In August 2021 the number of open job positions in the UK exceeded an unprecedented 1 million for the first time in the UK’s history. ‘The Great Resignation’ is making it harder for companies to recruit people and many existing employees are considering changing jobs and moving employers. Data from Microsoft published earlier in the year suggests that an estimated 40% of the global workforce is considering changing jobs in 2021-2022.
Why are so many people leaving?
Many workers are thought to be making the decision to leave based on how their employers treated them – or didn’t treat them ¬– during the pandemic. The pandemic has changed the way people work and how they view work. Reversing the tide is going to require managers who care, who engage and who give workers a sense of purpose. In other words, people are looking for roles with more progressive, supportive cultures than they may have experienced to date. There is now a greater emphasis on wellbeing and flexible working, among others.
The importance of ‘people first’ company cultures
The importance of company culture really can’t be overstated in the battle for recruitment and retention. If people are leaving an organisation because they are feeling unsupported or poorly treated, word will get round very quickly and a business will suffer reputationally, along with its ability to attract candidates and retain existing team members.
How to build a great company culture
There are plenty ways to build a great company culture as the business grows:
1. Establish your culture by defining your values
Your values will steer the way your people behave, treat one another and go about their day-to-day work. When a company is in its infancy, the culture that develops will be that of the founders. It’s often one that values a ‘can-do’ attitude. Your culture is a consequence of your values. So before you do anything else, you must establish your company values:
• what is the business’ purpose?
• what do I want the business to be known for?
• which characteristics do we value in our employees?
2. Communicate your values
Once you have agreed your values, you must communicate them to your employees. Only when this is done can they start to translate into company culture. Get your staff together for an afternoon and communicate your values in an engaging and inspiring way. Invite them to participate – this way they’ll be more likely to engage with your vision and contribute towards building your new culture.
Going forward, ensure projects and initiatives are underpinned by these culture-relevant values. And be certain to communicate them at every employee induction.
3. Hire for cultural “add” rather than culture “fit”
Hiring the right people is an important way of building a strong company culture. Which makes hiring for culture fit seem like a great idea. You ask candidates what they value in a company and gauge if they align with your culture or not.
But hiring on the basis of cultural fit can quickly create an environment where everyone thinks the same. Further, it also limits employee diversity which is bad news for company culture and business results.
Instead, hire for culture add. Ask what candidates can bring to your business that will move your culture in the right direction.
4. How does your culture define success?
The way a business defines, measures and rewards success says a lot about its culture. You will need to agree how you will measure company and individual performance. Think also about the way your definition of success reinforces your culture. Will you reward employees for hitting targets, or award them bonuses for passing certain levels of turnover? What about customer satisfaction or cost-reduction? Each type of measurement sends a message of its own and affects the way your culture develops.
5. Be transparent
Transparency helps improve trust and satisfaction for your employees. It’s also an important component of a strong culture. This also applies to communicating how employees’ work will help the organisation towards its mission and objectives (which can often get lost in day-to-day work.)
Don’t try to hide the low points – celebrate the highs and analyse the lows, consulting with staff about where things have gone wrong and what can be done to improve them in the future. Be transparent about your successes too; be sure to share any upturns in revenue, exciting achievements and business-growth.
6. Culture leads from the top
Leaders need to acknowledge that – like it or not – they set the cultural agenda and are responsible for curating how it builds in a company. It then needs to exist independently of the leaders. It’s also important for leaders to connect with their people emotionally. Gone are the days when managers keep their distance and focus on the metrics. People need to know that their leaders care about them and that they take rational decisions based on sound ethical principles.
7. Do what you say you’re going to do
Building a strong company culture is about practicing what you preach. Company values are only worth something when you put them into practice. If you say you’re a ‘people-first’ company, demonstrate this by investing in your people. Failing to deliver on your promises creates a distrustful and disloyal culture. Live up to your promises and you’ll be rewarded with a strong culture and a happy, engaged and motivated team.
Flexible working and recruitment
Allowing people to work from home and balance duties of care with their work lives means employers can recruit from a wider and more diverse pool of people than they did before the pandemic took hold. The result is that more employers are recruiting outside of their geographic area, with more people using technology to communicate and collaborate from wherever they live.
Obtaining feedback – and acting on it
It is important to obtain feedback regularly to understand how employees are feeling about their roles and employers and to use this as the basis for a framework of changes and improvements that are needed. Asking employees for their thoughts on either an informal or more formal basis will suffice – if you don’t ask you will never know. The final step is to ensure that employers act on the feedback from these surveys and make the changes.
Exit interview, meet ‘stay interview’
A stay interview is essentially a conversation between an employer and employee about the latter’s experience of the company and views on their working lives. It provides insight which an employer can use to highlight areas for improvement which may otherwise be ground for an employee choosing to work elsewhere.
‘Stay’ interviews are obviously preferable to exit interviews and should be prioritised, especially for high performing employees whose departure would be the most damaging to a business.
Following two difficult years, confidence is returning to various sectors yet many business leaders’ plans for recovery will be thwarted if their most talented people look elsewhere.
Employers must work harder than ever to attract the best candidates and retain existing talent. Focusing on building a strong culture can help businesses compete with larger competitors who may be able to offer larger salaries and a reputation for genuinely putting people first will also go a long way in the battle for recruitment and retention.
For assistance in conducting stay and exit interviews please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44(0)7917 878384.