Axios HR™ : Attract. Retain. Develop.

Not Just A Raise: How Honest Company Culture Can Increase Retention

There hasn’t been a bigger business issue over the last year than employee attraction and retention. It’s hard to drive anywhere without seeing Help Wanted signs posted around businesses of all sizes.

As the workforce continues to adjust to the changes in the labor market brought upon by the pandemic, the onus has shifted to businesses to create a strong organizational culture that empowers and supports its employees.

While offering competitive wage and benefits packages is an important aspect of attracting talent to your organization and retaining your best employees, the younger generation of the professional workforce has emphasized culture and vocational fulfillment in ways that the labor market hasn’t seen before.

Excellent Culture Equals Efficient Results

Research has continually shown that employees who feel emotionally connected to the success of their department and  business are more productive. According to a report on employee engagement, only 52% of professional employees can be categorized as “engaged” or “fully engaged” in their position and their work.

The other 48% of professional employees fall into the “somewhat disengaged” or “fully disengaged” categories. The engagement report states that employees within these categories are, at minimum, 30% less productive than their colleagues who are more engaged.

However, placing the full blame for this lack of engagement on the employees themselves would be irresponsible, as the same report suggests 72% of the disengaged population has the potential to become fully engaged and productive with a few cultural tweaks from the organization.

How To Evaluate Company Culture

Before a company can begin moving employees forward on the ‘Fully Disengaged’ to ‘Fully Engaged’ spectrum, it must first take steps to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their existing culture.

In 1970, Stanley Herman and TRW Systems developed the Iceberg Culture Model. This model of evaluating organizational culture helped balance the formal culture of a company and the informal or implied culture. It helps expose the validity of both “the way we say we get things done” and “the way we actually get things done”. These two aspects of culture are separated by the Waterline.

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Above the Waterline

The only aspect of culture that Herman places above the Waterline is “What Employees Say Directly.”

As you begin to consider your company culture, think first about the direct feedback you get from employees.

  • Do they feel free to share their ideas and that their input is valued?
  • Is the leadership of your organization willing to hear and understand perspectives from the teams they lead?
  • How are people treated when they propose a different way to do things? Does your company constantly say “that’s the way we’ve always done it?”

Employee Engagement Surveys – Getting Below The Waterline

Employee engagement surveys are a great way to collect answers to the question “What are employees saying anonymously?” that lives below the Waterline.

Conducting a survey using Axios HR’s experts or another third-party survey implementation firm can produce honest, actionable responses from employees. It’s important to ask the difficult questions that may open leadership up to criticism. While these responses might be difficult to review in the short-term, the honesty that comes from anonymous employee surveys can help your organization get a truly authentic picture of your culture.

It will give insight into the things that your employees appreciate about working within your organization and things that are contributing to the revolving door of employees that many mid-size companies have been experiencing lately.

Studies have show that some of the most common responses to these anonymous surveys contain the following desires from their company’s culture:

  • More clear and defined training opportunities
  • A better relationship with their manager (or a better manager)
  • Clearer performance expectations and more frequent feedback
  • More input on decisions and/or more background on the “why” behind decisions
  • Consistently inclusive behaviors from leaders and managers, acknowledging unconscious bias and working hard to welcome diverse perspectives

The Hard Work of Building Culture Is Always Worth It

We would never claim that it’s easy to develop an excellent culture that creates a magnetic environment for the best people in your industry to work. But we believe that the hard work of  taking an honest inventory of your employee’s experiences and acting on that information is the first step at becoming a company that people want to work for, and help succeed.


The Drivers of Employee Engagement, Robinson D, Perryman S, Hayday S. Report 408, Institute for Employment Studies, 2004.

Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study 2007-2008 Human Capital Institute’s HCS Certification Course 2010 Gallup, 2002

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