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Marketing Recruitment Agencies

If you want to retain staff, company culture has to mean more than interior decoration

By Melina Jacovou |

April 4, 2017 | 4 min read

You would think that as a recruiter, I wouldn’t be in the business of offering tips on staff retention. That’s a long way from the truth and more and more we are asked about staffing strategy as a whole. One theme that keeps recurring is how do we retain and reward our staff?


It's interesting to note that all the supposed ‘soft’ perks such as coffee machines, free fruit and office dogs have absolutely no effect whatsoever. How about financial bonuses you might ask? The answer is not definitive. Our Digital Salary Survey and Digital Insights found that 58% of those who get a bonus are still considering a job change.

What is coming up time and time again is that company culture is key to not only retaining but also attracting new staff. When talking to candidates about roles they are enthusiastic about, we often hear that it is because of the culture of the hiring company. Sadly I also hear a lot of people leaving companies because of a less positive culture.

Let's be honest, look at any corporate website and you will see notes about values and culture. And I genuinely believe that many do work hard to create, enhance and maintain positive working cultures by building a list of values they believe in and want to work to. There are some great consultants out there who can help you do this and I urge you to speak to them. On the flipside, I could spend a pretty depressing hour listing those who plastered their values all over their meeting rooms because they looked nice. That’s not building a culture, that’s interior decorating…

Let's be clear. Your culture is driven by your values. What are they? How did you arrive at them? Did you come up with them, rip off somebody else’s, or did you actually ask the people who work for and with you? Are they ambitious and stretching or just look good in a word bubble on your boardroom wall? This stuff matters, so make sure you get the process right.

So why would you undertake this exercise? Is this all just a bit fluffy and time consuming? The answer is that if you don’t define how you want to work, how you want to manage and be managed then it can end up being pretty costly in the long run. Employees will leave and it's going to be one hell of a lot harder to replace them when word gets out into the industry that your company isn’t a great place to work. Glassdoor and any number of late night beers at awards and tradeshows will make sure of that.

So really it's just good business sense. A recent Ipsos survey showed that a positive values-driven culture, in which professionalism, high achievement and team-building are promoted, will empower employees to work at a higher level. Likewise, a poor company culture that is too causal, disorganised and even unethical in its values and practices will adversely affect your employees' performance.

I’m not pretending this is easy and can I draw on personal experience here. We’ve been through a long (and sometimes painful) process to define what sort of company we want to be, what sort of behaviours and values do we want to exhibit both as employees and managers. And that’s just the start of the process

For any exercise of this sort to be meaningful it needs to be a two-way street. Employees must buy into this as a way of working and not just pay lip service.

And perhaps more importantly, senior managers must live, breathe and – critically – hire by the company values and cultures.

As I said at the start, I want you to retain your star employees and grow. We’d rather hire for companies that are growing successfully than top up the staffing roster at places where people just don’t want to stay.

Melina Jacovou is chief executive and co-founder of Propel

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