Create an Organizational Culture That Helps Retain Staff

haddaway_create_an_organizational_culture_that_helps_retain_staff September 1, 2021 By: Amanda Haddaway

High employee turnover can cost associations more than $2 million each year, according to research. With poll data showing that many employees are considering leaving their current jobs, associations can employ a few simple strategies to help create a culture that retains staff.

The news is filled with articles about “The Great Resignation” and other catchy phrases alluding to the fact that employees are leaving organizations at an alarming rate. It’s imperative that your association retain its best employees in order to be successful and achieve its goals.

In addition, keep in mind that the costs of turnover are significant. Gallup estimates that a 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year. For most associations, that’s a hit to the bottom line that we don’t want to take.

Additionally, a new Gallup analysis finds that 48 percent of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities. Businesses are facing a staggeringly high quit rate—3.6 million Americans resigned in May alone—and a record-high number of unfilled positions. If you’re actively recruiting for positions within your own teams, you know how difficult it is to find qualified talent in today’s labor market.

Create a Retention Culture

If you want to create a retention culture that keeps current employees working and engaged, here are four tips to consider for your association:

Perform a culture audit. If you can’t remember the last time you organized a critical analysis of what’s going well and what’s not going well in your association’s culture, the time to revisit this exercise is now. You’ll want to take a look at the mission, vision, and purpose of your organization, along with values, norms, and traditions. Think about what makes your association unique and why employees stay with your organization over time. You may consider conducting internal focus groups to hear directly from employees about what they like and don’t like about the association’s operations.

Early data suggests that many people are leaving their current positions because they are burnt out, overworked, and concerned about coming back into the office.

Then take a look at the various employee touchpoints throughout their employment journey. How are you treating candidates when they apply? What opportunities exist for growth and development? Do employees get regular feedback from their managers? Use this data to make improvements where necessary. Even small modifications could help with retention.

Train your managers. There’s a link between engagement, and ultimately retention, that’s tied directly to the relationship that employees have with their managers. Yet so many companies promote people into management roles and don’t provide them with adequate training. This is a recipe for disaster because the majority of new managers fail without some type of training and organizational support. If you look at your turnover numbers and they are focused in one or two departments, it’s likely you have a management issue that needs to be resolved.

Think like an employee. The past 18 months have been challenging for all of us. Early data suggests that many people are leaving their current positions because they are burnt out, overworked, and concerned about coming back into the office. Make sure there are multiple opportunities for employees to provide feedback to leadership and create ways for employees to improve their overall well-being. This may be an employee assistance program, fun activities that create connection with their teams, or just regular check-ins from their direct managers. When employees feel psychologically safe in their roles, they are more inclined to stay for longer periods of time.

It’s helpful to also think about what keeps you working at the association. What are the things that get you out of bed each morning? Are there also things that frustrate you about your work? Is there a way to change these things for the better for yourself and your coworkers?

Conduct stay interviews and exit interviews. One of the best ways to find out why people are leaving—and staying—is to conduct stay interviews and exit interviews. Stay interviews are conducted with current employees who you wish to retain. You may want to ask them questions about what they like and don’t like about their current position, what keeps them at the association, and what would prompt them to look for a new opportunity. Use this information to make modifications to the current culture.

Exit interview data can also be helpful. It’s unlikely that you’ll change the mind of the departing employee and convince them to stay, but they may provide details of what caused them to look for a new opportunity and ultimately decide to leave. This information can then be used to modify workplace conditions for remaining employees.

By implementing these ideas at your association, you can make major improvements in your efforts to retain valuable employees.


Amanda Haddaway

Amanda Haddaway, MA, MJ, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an HR consultant, corporate trainer, and certified executive coach who serves as managing director of HR Answerbox.