercises where the emphasis is on friendly competition and opportunities to get better acquainted with others on the team.

Encourage employee training and development. This facet of a healthy culture is rapidly becoming a “must-have” among HR recruiters and those wanting to promote retention. Your best employees have a strong desire to improve themselves. It’s up to you and your business to encourage this desire by sponsoring and/or subsidizing work-related seminars, on-site visits by industry experts, classes at a nearby community college, etc. Employees who feel they’re acquiring new skills and knowledge are far less motivated to look around for a new position.

Recognize and reward outstanding achievements. Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work. Such recognition can take the form of a simple “thank you” message from the CEO or more formal programs that salute individual effort in the form of a bonus, day off, special parking place and so on. These incentives frequently spur greater engagement in one’s everyday job.

Maintain a customer-focused approach to business. Your best employees work hard to provide good products and services to your customers. Invite their feedback and suggestions on ways to keep improving the quality of customer service from these “front-line” people. The business will benefit overall and, once again, you’ll see greater engagement among your workforce.

Want to retain your rock-star employees? Make sure they are treated respectfully and offered every opportunity to grow and become even better at what they do.

Need more ideas on setting the right company culture for your business? Find a TAB Board
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Is Poor Leadership Damaging Your Company Culture?

leadership and company culture

As the CEO or business owner, your job is crucial in setting the tone for your company culture. These five pitfalls can lead to discontent, high employee turnover and a negative culture.


Your role as CEO or business owner goes beyond planning for the future and forging relationships with investors or a board of directors. The leadership behavior you demonstrate on a daily basis sets the tone of your organization and company culture and often means the difference between a healthy, thriving workplace and a toxic environment where no one succeeds and employees feel downtrodden before they even step in the door every morning.

Many businesses “experience turnover, poor culture and low productivity, but rarely diagnose and treat them as leadership problems,” notes SmartCEO. “Instead they either tolerate them as a common part of organizational life, or mistakenly attribute them to other causes.”

But as any successful TAB Member can tell you, there’s never a good reason to tolerate the effects of a toxic company culture.

Here’s a look at five common leadership traits that foment discontent within an organization and fuel costly employee turnover:

1. Inaccessibility. Of course, a CEO has a busy, if not impossible, schedule to maintain. It’s all too easy, therefore, to cut yourself off from the people who work for you. But when you either lock yourself in your office or are away from the workplace for days or weeks at a time, employees have no sense of your priorities or the direction you wish them to follow. Worse yet, others on your executive or management team can fall into the same pattern, further exacerbating a sense of exclusion within the company.

2. Unwillingness to accept responsibility. Poor leaders are quick to blame others when things go wrong when, in fact, final responsibility rests with the organization’s leadership. These individuals are too caught up in their own egos and an exaggerated sense of their public image. The result? A culture where managers and employees are too fearful to show initiative or share innovative solutions.

3. A tendency to micromanage. Ineffective leaders share one common conviction: Nobody can do things better than they can. They feel compelled to step in and direct business operations at every level or, alternatively, to closely monitor employee behavior and react to shortcomings in a punitive manner. In either case, this ends up frustrating team members and robbing them of a sense of personal achievement.

4. A lack of communication. Sometimes CEOs develop a new strategy or vision without sharing how they did it. They make pronouncements but fail to share the underlying thought process that led to the new initiative they want everyone to implement. This lack of communication only leaves employees guessing as to how to go about fulfilling the latest strategic vision. It also breeds secrecy on every level within the organization.

5. An indulgence in gossip. People often enjoy gossiping and sharing rumors with others in the company, but if this is tolerated (or demonstrated) at the leadership level, you can abandon all hopes of a transparent and collaborative culture. Gossip “erodes an organization’s culture and energy over time,” writes Matt Ehrlichman at Fast Company. “Cliques form and employees find comfort in their connection to each other through trash-talking—instead of building relationships based on accomplishments and goals.”

Correcting negative leadership traits can’t be achieved overnight, but recognizing that they exist is a crucial first step. The key is modeling the behavior you wish to see displayed throughout the company. This includes:

  • Being available as much as possible and/or holding regular all-staff meetings to share your views and listen to others
  • Transparency, including a willingness to share bad news when necessary
  • Taking responsibility when an initiative fails and sharing the credit when there’s success
  • Encouraging individual resourcefulness and not personally overseeing all aspects of the business
  • Not tolerating gossip or rumors in the workplace
  • Treating every individual, regardless of title, with dignity and respect
  • Promoting and supporting opportunities for employees to grow and become leaders on their own

You’ll know when things have turned a corner and the workplace exudes a new sense of teamwork and excitement. That’s when you can take pride in helping shape a company culture where everyone’s contribution is valued and people are working together to achieve the company’s strategic goals.

Need more insights on adjusting your company culture? A TAB Board can help! Contact us to get connected with a TAB Facilitator in your local area.