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November 14, 2019
Brad Jamison

3 signs it's time for a company culture change

Ping pong tables, meditation stations, and kombucha on tap are great employee retention ideas for just about any office. Who doesn’t need a good, midday zenning out session with a glass of strawberry-ginger-mojito booch waiting on the other side? 

But you know what’s cooler than afternoon mindfulness exercises and tasty probiotics? Employees who love coming to work each day because they feel valued, know leadership has their backs, trust their fellow team members, and want to stick around

It’s certainly not easy to create this type of company culture; lots of listening, empathizing, and reflecting is required. But, if you’re serious about fostering an environment your employees appreciate and love—and following through on employee retention ideas—evaluating your current culture is a good place to start. 

Implementing a change to your company culture isn’t always easy, but killer culture is well within reach if you keep an eye out for these red flags.

Company culture change sign #1: you have a high turnover rate

It wasn’t so long ago that many people worked for one company for 50 years, took their pension, and retired.

Those days are over. And for millennials and Gen Zers, this career path was never really an option in the first place. 

Today, millennials make up 25% of the world’s population and will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025. There’s clearly no shortage of millennial talent; keeping them around, however, does require a deeper understanding of what they want out of work, and implementing proven (and new) employee retention ideas. 

Harvard Business Review found that millennials place more importance on opportunities to learn and grow above other factors, including informal work environments (we’re looking at you, kegerator). 

Still, this generation ranks company culture highly among other factors—and growth opportunities make up a huge portion.

Millennials may be accustomed to bad press and played out stereotypes, but they’re also committed to working hard and looking ahead.

This flies in the face of the idea that millennials are lazy. It's quite the opposite, really; millennials are willing to work hard, but want to know that they are building a stronger career—even if it’s not with their current company. 

A recent Gallup report revealed some pretty stark distinctions between millennials and non-millennials: 

  1. Millennials are more likely than other generations to job hop
  2. 20% of millennials have switched jobs in the past year—three times that of non-millennials
  3. Only half of millennials reported they strongly agree that they’ll be working the same job in one year

It’s not so much that they want to change jobs, but that they’re willing to pursue other employment opportunities if they feel it will benefit their career.

There are, of course, other reasons your company faces a high turnover rate. But if you want to keep your turnover rate low, employee engagement high, and employee retention ideas fresh, offering development opportunities and learning how to best manage millennials is a good place to start.

Culture change sign #2: office gossip

Remember that scene in “Mean Girls,” the one where Regina and crew are switching between calls to gossip about the girls on the other lines? It’s a pretty accurate depiction of some of high school’s harshest moments—and not something you want to be replicated in your Slack channels or at the kombucha tap. 

And, you didn’t hear it from us, but office gossip is kind of a big deal. 

Such a big deal, in fact, that U.S. workers spend 40 minutes per week gossiping about their fellow team members—and it’s not coming from just one portion of the team. While female employees gossip just north of half an hour, their male colleagues spend nearly twice as long talking about other team members. 

Now, you may be thinking, my employees wouldn’t do that! We’re tight! 

But gossip isn’t just limited to employees. Over 30% of employees report that their bosses have asked them to share gossip to learn more about what’s going on in the workplace.


It makes sense that leadership wants to know what’s going on with employees, but if your company culture includes consistent behind-the-back conversations, it’s bound to breed unease and mistrust. 

So, how do you fix it? Call it out. 

Consider this hypothetical: You just got out of a long meeting and all you want to do is top off your [insert preferred post-meeting beverage here]. You’re filling up your glass when an employee comes over to chat.

It starts with the typical sports-weather conversation, but the topic quickly turns to an employee who isn’t in the room. It seems innocent enough but purports about performance and personal life quickly surface.  

Now’s the time to step in. Let the employee know negative gossip isn’t acceptable. You can even turn the conversation around; counter the gossiper’s gossip with a positive note about the employee, or other positive instances in the company.

It’s the perfect opportunity for leadership to lead by example, and immediately interject to implement company culture change.

