Why your organization struggles with company culture and retention

by Heather Thatcher

This article takes 9 minutes to read

As HR managers and a member of the leadership team of an organization, you do your best to support your employees. You work hard to create a company culture with high moral, low turnover, and engaged employees who are dedicated to their work. Yet, no matter what you try and how much you do to support your staff, your company morale is low, engagement and productivity are down, and your employees are leaving. 

With no clear cause you’re left wondering what you’re missing and how you can create positive change that will last beyond a keynote presentation at a company-wide training day. The truth is it’s not the organizational policies that need to change. The power lies in the hands of your employees and it’s your job to show them how to access this.

So what is standing in the way of your employees realizing their role in improving company culture and owning their responsibility for their job satisfaction?

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#1. Your employee’s mindset is preventing them from acknowledging their ability to influence their own job satisfaction

It’s no surprise that healthy and engaged employees create a strong and successful workplace culture.

But with 61% of employees feeling, overworked, underpaid, and under appreciated (aka “burnt out”) it is no surprise that this is a big hurdle that a lot of corporations must try and overcome. A study done in the US discovered that 31% of corporate employees resign within the first 6 months on the job due to low job satisfaction. In fact, it’s such a big issue that it’s estimated disengaged employees cost US businesses $550 billion dollars per year.

No amount of bonuses and surprise paid lunches and other little “gifts” will fix the burnout culture.

But I want to tell you a story about what CAN fix it:

When I met Hugh, he was starting to hate his job only three months after getting hired and was considering looking for other work.

He was frustrated because there wasn’t enough time in his day to get all of his reports done and still interact with clients in the rehab program.

Hugh approached his boss about this and her response was to increase his weekly hours so he’d “have more time to get everything done.”

Not the solution he was hoping for.

After we talked, Hugh realized that he was stuck in the limiting mindset of all-or-nothing thinking; he originally felt that either he could have a full 20-minute sit down with every client, or nothing at all.

But when I suggested that he take 5-minutes with each client over the course of the week for a quick check-in, he lit up!

Sure, it wasn’t the perfect scenario, but by releasing this limiting mindset, Hugh’s satisfaction and fulfillment at work drastically improved.

The situation and circumstances of job demands didn’t change. He still had the same number of clients and reports to write. But now, this little shift in perspective allowed him to feel in control of his job and his performance. Hugh continued to thrive in this role for years, enjoying his work and getting the fulfillment and client interaction he wanted.

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You hire people with great potential and who are enthusiastic about serving your company’s clients to the best of their ability.  Employees of your organization, just like Hugh, can realize that they can still deliver excellent quality of work and achieve great job satisfaction if they adopt a growth mindset and feel empowered to find solutions, rather than focusing on the problems. 

This will not only boost the productivity of your employees, it will also drastically improve retention rates. This is true for not only the employee who is now experiencing increased job satisfaction, but for the whole company culture because this person will not be commiserating in the staff room over shared struggles, but instead will lead by example showing others how to overcome limiting mindset beliefs.

#2 – Your Super-Achievers aren’t speaking up for themselves

There is a small percentage of your employees who are highly productive and are performing the work of two people without asking for additional pay or recognition.

Although this may seem like a good thing, the truth is these Super-Achievers could end up costing your organization a lot of money when they inevitably leave. Often you will need to hire two people to replace them because of how much extra time, dedication and energy they were giving to your company.

But if these employees aren’t speaking up for themselves, letting you know what they’re doing and what they need, how are you to know that they are feeling underappreciated? 

When I was working for a busy pediatric nursing unit that was experiencing unusually high turnover rates, I was introduced to Michelle. 

She was frustrated that she was always being passed over for opportunities to take more complex patients or advance her skills by getting sent to a workshop or conference. 

Michelle was a hard worker, always giving her patients and their families the best care possible. She was the first to stand up and the last to sit down. If anyone needed a hand, Michelle was there helping everyone achieve their greatest potential by leading by example.

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Even though she knew that she was ready to take on this extra responsibility and wanted to keep advancing her skills, the charge nurses and leadership team weren’t aware of this and kept offering these opportunities to others. Michelle didn’t want to leave, but felt that she had no other option if she wanted to advance her skills and be recognized for her dedication.

With some assertive communication scripting, confidence building strategies and role-play practice activities, I helped Michelle figure out where and when she could assertively advocate for herself and feel safe to ask for what she wanted. Within a week of speaking up, Michelle was given a more challenging patient assignment and was invited to an upcoming workshop she could attend that the management would pay for.

Michelle got everything she wanted because she didn’t continue to wait for someone to notice. Instead, she spoke up and asked for what she wanted in a way that felt authentic and safe.

When you look at the successful people who are promoted in your organization they all have one thing in common; they ask for what they want and speak up for themselves.

You cannot read the minds of your employees,  but by empowering them and training them how to assertively advocate for themselves you will improve retention and save your company from needing to hire multiple people to replace your Super-Achievers who didn’t speak up for themselves.

Get your free copy of the staff morale assessment

#3 – Your organization has a lack of Community Anchors

89% of workers at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work.

But that doesn’t mean it’s up to you and the leadership team to start those initiatives.

I worked with Sharon who was a front-line employee at a major grocery store chain.

When we first started talking, she was really unhappy with her job. Working customer service at a big grocery store isn’t the easiest job, as I’m sure you can imagine. Getting yelled at and talked down to all day can start grating on one’s nerves.

But after Sharon started shifting her mindset and taking responsibility for her work-life, instead of feeling stuck in negative circumstances, she started looking for ways to improve the environment at work.

Independently, Shannon found a free bookcase and some free books and magazines on Facebook Marketplace and set up a lending library in the staff room.

Very quickly, her colleagues and managers brought in their own books to stock up the shelves and the lending library really took off. This lending library became a Community Anchor that created something for people to talk about and bring the employees together.

One of the greatest ways you can improve retention is to foster a sense of community between your employees. By empowering your staff to set up Community Anchors like this lending library, you’re creating a deeper connection that goes beyond your organization’s values and mission statement. There will be a sense of belonging amongst your staff that will not only improve retention, but could also lower recruitment fees because your staff will now be recommending your company as a great place to work because of this community connection.

Get your free copy of the staff morale assessment

It’s time for your organization to create positive change from the inside out

It’s not your fault that your workplace culture, productivity and retention rates are down, and it’s not up to you alone as the HR manager or member of the leadership team to fix these problems. 

When you provide the right evidence-based training for your employees to focus on finding their own solutions, rather than commiserating on problems, you will experience a shift in your workplace culture which in turn will improve overall productivity and retention. 

When the Super-Achievers in your organization know how to advocate for themselves, they will experience more job satisfaction and you will know how to better support their growth and advancement in your company. This will prevent you from needing to hire two people to replace them when they inevitably leave because they didn’t know how to speak up. 

Finally, by giving your employees the mental tools and strategies they need to create a strong sense of belonging and connection with Community Anchors, your organization will notice a drastic improvement in morale. You may even experience added benefits such as lower recruitment costs because your dedicated employees will help seek out qualified candidates and easily convince them to join your organization because of this increased sense of community. 

Your employees hold the key to fixing these issues within your company. It’s up to you to give them the tools to make that happen.

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