Creating a Stay Culture: Becoming and Staying an Employer of Choice.

Written by Nathan Leaman

Portrait, selfie and diversity of business people smile in office for trust of global team building. Group, happy employees and friends in profile picture about us on social media for company culture.

Do you have any plants in your office? Have you ever stopped to think if they receive enough sunlight, water, or the necessary pruning to flourish?

Now, let’s imagine your employees in the same way. Does your workplace provide them with the essentials they need to thrive?

Whether we want to admit it or not, employees are profoundly influenced by their work environment. A lack of a nurturing company culture can affect employee performance and well-being, causing productivity and motivation to decline. Like plants, employees with neglected needs may wither, unable to grow to their full potential. As a result, they will often seek better opportunities elsewhere.

The solution to this problem? Becoming an employer of choice.

While it may seem complex at first, becoming an employer of choice can also be remarkably straightforward. It involves a fundamental shift in mindset – one where you view your employees as the very heart of your organization and prioritize their well-being more than anything else. Once you begin doing so, you’ll be on the path to becoming an employer that is known for its exceptional work culture. This distinction not only empowers you to attract top talent, but also increases employee satisfaction, fosters long-term commitment, and reduces turnover.

The Ingredients for Success

When you’re an employer of choice, you have the upper hand in attracting and retaining top talent. In a fiercely competitive job market, having potential employees seek you out instead of the other way around places you in a position of strength.

Becoming an employer of choice requires a strategic approach that begins with understanding what your employees value the most. These include:

  1. Effective Leadership: Employees feel more secure when they trust their leaders, especially in decision-making or alignment with company values. These leaders instill confidence and lay the foundation for a productive work environment.
  2. Competitive Pay: Competitive employee benefits must recognize and reward employees in a way that reflects their authentic value. Fair compensation inspires a sense of equality and satisfaction that boosts morale and motivation.
  3. Attractive Company Culture: An appealing company culture embodies an environment where values such as inclusiveness, equity, and transparency are daily practices.
  4. Meaningful Work: Employees need stimulating work that pushes them to reach their full potential without compromising work-life balance. They need to see the impact of their efforts and understand how their contributions directly enhance the organization’s success.
  5. Engaged Workforce: Every employee seeks rewards such as increased benefits or growth opportunities. Establishing and maintaining open, consistent communication with your employees about their wants, needs, and concerns can significantly bolster talent retention efforts.

Finally, becoming an employer of choice calls for more than just implementing these features. It involves an ongoing commitment to adapt to your workforce’s changing needs and expectations. This commitment plays an instrumental role in cultivating what we refer to as a stay culture: an environment where employees want to stay, contribute, and excel in your organization.

What Exactly is a Stay Culture?

A stay culture recognizes employees as the core of the organization and prioritizes their needs, growth, and satisfaction. Rather than being hired to just fulfill a role, employees are cared for so that they genuinely want to stay and contribute to the organization’s success.

Creating such a strong culture is a collective effort. Every stakeholder, from HR to operations to team members, plays a role in shaping a culture so compelling that it inspires employee loyalty, even when faced with tempting offers from competitors.

 So how does one go about building a stay culture?

There are several core components to consider when laying the groundwork for this transformative environment.

The Journey to Creating a Stay Culture

 Right Fit, Right Place: The Initial Step

 Consider this scenario: 

You’ve shortlisted two candidates for a role that demands extensive team collaboration. Candidate A boasts impressive technical skills but admits they prefer to work independently. Conversely, Candidate B lacks certain core requirements but is eager to learn and grow.

Which candidate would you choose?

Your decision in this scenario can significantly impact the success of your organization’s stay culture. If your recruiting strategy is to solely fill positions, it might be time to reconsider your approach. Consider adopting the right fit, right place mindset instead. This means hiring individuals who align with your team’s values and culture, even if there are skill gaps. Instead of trying to mold individuals into less-than-ideal roles, focus on recognizing their strengths and finding suitable positions within the organization.

Moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach and embracing diversity allows you to concentrate on what truly matters when building a team. Doing so enables you to recognize the bigger picture and tailor opportunities to fit individual needs and goals. The right fit, right place approach emphasizes asking questions, understanding goals, and finding alignment to strengthen employee retention.  

Beyond Onboarding: The Power of BelongBoarding

The journey to creating a happy workplace doesn’t end once you have the right individuals on board. While onboarding traditionally focuses on administrative tasks and job training, creating a stay culture requires a more holistic process known as “belongboarding”.

Belongboarding goes beyond the basics to enhance the employee experience from day one. With initiatives such as welcome lunches, a buddy system, or regular check-ins, belongboarding is a strategic approach to new employee integration that instills a culture of belonging. In other words, until your employees decide to stay long-term, they’re never fully yours.

Organizations must thus reevaluate their onboarding process. Does the current process sufficiently introduce new hires to the company’s culture, values, and mission? Does it provide opportunities for them to build meaningful connections? Are they encouraged to share feedback on their experiences? And most importantly – does anyone listen and act based on their feedback?

Answering “yes” to questions like these means you’re on the right track to creating a stay culture.

Continuous Growth as a Gamechanger 

Like plants requiring sunlight and water to thrive, employees need training for their personal and professional development. A recent study discovered that 76% of employees are more likely to stay if they receive ongoing development opportunities. Additionally, 50% of individuals are willing to invest in their development if their employer doesn’t provide it.

