Culture Trends and Best Practices to Help Organizations Improve Employee Retention

By Lyn Currie, Managing Director, Waterstone Executive Search

We’ve seen a lot of shifts in the business environment in the last few years. It’s not just the pandemic, hybrid work models, the great resignation, quiet quitting, or the marathon for talent—the last few years have required leaders focused on building a high performance culture to be incredibly agile and to re-think the way they engage their teams to drive growth and success, all while navigating changing culture in the workplace.

While there is no roadmap for navigating this new work environment, there are some best practices helping top performing organizations stay ahead of the game when it comes to talent acquisition and improving employee retention. And they all start with corporate culture.

At Waterstone, we get to see the way things are evolving through both our retained executive search clients, and the submissions to the Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Awards program. Four trends that we’re seeing today that directly influence a company’s ability to retain top talent include: a people-first focus; a focus on culture and purpose; a continued focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion; and an investment in learning and development.

A people-first focus
Organizations with high-performance cultures have leaders who lead with empathy, who view their employees as individuals and work to customize their leadership style to meet the needs of those individuals, and who aren’t afraid to share personal stories and experiences that help build a transparent, psychologically safe work environment.

We are also seeing increased emphasis placed on employee mental health and well-being – from talking about mental wellness in the workplace and establishing working groups to support health and wellness among team members, to putting budget behind training and increasing benefits related to health and wellness.

A focus on culture and purpose
More than ever before, we’re seeing employees (and potential employees) who want to connect with the purpose of an organization. In fact, in our executive search business, it’s not unusual for candidates to ask about a client’s purpose, values and culture in the first interview – often before they ask about compensation. As a result, organizations are putting their culture front and centre to help them attract top talent – but this move to focus on culture and purpose is also strengthening their position when it comes to retaining talent.

It is not uncommon to see culture and purpose highlighted as part of the employee value proposition, showcased and encouraged on the organization’s social media channels, celebrated at town halls and team meetings, built into the quarterly and/or annual review process, and more. But it goes beyond just engaging employees in culture and purpose – top organizations are also measuring employee engagement, listening to feedback, and ensuring that team members understand the impact they’re having related to both goals and purpose.

A continued focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion
While diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has long been a focus point for organizations with winning cultures, what we’re seeing in top organizations today is that their approach to DE&I has matured. In 2020, as the result of local, national and global events, organizations took the opportunity to pause, listen and learn.  We saw this reflected in Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Awards submissions with organizations hosting listening sessions, establishing (or re-invigorating) DE&I committees in the work place, setting organizational goals, and more. In 2021, organizations were implementing the plans and actions that were established coming out of that period of listening and learning. Today, we’re seeing organizations continue to implement new initiatives and strengthen their commitments to DE&I, but they’ve also moved into measuring and assessing their efforts – and making changes to reflect the ongoing evolution of DE&I within their organizations.

Investment in learning and development
Learning and development is second only to purpose when it comes to culture-related questions that we’re hearing from candidates considering changing organizations. People want to know that their employer encourages growth and development, and to understand the supports available to them in growing their careers. From taking learning and development in-house and establishing comprehensive employer-led training programs, to working to define career development plans with their team members, organizations today are adopting a learning culture that is helping to grow and retain their top performers.

Leverage culture to support retention
At Waterstone, our work with culture-focused executive search clients, as well as with Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Award winners, gives us unique insight into the many ways that organizations are leveraging culture to drive success in recruiting and retaining top performers. Let’s chat about how these insights can help you find, and retain top talent who are aligned to your culture – today and tomorrow. Schedule a meeting with our team today.