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Wednesday 12th April 2017

IS YOUR COMPANY CULTURE BROKEN? Why you may be struggling with employee retention

I heard of a business leader recently who wanted to install an allotment patch on his office grounds because he heard millennials liked gardening. He heard of another business doing it and thought it must be a good idea, because the business in question had an excellent retention rate when it came to millennials, whereas this CEO was struggling to retain them.

What a wonderful idea, install a garden! If you build it, they will come. But will they stay? This CEO was doing what we call ‘plastering’ – trying to plaster over decaying walls with a surface level solution. When I delved a little further into their business, there were decaying walls everywhere and therein lied their problem.

You are not struggling to retain millennials because you don’t have a garden (or a ping-pong table, or a Buddhist monk teaching meditation), you are struggling to retain them because your culture is essentially broken (or to put it a nicer way, outdated.) A company culture is not built on superficial gestures like ping-pong tables. It is built around the values, the purpose and the ethics of a company and when these are in place, the ping-pong tables will follow.

I have seen engagement and wellbeing programmes fail time and time again because leaders and business owners refuse to address the real issues at hand.

IS YOUR COMPANY CULTURE BROKEN? Why you may be struggling with employee retention

How do you know if your culture is broken?

LISTEN. What are your staff saying about you? What are they saying about the company? How long do they stick around? Bad leaders close their ears off to this kind of feedback – it’s difficult to hear and no one likes to think they are doing a bad job. But there’s an easy way to find out. Give your employees the chance to tell you through anonymous feedback surveys. One disgruntled member of staff could be a personal problem but more than a handful and you’re in trouble.

Teach the team managers to hold meaningful one-to-ones and find out what’s really happening on the front line. Create clear reporting structures so that nothing important remains unsaid.
Listen more than you talk. When you are speaking to a member of your team, are you doing any of the following?

Checking your emails

Reading something on your phone

Thinking about something else entirely

If so, stop. Make time to listen and engage with your staff. Give them a voice and let it be heard.

Leadership nowadays is not about dictating, it’s about collaborating. No one wants to live (or work) in a dictatorship – we’ve been shown there’s a better way and if you don’t provide it, another company will. Involve your staff in key decisions, take their opinions into account, share your vision with them and let them help you build it.

How do you go about changing it?

Prepare yourself for a long journey and don’t try to take the easy route. Surface solutions won’t work and people will see right through them. The generation coming into the workplace now favour integrity and authenticity over making a quick buck. They want to buy into a common purpose and relate to the mission of a company. How do you communicate this internally? Maybe it’s time to reassess your methods of internal communication.

Pull everyone up with you. The only way to improve a company culture is to get your leaders moving towards the direction, the company needs to go in. They need to be fully on-board with the plan and this may take some training. If you do the things you’ve always done, you’ll get the same result. Recognise that you’re working with a different kettle of fish here, so change is necessary.

What does a good company culture look like?

We know what they look like because we’ve all heard of these utopian businesses where they hold walking meetings around the company grounds or they have dedicated members of staff to take care of their employees’ happiness. Yes it’s Google, it’s Facebook, it’s Shazaam. Is there any wonder that these companies are all top of their game?

I promise you, it doesn’t take mountains of cash. You don’t need to build napping pods or a games room – make your company appealing by making it a great place to work. If people feel like what they’re doing is worthwhile and that they are making a difference in some small way then they will work harder for you. They want to feel part of a common cause (and that can’t be just to make money).

Changing your company culture may be an uphill journey, but imagine a generation entering the workplace that are hungry. Not hungry just to make money but hungry to grow and thrive with a company. Those people are your assets; make them feel welcome, because if not they’ll be queuing up at Google with their CVs.

Rush Talent Collective provides training solutions and workshops in Leadership, Wellbeing and Team Development.

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