Why employees stay in organisations #1
As the UK’s unemployment rate falls to its lowest level in 44 years, attracting & retaining talent has never been more of an issue. Staff are being wooed away; the median voluntary resignation rate has risen to 14% in recent reports and the trend looks set to continue, even in the face of Brexit uncertainty.
We all know of organisations who have turned to quirky benefits such as free dog minding, on-site car mechanics, and even botox injections at work as a way of retaining key staff. These certainly make headlines, yet research has shown that there are deeper elements to consider.
It’s true that there are baseline employee experience hygiene factors that every business simply must have. Pay, whilst not a key driver of engagement in itself, needs to be perceived as fair. The workplace should be relatively comfortable, and people should have the tools and equipment they need to do their job well.
However, the HR leaders we partner with know that talented people today want to work for an organisation whose brand they share values with and are impressed by. The missing element in many discussions around staff turnover and employee engagement is that of organisational values and culture.
*New research*: Stanford University on values & organisation culture fit
A fascinating new study recently published by Stanford University shed new light on the key motivators for employees, the impact of values and the role they play in the retention of staff.
Astonishingly, researchers gained access to the personnel and data of a mid-sized technology firm and applied complex computational linguistics and machine learning to the three main data sets, including:
- Over 5 million emails spanning 8 years within the tech company. This included both the actual content of all the emails as well as who sent what, to whom, and when.
- Monthly extracts from the HRIS (HR Information System). Data extracts included age, gender, departmental classifications, start dates, performance incentives paid, termination dates, reasons for exit (voluntary or involuntary), and more.
- 440 organisational culture survey describing employee perceptions of the company values and culture.
After combining and anonymising the raw email data with the personnel records, the researchers were able to run machine learning algorithms on more than 29,000 person-month observations over an 8 year period.
What did they discover?
After the grueling data collection and number crunching, the research team felt confident in saying:
“We argue…that values matter… for the choice to remain at or voluntarily exit from the organisation.”
Furthermore, the team suggested that ‘value congruence’ (the alignment of the employee’s personal values to those of the organisation) actually:
“predicts behaviour … in particular, a person’s self-identification with the organisation and thus her (voluntary) choice to stay or exit.”
How Can You Use This Research?
The research paper reviewed the wide range of prior academic studies conducted in this area and found that:
“High levels of individual cultural fit are associated with increased productivity, stronger commitment, and less turnover. Moreover, employers have increasingly emphasised screening, selecting, and socialising new hires on the basis of cultural fit rather than exclusively hiring for skills.”
Now these findings may not be news to you – you probably already hold the same view that values and culture are critical to business success. But you may experience some pushback in your organisation. This study provides robust, up-to-date evidence (and innovatively captured,) to build your business case for a strong focus on the values and culture of your business. Values that are lived, breathed and reinforced at every stage of the employee lifecycle.
Yes, sometimes unpleasant work conditions can be mitigated where, for example, the work itself is exciting, unusual and provides uncommon development or even just glamorous opportunities. Realistically though, in this age of fierce competition for talent, having the kind of culture and values that help you achieve your business goals is absolutely critical. Leaders must live them and must support the use of incentives and communication that reinforce the values.
Now, build up your business case by examining case studies and real-world examples of value-driven business improvement.
One example to get you started is the astonishing turnaround of the once ailing Microsoft to the now sometimes trillion dollar company it has become since the overhaul of values and culture by CEO, Satya Nadella.
Some examples closer to home are the case studies of the values-led change programmes implemented by Nottingham Building Society, (here) Southampton Football Club (here) and Sturrock and Robson Group (here).
However you approach this challenge, be sure to take action because it is clear that values will remain a key driver of your organisation’s employee retention outcomes for the foreseeable future.
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