People First HR Services

Positive work culture helps retain new talent

Colleen Coates

Congratulations on finding and hiring a strong, qualified new employee, bringing their talent, enthusiasm and valuable skill set to your organization.

Now that you’ve got them, what are you doing to keep them from leaving?

It is no longer enough to apply resources to recruiting employees who are the right fit for your company; it is absolutely necessary to give them reasons to stay. When it comes to retaining top talent, you may be surprised to learn that your company has a lot going for it already — if you have made the effort to create a positive workplace culture.

On the annual lists of the best companies to work for in North America, high-profile names like Google spring up because of their unconventional workplace cultures on top of the unique perks they offer employees. Google spares no expense in offering its hard-working people everyday bonuses like on-campus gourmet cafes, stress-relieving massages, dry cleaning and even offering $1,000 toward the purchase of environmentally friendly cars.

But for every other employer in the world who is not Google, such extravagance may be seen as a luxury afforded only by big-budget businesses, or that in more modest organizations, providing such employee incentives is simply not necessary. Not true.

Keeping good people costs money — and without a doubt, the greatest portion of expenses in any company is allotted to salaries, benefits and other employee-related operating costs. Health-care benefits, child care, flex time, performance bonuses and telecommuting options are among the factors that employees cite as being an important part of overall job satisfaction. Interestingly, all of these are tied in to creating a culture that emphasizes a healthy balance and clear boundaries between work and home.

A recent study by U.S. consultant Key Group found that 18 per cent of employees aged 18 to 64 are planning to make this the year they change jobs — specifically in hopes of striking a better work-life balance. Because this balance is a bottom-line issue for so many workers, employers must be constantly looking for ways to help alleviate some of the demands of the job through workplace culture if they want to avoid excessive turnover.

Fortunately, you don’t need Google-sized funds to bankroll a positive work environment. Employees want a culture that provides them not only with perks, but balance, as well as choices, development and care. Investing in the creation of such a culture will reap benefits like energized employees, greater productivity and long-term retention.

Consider these fundamentals the building blocks for a positive workplace culture:

A respectful environment — Create a culture of trust and fairness by first identifying any issues that may be contributing to feelings of negativity, including favouritism (different standards for different employees) and overlooked recognition. Next, encourage upfront and honest dialogue so that your people will be more open to respecting, challenging and praising one another, which will make them more willing to take risks and grow as a team.

Rewards and recognition — It’s absolutely necessary to validate and reward outstanding performance and achievement, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complex or costly. In fact, a personal pat on the back, a mention in a staff meeting or a note of appreciation in the company newsletter speaks volumes. No matter how you publicly demonstrate how much your employees mean, it must always be perceived as caring and most of all, sincere.

Individual and team-building opportunities — No one wants to grow stale or bored at work. Most employees want to be challenged to stretch their minds and abilities by learning something new, so give them opportunities for personal development and access to the training and educational tools to advance their careers. They should also be able to grow together as a team, so openly encourage projects that will allow collaboration and the opportunity to play a direct role in the organization’s current and future success.

Employee retention is a circle — Organizations that make it a priority will get the best from their people, giving rise to a positive culture and a motivated, innovative workforce. This cuts the high costs of turnover. On top of this, research shows that employees who work in an organization where retention is high are more likely to be satisfied and inspired in their jobs — and are more likely to tell other potential employees about the great place they work.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai

Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2011 H2