Green.employee.retentionThe reality of today’s job market is that workers are expecting more from their employers and are not afraid to move on if their needs are not met by your organization.

How do great public agencies maintain low levels of turnover and high levels of employee satisfaction?  The answer is found in one word:  culture.

Organizations with high rates of employee retention concentrate on creating four distinct cultures that keep people focused on the organization and its mission.

The Culture of Choice

Donald N. Smith, former president of Burger King said, “The individual choice of garnishment of a burger can be an important point to the consumer in this day when individualism is an increasingly important thing to people.”  Burger King recognized long ago that Americans expect to have multiple choices each day.  Workers are not an exception to this rule.  Today’s employees are looking for choice in the methods they use for completing a job, in the benefits they receive from work, and in when and how they report to work.

Choices in the tools they use, the methods they employ, and the recognition they receive are all characterized as innovations in employee choice. Do your employees have choices every day?  If not, they might soon be exercising their choice to leave.

The Culture of Balance

Even with increased acceptance of flextime and work/life balance initiatives, public employers indicate that stress levels still remain high in their workplaces.  Those agencies with lower levels of turnover recognize the increasingly important issue of balance and are addressing this need with proactive programs to help workers find satisfaction at home and on the job. Progressive public sector organizations will recognize recognizing the impact a balance-focused work culture can have on the retention of top performers.

The Culture of Development 

Bestselling authors Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans, in their book, Love’Em or Lose’Em, say that any organization that ignores the ambitions of good people can’t expect to keep them.   High rates of retention are clearly linked to the amount of attention the employee gets in terms of their professional development and growth.  When employees feel that their career goals have been acknowledged and that they are continuing to be challenged on the job, they are likely to stick around.  Employees who feel stagnated, ignored, or bored will likely start to look for other opportunities.

A culture of development can be cultivated through a variety of tools.  Training, mentoring, and clear career paths all contribute to this culture.  However, the strongest culture of development is created by the first line supervisor who works with the employee each day.  Every supervisor and manager has an opportunity to show that they are interested in the employee’s growth and development by asking the right questions and by understanding where the employee wants to go professionally.

A Culture of Care 

R. Brayton Bowen said, “In a strict sense, the kind of motivation we need to be talking about in today’s environment is inspired rather than induced.” As Bowen indicates employees will be motivated to stay put and work at higher levels if they feel that they are cared for and if they care about the work they are doing. In other words, employees must feel a sense of inspiration to fully commit to their daily activities.

In organizations where retention levels are high and turnover is low, research has found that employees find some level of inspiration from their jobs.  Such inspiration might be a sense of contributing to the greater good.  It might be a commitment to the team and its goals.  Inspiration may be derived by following a committed and ethical leader.  However the inspiration is created, employees must be lead to care about their work and about the organization.


We have all read the reports that indicate the workforce will shrink in numbers over the coming years with the anticipated exit of the baby boomers. It is clear that public organizations will continue to be challenged to attract and retain qualified and committed employees.  It is now time to turn our attention internally, to the four cultures of employee retention. Retention, while often considered a factor of economic times, is now being considered a long-term strategic goal for organizations that recognize its value.

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