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Why good workplace culture is the solution to your talent woes

At a time when employers are vying to catch and keep the best talent, the role of a positive workplace culture cannot be underestimated.

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Posted On May 16, 2023 

I recently visited our team in Brazil. During a dinner for HR executives, one of my colleague’s clients asked him how long he’d been with LHH. 


“Oh, about 12 years,” he said. 


“What about Kristen?” asked the client.  


“Oh, she’s been with LHH for over 25.” 

“And José?”


“About 22…”


And the client said: “What is it about your culture?”


Interesting question. He wasn’t in our office. We weren’t doing a big sales pitch. We were just relaxing, out for dinner, but he was still experiencing our workplace culture. 

Culture transmits. Keeping people for many years is a strong indicator that a company has got its culture right. Engaged, happy staff radiate. Restaurants are a good example. Sure, the food needs to be good but when the staff are happy there’s this amazing vibe, this experience, this thing… you’re going to want to go back.  


Does the consumer pick up the vibe from bigger, less customer-facing organizations? Definitely.


At the organization level, getting culture right gets the business right. If people all feel equally valued regardless of their gender, age, or race - and if their values align with their company’s - that’s getting it right. Not getting it right is a deal-breaker. If you show up and don’t feel valued, respected and taken care of, how hard are you really going to work? How much are you going to give that company?  


In 2021, 59% of HR professionals saw employee retention as critical, according to LHH research. By February 2023 that number had risen to 77%.


Remember, news travels, via social media, via ratings sites like Glassdoor, and via word of mouth. If your culture is good, this will be to your advantage. If it isn’t, you’ve got trouble ahead.


What does culture mean?


Culture is complex. Good culture is about support, flexibility, and inclusivity, of course, but increasingly about personal alignment, too. Employees can easily research whether a potential employer’s sustainability goals, for example, align with their own. In a recent survey by the European Investment Bank, 73% of under 30s in the UK said climate impact was an important factor in their choice of employer – and for 19% it was the top priority.


Aligning to purpose is huge. We show up for eight hours every day, in the office or remotely. A third of our lives can’t be just about the salary. We’ve got to feel like we’re doing this for some bigger reason.


And it won’t be just Gen Z and Millennials researching. Gen X and younger Baby Boomers can be even more focused on the right fit. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re more experienced; they know what it feels like to be in a healthy culture and they probably, at some point, have been in not such a great place. If you’re in a later stage career, are you going to risk spending your last couple of roles in a toxic environment? 


Open to all


The pandemic changed so much. Meetings on screen were a window into our home lives… the interesting houseplant, the dog running in, the cat landing on the keyboard. We got to know each other in such a personal way that the conversations got more transparent.


Good culture begins with transparent conversations, first around what’s important to a person and then around what the business needs. It requires trust; without the psychological sanctity of a culture of trust, people won’t be honest with you about where they are and what they want.


For Gen X and Baby Boomers it makes approaching retirement much easier. Years ago, people were terrified to even broach the conversation - they thought they’d be sued for just talking about it. Now, thanks to the pandemic, I think we’re breaking down some of those formalities between managers and employees.


This offers a chance to get more creative - to ask questions like: What would help you stay longer? Do you need to work four days a week? To move from a people leader position to an individual contributor role? Would that allow you time for what’s important to you?


For Gen Z and Millennials, transparency on salary, values, and inclusivity is vital from the outset. This anxiety-laden demographic also wants to feel cared about. If they think they’re just a number in a huge process they’re much more likely to jump and go. If they feel management cares about them and their career trajectory, they’re far more likely to stay.


Softly, softly…


No workplace culture is perfect, but one thing is becoming clearer - managers need ‘soft skills’ to achieve the best. Keeping your team happy will steer them away from browsing job postings.

But let’s be honest - not every manager is blessed with instinctive people skills. Some have been brought in on other styles of leadership and will need to adapt. I believe you can develop these people and build capability. Training can definitely help - especially if these managers understand the business urgency around it. 


Because without good workplace culture, a business will not keep its talent. And without talent, a business will not thrive.


Click to learn more about LHH Leadership Development.