We need a culture that’s so strong that competitors can’t lure our people away.

Culture is hard to define but huge in terms of its impact on an organization. When people are part of a culture they like, it’s often hard for them to describe exactly how the culture works. They just know it’s something they feel good about and want to be part of it. If they don’t like the culture, it’s also hard to describe, but people will point out specific things they don’t like. 

Good culture makes people want to stick around; bad culture makes them want to leave. In fact, if the culture is what an employee really values and enjoys, other companies can’t compete by simply offering higher wages. People like money, but not at the expense of their working environment. 

Is it possible to create a culture that keeps people from leaving? Obviously, everyone has different aspects of the culture that are important to them. There are certain characteristics of “sticky” cultures that can be created with intention, over time. 

One study showed that most people decide to leave their company about 6 to12 months before they make the move. Usually (90%), it’s because they’ve decided they can’t thrive in that culture due to something they don’t like about their job, and they don’t have hope that it could change. The interesting part is that two-thirds of those people who left said that their employer could have changed their mind if they had noticed and addressed the issues. 

Most people have two levels of people they work with: one level up—their manager—and peers/co-workers. They might or might not agree with the mission and values of the organization, or the direction the company is taking, but they can live with it if they like their team and boss. That’s where they “live” during the day, and it’s the team culture that affects them the most.  

Team culture is what your team believes in and how they all act as a result. It’s what they think of the company, their manager, and the work they’re doing together. It’s about how their manager responds to their problems and how committed that manager is to their well-being and success. It’s about what happens when they make a mistake and how the manager handles it. It’s about their opportunities for development and how valued they feel on the team. 

It’s feeling like they’re part of something that makes everyone stronger when they’re working together. It’s about what they already do well and their vision for getting better. It’s the shared motivations they have.   

It’s like taking a long, treacherous journey together. They don’t mind the challenge of the mission if they get to do it with people they like and trust. 

Talk openly with your team about the things that keep them there, and make that the basis of what you tell a prospective employee who asks, “What’s the culture like here?” You might consider making a short video featuring your team members, telling the prospective hire what the culture is like. It’ll have more impact than if it comes from a recruiter. One company included the participant’s phone numbers and email to be available to talk in more depth.   

If you’ve built enough trust within your team, ask what things a competitor could do to lure them away. Keep it safe and honest, and you’ll develop an agenda of what parts of the culture to work on. 

Bottom line: team culture comes from the collective performance and work experience of individuals, so take care of those individuals.  

They just might stick around.