Retaining Talent with the Right Culture

“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.” 

That famous quote by legendary auto CEO Lee Iacocca may have worked well in the 1960s when his team at Ford created the Mustang or in the 1980s when Chrysler made a mint on the minivan. But empowering the people you hire with competitive compensation and professional latitude isn’t enough to retain top talent today. And for a small business, losing key people can be a major setback. Indeed, building and retaining the right team may be the difference between success and failure for a growing company. The secret to retention, experts say, is creating a company culture and shared mission your people believe in.

Fast Company examined the topic in depth last year in a story titled Four Employee Retention Strategies For The Modern Workplace. “One of the most compelling factors in employees' satisfaction with their jobs isn't about pay or benefits, it's about relationships—with colleagues, managers, and work friends,” the story points out. “In 2011, companies spent $45 billion on recruiting top talent, yet, 46% of new hires still left after their the first year.”

To ensure your company isn’t one the nearly one in five that will spend valuable time and resources replacing a new hire after a year, Fast Company argues that you must move beyond the retention strategies many employers have used for decades. They recommend these four modern strategies for creating a work culture that retains the right people:


It's no longer enough that your company offers a steady paycheck. Employees today need to know why you exist as a business—what problems you' solving, and how you make peoples’ lives better. The upside to this challenge is that your company's brand can do much of the work for you if it’s communicated clearly. When employees share the company’s mission, they fold your brand into their own personal brands through social channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. What you’re actually getting in employees are brand advocates who go above and beyond, because they are proud to be part of your company’s story.


The digital world has taught us about access, and employees are taught that a tenacious, go-get-'em attitude is what it takes to stand out in a competitive market. But corporate structures often create barricades between employees and executives— the people with the best information and the greatest potential influence on employees’ careers. On the other hand, a culture that values transparency and access will breed trust and loyalty. Consider open questions during your all-hands meetings or designated office hours where your execs can mentor junior-level staff one-on-one.


Employees today—especially those who grew up in the digital age—are excellent problem solvers because they have unlimited information at their fingertips. In the workplace, that curiosity can seem like insubordination to a manager who doesn’t understand where it's coming from. But questioning instructions and best practices are critical as we evaluate whether there are better ways to do things. Encourage employees to ask questions and take ownership of specific pieces of a project. Cultivate an atmosphere where employees' questions come from a desire to grow and learn—not from an instinct to criticize. Your company should offer the resources for employees ask the right questions and get them answered. Doing so can benefit both your employees' and the way you do business.


No employer wants staff spending all their time on tasks that have nothing to do with the company's goals. But on the other hand, you do want at least some of your employees' personal time to be invested into driving value to your business. In other words, the blurred line between work and life is a two-way street. With employees now, you're no longer getting a nine-to-five, clock-in, clock-out worker. When things get hairy at 9 p.m., many employees won’t blink an eye when it comes to answering that email. That's why recent experiments in unlimited vacationflexible work hours, and more generous paid leave policies are so important. Some employers offer a work-from-home option a couple of days a week in order to let employees get laser-focused on a project without interruption. With online project management tools and business chat, we’re becoming less reliant on one’s physical presence to get the job done, so why not consider letting people work when and where they work best?

The glue that makes these retention tactics work is trust, Fast Company emphasizes. “If you trust that your team wants to see the company succeed, it’s easier to let them design a work style that suits them best and also serves the needs of their careers. And who would want to jump ship if they've got all that?” At Fundamental, we empower entrepreneurs with specialized growth capital solutions and insights based on trust.

How can we help you or your clients build a company that retains the right talent to go the distance?