What employees really want from workplace culture

Today’s competition for talent has never been more intense. With the current unemployment rate at 3.5 percent, companies face a historically tight labor market that makes recruiting and retaining top employees essential. To do that, we must ask ourselves: “What do my employees really want from their workplace?” The classic answer is “more money.” Indeed, superior com-pensation and benefits are the top predictor of employee satisfaction… for only 12 percent of workers.

Contrary to what one might expect, Glassdoor found the most important workplace character-istics for employees were the culture and values of the company, the quality of senior leader-ship and management, and access to career and learning opportunities within the organization. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at why these things matter to your employees and how you can use this insight to create a workplace they really love.

Your employees want a sense of purpose in their workplace culture

Too many organizations assume “company culture and values” just means having a public list of virtues on their About Us page. Instead of trying to determine whether it’s more important to have “honesty” or “curiosity” on your website, think of culture and values as giving your em-ployees a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. According to Fast Company, when em-ployees were asked “What makes you stay at your company?” the top answer was “My job—I find the work meaningful.” This suggests that the best way to retain your top employees is not talking about what you value as an organization, but rather making every employee feel like you value them.

One powerful way to show employees their work in the company is meaningful is recognizing that work. Of the employees who agreed that their work had personal meaning and purpose, an overwhelming 93 percent had been personally recognized in the last six months. So, when an employee does a good job, make sure they know you noticed. It’s also helpful to share this recognition with the rest of that employee’s team by connecting how this employee’s excel-lence contributed to your entire workforce. That not only helps everyone realize their individual work matters, but also build community by reinforcing how going above and beyond strength-ens the company as a whole.

Your employees want leadership that inspires innovation

It’s no secret quality leadership plays a big role in an organization’s success, as leadership is crucial to inspiring strong and innovative work from employees. According to Quartz, more than 77 percent of employees say the support of senior leadership and management helps them in-novate and be creative in the workplace. One proven way to support innovation is scheduling unplugged whitespace time to encourage employees to work on creative projects. On the tech-nology side, 47 percent of executives say simplifying access to work information is a great way to strengthen employee engagement.

But to really be an innovative leader, you need to start with your own behavior. An excellent skill to focus on is communication, as only 13 percent of US workers strongly agree their lead-ership communicates effectively. Great communication starts with knowing your audience. Whether you’re drafting a company-wide speech or an everyday email, think carefully about how your listeners will understand your words in context. Learn to be a great listener who asks open-ended questions that invite your audience into a meaningful dialogue rather than a one-sided conversation.

Your employees want a workplace culture that values learning and development

According to the MIT Technology Review, four out of five employees believe they currently lack needed skills both for their current roles and for their future careers. The pace of business and technological change shows no signs of slowing down, so it’s little surprise your employees want to keep learning while they work. More than 69 percent of workers say career growth and development opportunities are important to them in a job. This makes it clear to attract and retain top talent, you need to offer learning and development opportunities.

There are lots of ways to retrain and resell your employees. Traditional options such as offering tuition reimbursements for relevant classes and integrating in-house training programs are proven solutions, but these retraining strategies require a substantial time and money invest-ment. One new, lower-cost option is to pay for your employees to take online classes and skills-based courses from Coursera or other web education platforms. And your retraining doesn’t always have to be technical in nature; one company that introduced a soft skills train-ing program focused on communication and problem solving saw a 250 percent return on their educational investment in only eight months.

Give employees what they want and watch your company grow

Recruiting and retaining the best possible talent isn’t as simple as offering the best salary and benefits. Instead, focus on shaping your organization into the kind of company where top em-ployees will want to work. Give everyone on your staff a sense of purpose by showing them their work matters. Focus on you and your managers’ leadership to foster innovation across your company. Finally, invest in building your employee’s skills through retraining programs to help advance their careers. The common theme in all this? Making your company into a true community where everyone’s contributions, innovations, and careers matter.

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