work culture

How to Create a Workplace Culture That Attracts and Retains Top Talent

Ezra Cabrera | April 10, 2024


    The numbers are in, and they don’t look good: 33% of employees in 2023 self-identified as quietly quitting their jobs. Quiet quitting is the practice of doing the absolute minimum required, sticking to the letter of a job description, and refusing to take initiative or go above and beyond prescribed duties.

    In an economy that’s starting to pick up — but with workers hesitant to return to the old ways of hustle culture that demand in-person contact — it’s time to take a look at whether or not your workplace is designed to attract or repel top talent. If you’re struggling to find and retain motivated, talented employees, ask yourself these 10 questions.

    • Do You Have Clearly Defined Values and a Mission?

      Rockstar talent is attracted to a clear purpose and an articulated mission. Gen Z, in particular, needs to know what they are working for — beyond paying the rent.

      Start building a better workplace culture by clearly stating your company values and mission. This is not only a way to define who you are and what you stand for; it’s also a good tool for attracting candidates who believe in the same things, and want to align their personal and professional goals with their work.

    • How Inclusive Is Your Company?

      It’s not enough to throw around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) like a buzzword or hold one hour-long training during onboarding. An inclusive company actively recruits from a pool of applicants that reflects the breadth of human experience, from race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, ability, and more.

      Take action to seek out talent from different sources. Once new employees are hired, the support continues in the form of diversity training and concrete inclusion policies that acknowledge the challenges some underrepresented groups face.

    • Is Your Company’s Compensation Competitive?

      For years, large companies have been holding internships over the heads of people just entering the workforce as a way to gain experience as mentorship opportunities that benefit the intern and the company. But don't expect top talent to stick around for long if you’re still treating employees like interns, offering less-than-average compensation and benefits packages, and not regularly offering raises and bonuses.

      Whether you like it or not, employees equate how much you value their work with your willingness to pay. And employees who don’t feel appreciated will take their talent elsewhere. Reevaluate your compensation packages, and see where you can do better.

    • Do Employees Feel Burnt Out?

      After the COVID pandemic illuminated how hard maintaining a work-life balance had become, many employees bristled at running themselves ragged for an employer. Instead of pushing back, forcing your people to work long hours and stay connected 24/7, embrace the idea that rested, happy workers who have time to care for themselves will be better employees.

      Offer more flexible scheduling, remote work options for people who commute, and paid time off for training and independent study. These simple solutions prevent burnout and show employees that they are more than just a cog in the wheel of the company.

    • Are Most Positions Dead Ends?

      Workers at the beginning and the middle of their careers, plus those who have shifted to a new industry, all want to know that there is an opportunity for advancement. Suppose your company routinely promotes from outside and neglects to offer workers opportunities for growth and development. In that case, you'll never be able to attract the highly skilled, innovative workers you seek.

      Consider investing in training programs, mentorship initiatives, and career advancement pathways that help them advance inside your organization. Outline a clear path forward to help prospective employees envision a long partnership with your company.

    • Do Employees Have a Voice?

      Open communication is critical in a workplace that recruits and retains top talent. Employees should be comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and any critical feedback that affects their ability to do their job.

      If you don't already have regular channels for communication that include things like team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and anonymous suggestion boxes, chances are good you aren't getting the full picture of your employees' lives at work. This is an easy way to gauge how things are going and what adjustments need to be made.

    • Is There a System to Recognize and Reward Performance?

      It was true in kindergarten and remains true no matter how old you get: Everyone likes a gold star. Only at work, that gold star is not a sticker but praise, bonuses, promotions, and other forms of recognition that align with your company's culture, values, and mission.

      If you need to catch up on regularly recognizing employee performance, set aside professional time to create and implement a standardized system. Ask employees what would feel like an actual reward (and what’s just an empty acknowledgment).

    • Does the Environment Feel Positive?

      Not every day is a win in every business. There are ups and downs, as with anything in life. However, is the overall vibe of your work environment positive? If not, this could dramatically affect your ability to attract any employees, much less the ones who push your company to excel.

      A work environment that is supportive and positive, affirming things like collaboration, risk-taking, and creativity, is one where new ideas and solutions can thrive. It also accepts and allows that while some people like working in groups, others do their best work solo or in pairs. Regardless of the configuration, a positive work environment created through team-building, social events, and celebrations of authentic success is more likely to woo the best employees.

    • Are Leaders Actually Leading?

      It is not enough to state the company values and expect everyone to fall in line. Leadership is critical in shaping workplace culture when leaders model the behavior and mindset they want employees to cultivate. Employees quickly recognize hypocrisy when what is done doesn’t match what is said.

      Evaluate if leadership acts with integrity, transparency, and empathy — and make necessary changes if not.

    • Do You Know How to Pivot?

      If your company is committed to revitalizing your workplace culture to attract and retain top talent, but something feels off or isn't working, are you ready to pivot and make changes?

      Companies that regularly evaluate and adjust their strategy can better meet the needs of their workforce. Ask for employee feedback with surveys, focus groups, and exit interviews, and fix what isn't working.

    Creating an Attractive Workplace Culture Takes Time

    Attracting top talent starts by fostering a workplace culture that’s inclusive, supportive, and welcoming. Reflecting on how employees feel at work — asking for their feedback and taking it to heart — can go a long way to wooing solid candidates who want to stay. And that is work worth doing.

    About the Author

    Ezra Neiel Cabrera has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a major in Entrepreneurial Marketing. Over the last 3 years, she has been writing business-centric articles to help small business owners grow and expand. Ezra mainly writes for SMB Compass, but you can find some of her work in All Business, Small Biz Daily, LaunchHouse, Marketing2Business, and Clutch, among others. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in bed eating cookies and binge-watching Netflix.