3 Qualities of an Exceptional Workplace: How to Attract and Retain Top Talent

3 Qualities of an Exceptional Workplace: How to Attract and Retain Top Talent

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Not all unhappy employees leave their employers. Some stay, but disengage instead. Recently, we’ve seen levels of disengagement climb as economic uncertainty forces many employees to stay in the stability of a job they don’t love.

Knowing this, it makes sense that job stability and salary have recently risen to the top of employee desires. A BCW global survey found that 52% of employees said job security (especially at financially stable companies) matters most to them. And 45% of employees said salary is a top motivator when considering a job change.

However, throwing more money at an employee retention problem won’t fix the issue. In fact, an Adecco Group report shows that only 25% of employees stay in their job because they are happy with their salary.

How to Attract and Retain Top Talent

Here’s the truth: while salary and stability are tools for attracting and retaining employees, they won’t create an exceptional workplace.

Even as business and society ebb and flow, the core of what employees want stays the same. They want to feel seen, heard, valued, and supported in the work they do. And that’s why it’s critical for employers to be closely attuned to the needs of their employees. Employers can deliberately create a work culture that is aligned with those needs. And doing so is what will attract and retain top talent.

Here are three methods any company can employ to build an extraordinary employee experience and become an employer of choice.

1. Encourage open communication

There’s no faster way to lose a good employee than to silence their voice — even if it’s unintentional. The top-down communication approach often feels intimidating — where leaders play more of a “command and control” role rather than seeing their employees as equals and valued contributors.

This type of leadership focuses heavily on achieving, optimizing, and profiting. While all important, it fails to bring in the human side, where coaching, inspiring, and praising employees are also important.

There’s no question that giving employees a voice and actively listening to them is critical for success — especially since employees typically have a much better understanding of the practical challenges that arise in their roles than executive management. And if employers refuse to see the human behind the role, they may never be able to spot and address problems that arise with their teams.

Unfortunately, many work cultures have stifled employees, creating an environment where they’re afraid to speak their minds. A Gallup report shows that only 7% of U.S. workers strongly agree that communication in their workplace is accurate, timely, and open. And a Dynamic Signal study shows 63% of employees want to quit due to ineffective communication.

So how can employers fix this? Well, a good place to start is by putting people at the center of company business goals.

Empower confidential conversations

To create a safe and inclusive culture where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, start by using confidential surveys. It’s an easy way for employees to share their thoughts and spark meaningful, ongoing dialogue. Then, schedule regular one-on-one sync-ups to keep these meaningful conversations flowing between managers and team members.

Practice active listening

When employees express their ideas or concerns, demonstrate that you care. Listen actively, show empathy, and respond to their needs and concerns. 

Foster transparency and build trust

What will help employees feel comfortable enough to share their voices? A transparent culture. Be upfront and honest with employees and explain why key decisions are being made. Then, be open to employee feedback on those decisions. If certain feedback cannot be actioned due to specific business considerations, take the time to explain why – and make sure to thank employees for speaking up regardless.


2. Support continuous employee success

How do you empower your employees to work towards their goals, so that they’re fulfilled in their jobs and truly love what they do?

Hint: the good old annual performance review won’t cut it. 

In the past, annual reviews have been a once-a-year-tick-the-box process aimed at recapping 12 months of good, bad and everything in between in an hour-long conversation. But annual reviews alone are more detrimental than helpful when it comes to building an extraordinary employee experience and workplace culture.

Not only do they leave employees feeling uncomfortable and without a clear direction, they also don’t address issues in a timely manner. And with 90% of HR leaders saying annual reviews don’t give them accurate results, clearly this approach needs to change. 

An alternative approach to employee success is building a culture that revolves around continuous feedback. A continuous feedback culture is one in which managers empower employees with meaningful development conversations, where goals and simple sync-ups are focused on growth and business impact, and where back-and-forth dialogue builds better manager-employee relationships.

Here’s how to implement a continuous feedback and development culture in your organization:

Ensure conversations are timely

One of the biggest issues with annual performance reviews is that they don’t address issues as soon as they arise. And by the time conversations ultimately do take place, it’s too late to make meaningful changes. Ongoing conversations give employees real-time feedback and help them understand how they are performing; help establish and track goals; and contribute to further development and long-term career objectives.

Plus, with continuous conversations, employees are more likely to stay. One example of a company who benefitted from continuous development conversations is Adobe, which recently saw a 30% reduction in voluntary turnover when they switched to regular employee one–on–ones.

Align employee goals and business objectives

It’s not enough to set individual goals for employees. Employee and business goals should align to contribute to personal impact and positive business outcomes. Once set, collaborate and share quarterly goals across teams or department levels. This helps team members work collectively towards the organization’s business goals while continuing to achieve their own professional goals as well.

Provide space for multidirectional feedback

Feedback should never be one-sided. If you are a people leader, regularly provide feedback to your employees on their work. Then ask for their feedback. Bidirectional and multidirectional feedback builds trust and encourages open communication in a way that top-down one-way feedback does not.


3. Promote a positive work culture

A recent report shows that when employees are recognized, they are 3x as likely to feel connected to their work culture and over 30% more likely to want to stay in their jobs for 5 or more years. Another study shows that 60% of employees are more motivated by recognition than money, and 79% quit their jobs due to lack of appreciation.

Clearly, recognition goes a long way in the workplace when it comes to employee engagement, retention and motivation.

Recognition represents a simple, yet powerful, way employers can create a culture that motivates, celebrates, and empowers its people. When leaders invest in recognition and rewards, it sends a loud message to employees that they matter.

For employers looking to create a work culture that recognizes and rewards team members, here are some ways to get started:

Give employees recognition in real time

Demonstrating your investment and commitment to your employees should be a regular part of day-to-day interactions. This means noticing employees and consistently giving them clear, specific praise for what they bring to the table. Not only does recognition show appreciation, but it also boosts morale and motivates employees to continue. 

Empower teams to share meaningful recognition

Praise from leaders is important; however, praise should not come solely from leaders. Employees also like to receive compliments from their teammates. These are the people they spend most of their time with so hearing praise from them feels especially meaningful.

Attach recognition to purposeful rewards

Ready to take recognition up a notch? Pair it with rewards. Beyond “thank you” and “great job,” rewards allow companies to show employees what they mean to the organization. There’s no one-size-fits-all for rewards. Whether rewards consist of physical or monetary gifts, special recognition or awards, designated time with the CEO or another senior individual, or something else of value, the best rewards are those that mean something to the recipient.


Bring it all together

If organizations want to attract, retain and develop top talent in today’s competitive environment, they must create a work culture where employees love to work — a place where their well-being, performance, and growth opportunities are made top priorities. 

When open communication, continuous employee success, and recognition are all part of an organization’s employee attraction and retention strategy, an exceptional workplace will naturally emerge. And exceptional employees will follow.