The numbers speak for themselves. Employees today value continuous learning and personal growth, actively seeking organizations where learning and development are embedded into the culture.

 Recognizing and addressing this drive for lifelong learning is crucial for organizations. By investing in employee development and defining clear career paths, you prepare for the succession of younger generations as older ones retire and reinforce your position as an employer of choice for new talent. Embracing this commitment to constant learning will go a long way toward creating a workplace where individuals are inclined to stay.

No Man is an Island

While it’s easy to lay the responsibility of creating a positive work culture entirely on leaders, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter how exceptional a leader may be, they cannot single-handedly shape the entire workplace environment.

Building a stay culture is a team effort between leaders and their employees. Every employee holds a piece of the puzzle, and together, their collective knowledge can offer a wealth of insights and solutions to improve their work culture. Whether it’s through initiatives such as diversity and inclusion programs, cultural celebrations, or communication and feedback channels, giving employees a voice in this process allows them to take ownership and become personally invested in creating their desired company culture.

In short, instead of creating a stay culture for your employees, aim to create it with them. This way, you strengthen their connection to the organization and distribute the responsibility across the workforce. This collaborative approach ensures that everyone contributes to and benefits from a positive organizational culture.

Effective Communication: The Cornerstone of Culture

Without effective two-way communication, there is no stay culture. Employees want and need to be heard. Leadership teams must regularly engage with employees, listen to their concerns, and address their needs.

Moreover, culture, at its core, is rooted in beliefs and manifests through behaviors. To nurture and sustain a successful organizational culture, leaders must align their stated values with their actions. When they consistently model the desired culture, they reinforce these values across the organization. Failure to do so can erode trust and hinder cultural development.

To develop a culture that resonates with employees, open, honest, and consistent communication is vital at all levels of leadership. Regardless of whether it’s verbal, written, or digital, effective communication allows leaders to share updates and insights that make employees feel valued and informed. More importantly, it ensures that everyone in the organization stays aligned and committed to upholding the values that define the workplace culture.

Tools & Resources for Creating a Stay Culture

Understanding the elements of a stay culture is only half the equation; without the right tools, implementation remains a challenge. To truly cultivate a positive culture within your organization, having the right resources at your disposal can make all the difference. These resources are the gears to set your stay culture in motion, turning theory into practice and goals into reality. In particular, these two employee retention strategies can help supercharge your culture development efforts:

  1. Stay Interviews

Unlike an engagement survey, a stay interview is a direct, in-person conversation between an employee and their manager. This proactive dialogue aims to uncover the employee’s motivation, job satisfaction, and potential areas of improvement through questions like What would make you want to leave? What would encourage you to stay? How can we enhance our workplace culture? What is preventing us from achieving our desired culture?

These discussions offer valuable employee feedback that enables organizations to address issues before they become deal breakers.

  1. Culture GAME Plan

A culture GAME plan is a strategic roadmap that outlines an organization’s goals, values, and initiatives on workplace culture. The plan is designed to build trust and promote a fulfilling work environment by focusing on the following areas:

Growth: How are you supporting your employees’ aspirations for greater knowledge and skills?

Appreciation: What are you doing to promote employee recognition?

Measurement: How are you ensuring that they understand and meet your expectations?

Engagement: What are you doing to improve employee engagement and work morale?

As mentioned before, no individual can function alone in an organization. Like a professional sports team, success hinges on getting the right people to work together to establish a lasting stay culture. The team must strive to gain genuine insights into existing challenges, identify necessary adjustments, devise communication strategies about these changes, and then prioritize the actions needed to achieve an executable game plan.

Become an Employer of Choice with Frontline

Creating a stay culture and becoming an employer of choice is not simply a goal; it’s a commitment to nurturing a workplace where employees prosper. It requires embracing the power of open communication, developing a sense of belonging, and continuously evolving your organizational culture to meet the needs and aspirations of your valued employees.

For more insights on transforming your organization into an employer of choice, check out our webinar, Creating a Stay Culture, or contact us at Frontline Training Solutions. Our team of professionals is here to provide you with more culture-building strategies, employee engagement ideas, or customized solutions that can help you foster a thriving and enduring stay culture.

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About the Author

Nathan Leaman

Nathan Leaman is a passionate professional with extensive experience in building systems and tools that support organizational and leadership effectiveness.  Nathan brings over 20 years of leadership and HR experience from both business and non-profit organizations. Nathan has a Bachelor’s degree from the Moody Bible Institute, a Master’s degree from Liberty University and received his coaching certification from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Nathan spent seven years in full-time church ministry before working for 13 years at the Kohler Co.  At Kohler, Nathan moved through various HR roles eventually taking the position of Director- Leadership Development.  Nathan also held various executive HR roles for the Grande Cheese Company in Fond du Lac, WI where he was responsible for Organizational Development, Compensation, Benefits Management and HRIS. Nathan has extensive experience with assessment tools and is certified in multiple personality and 360 degree feedback assessments.  His straightforward style, willingness to tackle difficult issues, genuine interest in seeing others grow and ability to coach at all levels makes Nathan a go-to resource for strategic HR support and executive development.