Company culture describes who a company is at its core, ranging from behaviors to attitude towards employees and how employees complete work. It’s a company’s personality, integrating work environment, company values, ethics, expectations, and leadership. While it’s often under-valued in organizations, who may not work to create a specific company culture at all, culture is increasingly recognized as a valuable factor in helping organizations to succeed.
In 2014, Microsoft was facing a failing market and a rapid loss of talent. With decreasing profits and an internal culture built around intense competition and infighting, top talent was leaving for competing companies. Satya Nadella stepped in as CEO with the intent of changing this, not by using the same heavy-handed tactics as his predecessors to force individuals into line, but by changing company culture. His approach centered around rebuilding Microsoft’s culture in a flat-hierarchal organization, inspiring 124,000+ employees to embrace learning and empathic collaboration rather than competition.
Today, Microsoft is at the height of its game, and its talent loss problems are gone. The organization thrives on creative collaboration, actively drawing in top talent and now has an average talent retention of 3+ years.
HP, like Microsoft, was formerly at the top of its game and among one of the first companies to establish the importance of company culture with the HP Way. In 1978, when founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard handed over the reins to John Young, that began to change. By the 1990s, HP had become a fragmented, top-down culture in which hierarchy reigned supreme. The organization began to flounder, losing CEO after CEO, until Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay stepped in, splitting the company in 2015 in an attempt to solve internal issues. That split paid off, as HP was able to use the separation to reinvent sales and culture, creating a system focusing on behavior, activities, and performance and rewarding an intersection of all three. With a new investment in company culture and a commitment to innovation, HP Inc, headed by Dion Weisler, the company commits to trusting people first and intervening only when it’s necessary. As a result, the company has seen a 13% increase in total sales, with employee and talent retention up.
Most people don’t think of Cisco when they think of companies with good organizational culture, especially considering the company was once known for a hard top-down management style. But, with an average employee duration of 7.8 years, Cisco has one of the longest employee retention rates out there. Cisco’s Our People Deal focuses on connection, innovation, and mutual benefit, with a much flatter hierarchy and a massive breakdown of silos. Cisco’s shift away from simply working to giving talent a space to innovate, develop, and build themselves while working makes the company truly attractive to top talent, as exemplified by their long retention rate.
While there are a lot of ways to build a company culture, the companies with the best talent retention have structured theirs around people, innovation, and development, with flat or open rather than top-down hierarchy. While your own culture can include some of many of those elements, deliberately developing culture to include employee retention will pay off, and in a big way.