Another way to encourage positive employee outlook (and veer away from negative gossip) is to offer peer-to-peer bonuses. Empower and incentivize your employees to be on the lookout for other team members who are killing it and make the workplace better for everyone. 

It’s pretty simple: If your employees are focusing on each other’s positive attributes and their contributions to the team, they’ll be less inclined to hone in on any negativity—or to spread it around.

Culture change sign #3: your employees are burned out

There’s a strange and all-too-pervasive trait etched into the American workplace culture. It’s the idea that working long, grueling hours is to be celebrated. 

We’re not talking about the rare project with a tight deadline that requires all-hands-on-deck past 5 o’clock. We’re talking about extra hours. Every day. Every week. 

If your employees are coming in early, staying late, working weekends, or replying to emails and Slacks at all hours of the night, take this as a sign that they're either approaching burnout—or, worse, have already reached it—and need relief. 

So, what are the dangers of employee burnout to your company and company culture?

Deloitte’s Burnout Survey revealed some sobering stats:

  1. 64% of professionals are stressed out or frustrated frequently in their current roles—32% of whom feel it multiple times a week
  2. 77% comes from a previous job that left them burned out, with half of respondents reporting that it’d happened in more than one role 
  3. Lack of support or recognition, unrealistic deadlines and expectations, and routinely working long hours and weekends were the top reasons people left, at 31%, 30%, and 29%, respectively

We’ve already established that millennials have no qualms about looking elsewhere for jobs. And burned out millennials who don’t see manageable workloads on the horizon are all but certain to take their talents to another employer.

But by reevaluating your employees’ responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations, you can create an environment where staying late is the rare exception, not the rule.

However, it’s not likely that each of your struggling employees will approach you about burnout. 

Look out for these signs, and take action:

  1. Sign: poor productivity and quality of work: Your once-top employee is now struggling to get quality work over the finish line on time. Are they slacking off, or are they merely attempting to meet unrealistic deadlines and their work suffers as a result?

    Action: Recognize and acknowledge not just their work, but the effort they put into it. Let them know that you know they’re working hard. Get the conversation going, and see how they’re faring with it and the other projects. You may be surprised by what you learn. If they’re struggling with workload, make changes where you can.
  2. Sign: they're disengaged: Everyone spaces out at work from time to time. But employees who are increasingly withdrawn from both their work and team members may be on the verge of burning out—or facing a more serious issue.

    Action: Engage with them. Find time to speak with them about how they’re feeling. If they’re burned out, you’ll probably be able to find that out fairly quickly. Another way to engage with them is by including them in decision making when possible. Show them that you value their input and contribution to projects. If your employees are engaged in their work, they’re engaged in the company’s wellbeing.
  3. Sign: increased days off: It’s no surprise that vacation helps avoid burnout, and everyone needs time off whether they’re burned out or not. But employees who are taking increased numbers of days off or unexplained time off could be a sign they’re desperate for time away from the office.

    Action: Make the office less stressful. Start or expand an office wellness program. You don’t have to open an office gym to do this—it can be as simple as offering weekly yoga classes, swapping out sugary snacks for healthier options, or bringing in paramedical services such as massage therapy. But if your employees are having a tough time mentally, it might be time to offer on-site access to mental health services. It’s up to your employees to choose to participate in these programs, but showing them that you care about their wellbeing by offering (and participating in) these services is another no-brainer to lead by example.

Make a company culture change to create an environment that’s uniquely your own

Success is measured in different ways. The obvious revenue and growth factors can be quantified, but how does your company culture measure up to your definition of success? What employee retention ideas can you implement to help you get there?

Creating a culture people value, want to be a part of, and want to give as much as they take, is no simple task. Sometimes it takes stepping back and reviewing what’s going on with a greater level of scrutiny, and making company culture changes where and when needed.

You know what to keep an eye out for. You know which employee retention ideas keep employees fulfilled and engaged. Help create a company culture that can’t be found elsewhere, and your employees will want to stick around for the long haul—no ping pong tables required. 

Next up: Learn how to have the burnout conversation with your manager or employees.

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