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Building a culture for employee retention: What matters most

Companies can improve employee retention by reviewing what they offer then and how they keep them engaged, writes Jim Thiel.

6 min read


employee retention

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Across industries, employee retention is a growing concern. The challenge lies in attracting top talent and keeping them engaged and committed to their work and the organization’s mission. According to recent federal data, 50.5 million people quit their jobs in 2022, with most leaving to take other jobs and not the workforce.  

Joe Thiel

While many factors contribute to resignations, one largely unaddressed problem is the need for a strong workplace culture. To that end, research conducted by Gallup and Workhuman found that only 1 in 4 employees strongly agree they feel connected to their workplace culture. In contrast, just 1 in 3 strongly agree they belong at the organization where they work.  

Considering the average employee tenure is just 4.1 years, finding ways to break the hire-and-replace cycle is essential. To do this, organizations must create a culture in which employees stay at their jobs and thrive, ultimately contributing to the organization’s long-term success. 

About more than pay

While adequate compensation and benefits are prerequisites for accepting a position, they are often not the elements that keep employees around and engaged. A lacking workplace environment will quickly dampen motivation and enable competitors to poach top talent. Are these other workplace cultures more nurturing? The employee won’t know until ensconced in a new organization and role.  

The lack of a properly developed culture is why some in-demand talent move from job to job. It often isn’t the pay — which is already fair and sometimes high; it’s the desire to find a workplace where they fit in, are valued and recognized for their contributions, have a clear sense of purpose and can grow in their careers. 

In 2024, competition for top talent will be intense, particularly in specialized areas such as IT, where demand is outpacing the availability of trained workers. Following are 10 things to start doing to build a culture that compels top talent to stay and be a steady contributor to reaching the organization’s goals.


  1. Select those who are passionate about their outcomes. Evaluate interview questions to ensure they’re helping you fill vacancies with required skills and credentials and identify the candidates with behaviors and attitudes that are likely to promote results and keep them in place. 
  2. Pay employees on par with desired results. Compensation isn’t everything regarding employee retention, but paying less than the job is worth results in inevitable turnover. Be realistic about what the job entails when determining salary. While workers may take a job with inadequate pay out of necessity, they can become easily frustrated and enticed away.


  1. Integrate new hires into the entire culture. While it’s standard to acquaint new employees with their immediate team, take the time to help them meet others in the organization to build a network that extends outside their group. Managers who know new hires more personally can connect them with like-minded people to create lasting bonds.
  2. Empower innovation. Ensure the new hire knows their objectives and performance measurement methods, and encourage them to be creative in problem-solving and innovative in managing tasks without fear of failure.  
  3. Impart a feeling of ownership and belonging. Emphasize the importance of the new hire’s role and their value to the organization. They shouldn’t view themselves as a number but an integral player whose presence matters. As part of this, create a regular schedule to meet with them to provide feedback and discuss how things are going so far.  

Eighty-eight percent of employees surveyed felt onboard programs were lacking — perhaps unsurprising since many companies equate onboarding with processes and paperwork. Go beyond this in 2024 to develop more personalized and comprehensive onboarding to keep new hires from floundering and feeling alone.  

Ongoing nurturing

Retention practices aren’t just for new hires — they extend to the entire workforce if your goal is to retain the talent you’ve invested in. Otherwise, it’s like a leaking vessel where you’re continually bailing water and patching holes as new leaks spring up. 

  1. Be accessible to everyone. An open-door policy is standard, but is it in genuine practice? Employees should know that upper management is accessible to all and that communication isn’t just between supervisors and direct reports. There should be no risk in talking to a manager or senior executive about a problem or potential resolution. Such a practice demonstrates the value of every employee and their opinions and ideas, many of which may improve your organization. 
  2. Foster direct dialog between workers. The flip side of the above is those employees who want to avoid conflict with a manager or co-worker by going over their head or making anonymous complaints. Bringing things out of the shadows and requiring direct communication between the impacted parties (often with management’s supervision) reduces hostilities and corrects destructive behaviors, creating a more positive workplace.
  3. Offer continuous learning. Ongoing training enhances employees’ skills and value to the organization and makes them feel invested. In fact, 94% of surveyed employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.
  4. Provide up-to-date resources. Ensure employees have the tools and equipment needed to perform their jobs effectively. It doesn’t just improve worker satisfaction, as IT investments, in particular, can streamline processes and boost organizational productivity. 
  5. Collect data. Conduct thorough exit interviews when an employee does leave to recognize recurring issues, and take necessary steps to stem future attrition.    

Eighty-three percent of employers view attracting talent and employee retention as challenges to their business success. While gone may be the days that an employee joins a company out of college and remains until the gold watch is gifted upon retirement, this doesn’t mean organizations can’t maintain their acquired talent well beyond the average number of years. 

To augment compensation, organizations must proactively foster a positive work environment that includes a good work/life balance, opportunities for skills development and clear recognition of an employee’s value. Heading into 2024, organizations should look at what they’re offering to workers to attract them and keep them positively engaged. A satisfied and fulfilled worker stays.  


Joe Thiel is president of Meridian Technologies, an IT workforce and consulting services provider that helps organizations in the commercial market and federal government agencies to fuel enterprise transformation.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 


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