Retention Takes A Solid Culture

By Patty Crabtree

If you are worried about retaining great employees, you are in good company.

Startling statistic: According to a 2022 study of The Conference Board, labor shortages have driven talent retention to the #1 position of the CEO agenda in 2022. In its 23rd annual survey, the report reflects the views of 1,614 C-suite executives, including 917 CEOS.

The Conference Board states:

Organizations are “re-recruiting” existing employees to help them see a new path forward and recognizing the sacrifices employees have made over the past two years. Addressing workers’ desire for greater flexibility across virtually every aspect of the new work “contract” underpins these strategies…Executives in 2022 will seek to find the right flexibility formula for their business.

In other words, they are “re-recruiting” to improve retention by creating an improved culture.

Culture is defined as the key behaviors an organization uses in working together and with its the clients and vendors. It sets the expectations of how the team will work together. Corporate culture is the oil that allows everything to run smoothly. It reflects what is greatest, true and noble about the company. Who is the company at its heart?

Learning From Michelle’s Cautionary Culture Tale

Recently, I was speaking with a client, let’s call her Michelle, who was unhappy in her job. Michelle didn’t feel successful even though she was meeting all her metrics. After talking through the issues, it became quickly apparent that culture was the problem.

Employees weren’t receiving feedback from management so they were feeling undervalued and unsuccessful. Leadership kept pushing harder for more from everyone though staff didn’t understand what they were working toward. They weren’t in alignment and people were planning their exit.

Michelle had asked for feedback on numerous occasions but never received it. She became more and more frustrated and decided it was time for a change. She accepted a new position and became just another statistic in what the media has dubbed The Great Resignation.

Michelle’s manager was shocked when she resigned. He didn’t get that she was unhappy. With her leaving, others in the organization told her what a big loss it was for the company and how much of a difference she had made. The very feedback she was craving.

This valuable employee could have been saved if management listened to her and other employee concerns. Their culture was not employee oriented and this was illustrated by losing key employees. This type of turnover is painful for any organization. While everyone is ultimately replaceable, the cost of that replacement can be great. A culture of alignment and teamwork can help lessen this type of loss.

How To Create A Culture Of Alignment

Culture takes regular nurturing. By committing to create an environment where staff thrives, clients receive excellent service and your external partners feel valued, you will reap the benefits. Keep steering everyone in the same direction, toward the same goals and vision course correcting when needed.

You will be amazed at how behavior changes. Enthusiasm and loyalty grows when values and culture are clear and lived by.

Envolve your staff in the cultural conversation. Giving them a voice creates engagement and loyalty as they will feel valued and respected.

A client recently shared concerns about turnover in his company. It was a 30-year-old organization with numerous long-term employees that was going through a leadership change. The current CEO planned to retire and his children started to take over. The children had a different leadership style. The staff was anxious about the change, which is resulting in some of them jumping ship.

The CEO felt the leadership team was fracturing. People did not see the behind-the-scenes story of the transition. Key people were finding new jobs and the company was suffering.

The moral of the story: transition planning must include reviewing culture and effectively communicating.

Culture Requires Conversation

Culture needs to be a continuous conversation within an organization even when not experiencing a major change. Periodic check-ups to confirms it still hold true to who they are as an organization. Culture isn’t something you just set. It is something that needs to be nurtured and communicated.

When culture is stressed, people become anxious and can feel unsafe. They will seek out something they can control which can be changing jobs.

Your hiring practices are also critical for long-term retention. Ensuring that candidates not only have the needed technical skills but also will fit in and enhance your culture. Formalizing a recruitment process that incorporates your culture will make a big difference in the quality of staff joining your firm. Finding people who believe in and personify your values will create a high performing team environment.

Develop interview questions around your culture. Define the qualities of success within your organization and for that specific position. What soft skills are needed to be successful in your firm?

One Company’s Journey

Can you relate to this culture story of a company with stalled growth?

This company’s culture journey started with identifying the key attributes that they felt exemplified how they wanted to work together to grow the organization. Leadership communicated to staff and shared it with their clients, posted it on the breakroom wall, and even branded their email signature blocks.

However, they had a roadblock on the journey. The challenge was their behaviors did not truly reflect those defined values. It just wasn’t who they were, how they were making their decisions and supporting their staff.

This lack of continuity created confusion and people were not on the same page. The situation left their staff feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and fearful because they didn’t feel the stability that most workers crave.

This culture misstep led to a high turnover rate, which cost not only the hard dollars to recruit new candidates but the soft dollar costs of repeated onboarding, training along with the impact on staff morale. Not retaining the great employees hurt the quest for growth.

Leadership was puzzled. They felt they had a good work environment. They took a step back to reassess their approach. They went through an exercise to uncover the core issues within their culture and identified the behaviors that would lead them to success. They developed their own unique approach and updated their core values to reflect this.

Definition statements were created for each value to clearly define the intent. The values were introduced to staff with these added definitions and the leaders reinforced them in their daily interactions.

The values were also more deeply embedded into their recruiting process. Behavioral interview questions were developed that focused on cultural fit which helped pinpoint the best candidates.

Over time, their retention improved and the recruitment process put the right people on the bus. Their leadership started spending more time on enhancing their infrastructure and building toward growth instead of constantly hiring. The instability fears lessened among staff, which further helped retention.

The company began to see its desired growth and they increased their market share. Of course, it was not easy. Truly it took a focused effort to create this success and there was a time investment. In the long run, it paid dividends for them.

Is Your Culture Driving Retention?

This year might be high time to take a step back and review your culture. Does it meet who you want to be? Is it driving the results you want to see? Does everyone understand the expectations?

Lighthouse Consulting Services can help you take some time to review your culture and confirm if it fits not only the current personality of your organization but also the personality you want within the company. Together we can make sure that everyone understands the expected behaviors and how to create alignment with how to execute on them.

As your company grows, your culture may also need to evolve so it is helpful to perform periodic check-ups to ensure your culture is supporting your growing company. Schedule these periodic check-ups and fine tune it along the way.

During these turbulent times, retention deserves to be #1 on the C-suite agenda. Together we can tackle the issue by building a solid culture.

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with more than 25 years in operations, coaching, building strong cultures and finance leadership experience.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to

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