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What Employees Need: A Great Place to Work

retention Dec 08, 2021

Pause for a moment and think about your favorite job. What made that job great? It’s likely one thought that came to mind was, “a great place to work!”. The company stood for something that you believed in, you worked with some great people and you knew how you were contributing to something bigger than yourself. Additionally, it's likely that critical elements of the organization’s culture resonated with you. Culture, you know it can make a big difference. So, what is organizational culture exactly?

Organizational Culture is the aligned values, beliefs, behaviors and experiences that make up the organization’s environment. It can happen intentionally or haphazardly. Making intentional choices to create the culture you want lays the groundwork for employee retention before anyone even thinks about leaving.

Let’s get practical on strategies you can use to enhance your employee culture and lay the foundation for people to stay:

Build Trust to Foster Team Cohesiveness 

Trust is built in consistent behavior over time. Actions aligned with stated values serve as the guardrails that drive team culture. Uncovering your real values -- the ones that guide what you do -- means articulating the belief(s) and criteria behind decisions that impact your team’s cohesiveness and the outcomes you seek to achieve. 

Let’s dive into a few practical ways to assess the trust factor in your culture:

  • Notice patterns. Tune in to concerns or complaints that are being expressed and notice what repeats. What are the patterns telling you about what’s important or not important to you or the team?
  • Create formal feedback loops. For instance, introduce an “open door policy”, ask a feedback question at the beginning of the first meeting of the month, or offer surveys to gain insights.
  • Conduct and track feedback from exit interviews. Ask the same questions in every exit interview so you can collect and share the themes or patterns that emerge.

Invest in People and They Will Flourish 

Some people claim that up to 80% of turnover is due to poor leadership whether it is at the manager level or the senior level of leadership. Whatever the frustration with leadership that contributes to employees leaving, managers can have a big impact when they have the tools to deal with the people-side of leadership. Many nonprofit and smaller organizations don’t have a big budget for training, coaching or conferences, so what can you do on a budget to equip your managers?

  • Read and discuss a leadership book together and apply what you learned in your leadership context.
  • Seek out group coaching opportunities for your managers that might be more affordable than individual leadership coaching.
  • Pursue a grant or special donation to train and/or develop your team.

Don’t let money be something that holds you back from investing in the managers in your organization whether they manage staff or volunteers or both.

Address Performance Concerns Early to Keep Culture Strong

Inconsistent application of policy, poor performance that goes unaddressed, or even bad attitudes quickly erode trust. Early intervention is critical to preserve the work you have put into creating a great work environment. It’s not rules that keep a culture strong -- in fact rules usually send some of the bad habits under the surface. Instead, start conversations as soon as you notice problematic behavior changes. Do a quick check-in using these questions to see whether there is alignment between values and performance.

  • What mechanisms do you use to set expectations and manage performance? How do these activities reflect your values?
  • How responsive are you at addressing complaints? Which value(s) drive when and how you respond?

Treat People Fairly and See the Positive Impact

While trust is consistent behavior over time, it can be quickly eroded if that consistent behavior is not the same across the board. Confidence in leadership is established when policies and practices match and exceptions are explicit and being applied consistently at every level in the organization.

  • How consistently are you applying policies? What people, groups of people or situations tend to fall outside of typical policies?
  • What complaints keep surfacing where people cite inconsistency or concerns about fairness? How quickly are they addressed?

Articulating culture is being able to clearly express why this is a great place to work so everybody knows what they are getting into when they say yes to being a part of the team -- and they know what to hold each other accountable to while working together to carry out the mission.

Next steps

Take a few minutes to review all four elements of organizational culture that impacts why employees stay or go. Answer these questions:

  1. Look for your cultural strengths. Which of the four areas noted above are your strength(s)? How can you leverage that strength to deepen engagement? 
  2. Notice the gaps between stated and actual cultural experience. Which of these four areas seem to be a gap for you? Where is there misalignment between what is happening and what you want for the culture of your team or your organization?
  3. Pick one thing you want to address. It’s really like a domino effect when you make one intentional investment in culture. You may find that every aspect of culture can be strengthened as a result. It’s often the little changes that have a big impact.
  4. Run an experiment. Try out an idea to enhance culture. Get some feedback and make adjustments to achieve the results you’re looking for.

Need another set of eyes and ears to help you assess culture and the investment you would like to make in creating the culture you’ve always wanted? Grab a FREE 30 minute strategy session with me and we can explore these four culture factors for your team. Then, join me in the next blog to explore another key factor to what employee’s need: Doing What You Love.

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