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How a Positive Work Culture Can Decrease Employee Turnover

It’s easy to pin employee turnover on the employee: “they weren’t a good fit for the company” or “they didn’t have the company loyalty we are looking for” are great lines that turn the employee into the problem instead of forcing upper management to look in the mirror and question company policy and workplace environment. The truth is—especially when companies experience high turnover—work culture has more to do with the problem than employers like to admit. According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, a little less than one-third (32%) of employees in the U.S. were engaged at work. With 68% of the workforce checking out, we have to ask the hard questions: how can we create a work culture that encourages employees to over-perform instead of doing the bare minimum? What parts of our company culture can we change so employees look forward to coming to work and not continuing with the job search? In this article, you’ll learn how positive work culture influences employee engagement and decreases turnover, plus what you can do to make your work culture more positive and less cut-throat. (That and why you need to conduct a New York secretary of state business search is on your way).

What You Stand to Lose Not Having a Positive Work Environment

Often times in business, there’s this mentality that in order to get a higher return on investment and bring in more revenue, the work environment needs to be cut-throat and competitive. Upper management and company policy is that football coach (metaphorically) yelling in players’ faces, telling them to work faster and push harder for that win. Only for employees that win is always a few 100 yards away. If high-performing employees meet sales goals, next month they need to step up their game and exceed this month’s numbers. Got a client this month? Get two next month. And so it goes. Overtime, this “football mentality” becomes corrosive—where coworkers turn against the company, each other, and even themselves. It isn’t surprising then that many end up leaving and those that stay face health consequences. Harvard Business Review points out that high-pressure, stress-inducing companies shell out 50% (or more) for health care. And then you have to factor in the obvious and hidden costs of hiring and training new employees. Such costs include:
  • New employee and mentor’s time when training
  • Gap before the new employee masters the position
  • Any training equipment and materials the new employee needs
Companies that have a high turnover rate cycle through this process, losing money each time an employee quits and a new one is hired. This goes to show there is a lot at stake—for employees and employers— if no new changes are made to turn a negative work environment into a positive one.

Engagement Affects Employee Turnover: What You Can Do to Increase Engagement

As mentioned, 32% of employees considered themselves engaged at work. Engagement was determined by how often employees could play into their strengths; if they had someone that believed in them and encouraged their opinions and development; and if they were enthusiastic, committed, and involved in the workplace. Since only 32% of employees said yes, other factors aside, we have to assume that at least one of these elements is missing for the rest of the 68%.

Creating an Environment That Caters to Employees’ Strengths

What are your employees’ strengths (other than their job responsibilities)? To find out, ask your employees during a company meeting. Or, if you have the time and only oversee a handful of employees, pull each aside for a few minutes and talk in private about their strengths and come up with a plan how they can use these in their job. By taking the time to listen and take note of employees’ strengths you’ll demonstrate one of two things: one, you take employee satisfaction and company growth seriously; and two, you care about your employees’ well-being.

Encourage Collaboration at Work

As we’ve said, a part of increasing engagement at work is having at least one person employees can turn to who will validate their opinions and encourage their growth. While we may immediately think of upper management as this go-to person (and, in some situations, they absolutely need to be) it may be too overwhelming and unrealistic for them to mentor all employees they manage—especially when they are swamped with other tasks. This is why we need to create a workplace environment that encourages collaboration; so, coworkers can support and encourage each other, whether that means being a sound board for ideas or providing a helping hand on a large project.

Consider Re-Arranging the Office

If employees work at a private office or closed-off cubicle, that extra physical barrier can make it hard for coworkers to reach out and ask for advice or help on a project. Consider opening up the office by installing a communal workspace where there aren’t physical walls that impede conversation. However, still have some sectioned-off, private areas coworkers can go to do more independent work.

Boosting Enthusiasm and Involvement

Having employees feel enthusiastic, involved, and happy to come to work is absolutely essential if employers want to see turnover rates go down. Not only will happy employees stay with their company but will be at least 12% more productive. Contrary to what some may think, offering financial incentives to employees is not going to cut it. What will is creating a company culture that inspires creativity. According to Forbes, companies that enforce stringent hierarchies may make lower-level employees feel like they can’t express themselves. Ideas that would change the company for the better now go out the window. To prevent this from happening, we need to cultivate a culture where low-level employees know they can share their ideas with upper management without triggering management’s insecurities and, consequently, face repercussions (i.e. excluded from projects and meetings, passed up for promotion).

The Idea Bounty

To do this, companies can have an idea bounty which, according to Fast Company, works like this: Employees collaborate and come up with an idea on how to improve the business. After fleshing it out, the employees vote and, whoever’s idea is chosen receives a $20 “idea bounty.” By having an idea bounty, you create an idea-friendly culture where everyone can share their ideas in a fun and positive way. The business improves because there are more people contributing their ideas and (low-level and high-level) employees feel more a part of the team.

Replace “Boring” Furniture

Your physical environment matters. Which is why it isn’t surprising employees don’t get as much done and “are lazier” around “boring” furniture that provides zero stimulation. From your bland-colored couch in the lobby to gray-colored cubicles and chairs, you need to replace the “boring” furniture and go for more vibrant colors. Consequently, your employees who once felt uninspired and motivated to produce above-average work will now feel more enthusiastic by the color change. And, in turn, you may have several early projects and reports on your desk.

The Little Things Matter: Constructive Criticism and Praise

Even the way you criticize and complement employees can affect workplace culture. Daily criticism—even with positive intentions—will make employees feel inadequate at their jobs and consequently perform even worse. If this behavior continues, upper management may get a few resignation letters on their desks, as criticism usually doesn’t motivate and inspire. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean upper management should avoid giving out constructive criticism—especially during performance reviews. In fact, far from it. What we are trying to say is that in order for criticism to be effective, employers may want to pair it with not one but six complements. Yes, this is the magic ratio, according to Harvard Business Review, that gets the best performance results. The article goes on to state that the highest performing teams had about a 6 to 1 praise to criticism ratio, average performing teams had roughly a 2 to1 praise to criticism ratio, and underperforming teams (sadly) had a .36 to 1 praise to criticism ratio (in other words, more criticism than praise).

Final Thoughts: It Doesn’t Take Much to Create a Positive Work Environment

You don’t need to redesign your entire office or go through a massive layoff session to make your work environment more positive and decrease turnover. By making small adjustments, from taking down some cubicle walls to complimenting employee collaboration, you can make the change. What other tips do you recommend? How has your company benefited from these changes? What results have you seen?Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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