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November 24, 2022

4 min read

Why employees leave great cultures

It’s such a great culture … but I’m leaving.

There’s a difference between having all the elements of what ‘should’ make for a great workplace culture vs having it truly engrained in the everyday and embodied in employee behaviours. The latter cements loyalty and reduces attrition.

How do we define an organisation’s culture? An intangible ‘vibe’? How you do what you do? And what makes a great one. Free fruit in the lunchroom? Friday drinks? In house Pilates? There’s so much more to it than these kinds of ‘surface’ benefits.

There are three parts which need to align to deliver a successful organisational culture: Actions, Processes and Practices, all guided by Values. When they don’t line up, you can lose top performing employees.

So, what do these gaps look like?  Well, your company might promote a healthy “work-life balance” but there may be an expectation that employees stay late on a regular basis. Or, you might promote your organisation as supporting learning and development but not give staff the time to complete further study.

These gaps cannot be fixed with committees or one-off events. So how can a weakened workplace culture be repaired? A place to start is by reviewing the Actions, Processes, and Practices you have in place.

Actions

Some organisations treat the development of values as somewhat of a token exercise to ‘build culture’. When they are hidden away in an induction pack or some deep corner of the corporate websites’ About Us section, they lose all meaning and worth. However, they really come into play as a measurement by which employees assess their leaders – are the leaders living the Values through their actions? Does that inspire employees to do the same? The traditional top-down approach of a handful of senior managers having the ability to define and implement an organisational culture no longer stands however their everyday interactions are still a yardstick for their team members.

Employees need to clearly understand what is expected of them in relation to the company values and their behaviour. How can these values be enacted and expressed in the workplace and how will that be rewarded. Some of that comes down to interpretation and leaders need to have these conversations with their employees. What do they value as an individual? Do certain KPI’s earn more attention than others? Is one team member late to every meeting but is meeting their sales target so its overlooked?

When everyone knows what behaviours are expected, time isn’t wasted trying to identify them.

Processes

Technology, internal systems, even job titles play into strengthening or weakening the culture. There are some key processes that must be considered here:

Recruitment – Values are often rolled out in the recruitment process – the candidate will most likely have dutifully mentioned how much they resonate during their interview, however cultural fit is often just hiring based on likeability and recognised similarities. Clarifying behavioural expectations means hiring managers can look for candidate behaviours which complement this, which moves us towards a company enriched by diversity.

Feedback – Employees must feel that the thoughts and opinions they provide through feedback assessments and engagement surveys are heard and enacted upon.

Rewards – The criteria for promotion and recognition must be transparent and fair and tied to both expected behaviours and technical skill in order to be a representative of a balanced, positive culture. What you know and how you act, rather than who you know.

Practices

Practices include everything from events, meetings, how feedback is delivered and how good and bad news is delivered. Are processes consistent and transparent? Can employees challenge the status quo? Are senior staff leading by example?

Some would say culture is intangible however taking the time to define, consider and continually improve what’s on offer ensures gaps in your Actions, Processes and Practices don’t appear and you don’t lose key team members.

In this post pandemic climate, consideration must also be given to how your organisational culture is shaped by your working environment. As more and more organisations forgo the traditional ‘9-5 dedicated desk’ and many employees may go days, if not weeks, without seeing their team members or managers in person, the office is no longer the key point of connection and culture can become fragmented. The traditional ‘top down’ approach may be met with resistance as bonds between remote workers strengthen and ‘microcultures’ form. It’s not a case of removing this remote working flexibility to drag employees back together, but instead embracing this new distributed way of working, ensuring leaders find ways to connect with intention and ensure their staff feel seen and heard, no matter where they are.

Investing in employer branding gives you the tools to gain a better understanding of your organisation and behaviours, to take a deep-dive into what your team members truly value and to market and manage your employment story. Talk to NeonLogic about how we can help.