This might be a bitter pill to swallow for HR pros and front-line managers: If you have turnover, you have culture issues. And it might be time to fix culture.
Many leaders point blame for the Great Resignation on employees’ desires for higher pay and flexible schedules. But Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management researchers found turnover is almost always rooted in culture issues – even before the pandemic.
The cost of a toxic culture
The fallout from a toxic culture – which can stem from just one team, a whole department or across an entire organization – are staggering. Employees who work in a negative culture are less effective and productive, and more inclined to health issues and absenteeism. Plus, toxic cultures are breeding grounds for incivility, injustice and harassment.
As you might imagine, that all adds up to major costs associated with turnover, health care and potential lawsuits.
You know why you should care about culture. But what matters to employees in their workplace culture? In the research, employees identified these nine critical factors that their leaders should focus on to fix culture and how researchers suggest leaders can fix it:
Employees expect to be treated with dignity and courtesy, and be taken seriously. The expectation goes across the board – from every colleague to everyone in the C-Suite.
Deliver it: Leaders can set the example, showing respect to everyone. But to fix culture, you might want to reinforce it by rewarding employees for collegial behaviors – such as lending a hand when others need it or sharing relevant information – between one another.
Employees want leaders who listen to their concerns and triumphs. Then they encourage and support the goals and help eliminate roadblocks.
Deliver it: Hold regular one-on-ones to address workload and aspirations. Then, when employees are overwhelmed, pitch in or help them find resources to help when the time comes.
Employees need to see their leaders act consistently with company values.
Deliver it: To maintain or fix culture, review a core value at each team meeting and give a shout-out to a team member who practiced it. Even better, reward the team member for their passion and commitment.
Managers’ attitudes directly impact employees’ quality of work. Negative leaders will poison employees.
Deliver it: The best way to stay ahead of issues or fix culture, is to have every leader check it at the door. Remind them that their problems can’t spill into staff’s work. If they’re facing troubles, encourage them to tap your mental well-being resources.
Employees don’t want to work where bosses or colleagues lack integrity. Period.
Deliver it: HR professionals can’t let business ethical lapses go unnoticed or unpunished. Work with leaders to help everyone recognize ethical issues and train them on ways to report those anonymously.
Benefits & perks
It’s not a top priority, but employees do consider company benefits in their culture assessment.
Deliver it: Survey employees on the benefits they want, and work to deliver. More importantly, review the benefits and perks yearly or every two years. Wants and needs change, and what worked three years ago most likely isn’t ideal now.
Learning and development
Employees want opportunities to learn formally and informally.
Deliver it: Recognize where employees excel and offer them opportunities to improve those skills.
Employees want to work in an environment where they don’t fear layoffs or automation that jeopardizes their careers and livliehood.
Deliver it: Transparency is what matters in this situation. You can’t guarantee that layoffs won’t happen. But when job security is at risk, you want to talk about it early and often so employees can make decisions that are best for them and their families.
Most employees don’t consider constant change an ideal environment. Most crave stability in their position, work time and demand.
Deliver it: Get employee input before making decisions on changes that will impact how, where or when they work. When reorganization is inevitable, help the transition with plenty of forewarning, then training.