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Culture Is More Important than Pay

Pay and benefits aren't everything when it comes to job satisfaction. The culture of the workplace has much more to do with retention than dollars and cents.

by Eric Holdeman / March 21, 2016

I get all sorts of book offers and articles sent to me. The one below struck a chord based on my personal experiences in the workplace — and that has spanned 50 years and 29 different jobs (I just went back and counted them). The premise for the article below is about millennials, but culture in my experience impacts "everybody."

About Debora McLaughlin
As a certified executive coach and CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group (, Debora McLaughlin helps business leaders ignite their inner renegade leader to unleash their full potential, drive their visions and yield positive results, both in business and in life.

Culture for Millennial Talent
As the economy takes a positive turn, a new concern is keeping employers awake at night: culture, including employee engagement and retention. The proof is in the data.
• Eighty-six percent of companies rate work culture a top priority, a 20-percent increase from last year, according to Deloitte.
• Ninety-five percent of job candidates believe culture is more important than compensation, according to Johns Hopkins University fellow Liz Pellet.
• Companies on Fortune’s Best Companies listing are also trending in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work and LinkedIn’s Most-In-Demand Employers.
• Only 32.5 percent of employees are engaged at work, according to Gallup.

“Culture makes the difference between organizations that are able to sustain themselves and those who will give way to their competitors,” says McLaughlin, author of The Renegade Leader, 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance & Profits.  “Many organizations are talking about culture, but few are aware of the perception of their current culture or how to change it.”

But what do we mean by a company’s culture?

Culture is the values, beliefs and behaviors that give meaning to an organization, McLaughlin says. It provides the filter through which people make decisions, how they work and interact with others. Culture is communicated top-down, through leadership, but is observed bottom-up. [I always say the organization takes on the personality of the leader(s).]

Business leaders face a special challenge with millennials, who have high expectations on work-life balance, professional development, leadership opportunities and a personal requirement that your business provides goods and services proven to make a positive difference in people’s lives. “Yes, good pay and the ability to receive and provide feedback, including providing their manager with timely performance reviews, makes the list too,” McLaughlin says.

McLaughlin offers these tips for creating an attractive, innovative and employer-of-choice culture.
1. Assess your current culture. How does your workforce view your culture? Look at your current online reviews and conduct a cultural assessment with all employees.
2. Research and design the culture you need to have — one that positions you for top talent, retains employees and distinguishes you in the marketplace.
3. Create a road map including definitions, stories and a core statement that identifies and describes the culture.
4. Begin the journey; cascade the road map throughout your organization through leadership, action groups and communication.
5. Build in a review process to reassess, define and cultivate your distinct culture.

“Somehow, among the spreadsheets and reports, it was easy to forget that organizations are comprised of people, which is at the expense of the company,” McLaughlin says. “Focusing on culture, engagement and retention will not only produce financial results, it will create an environment where performance, positivity and possibility flourish.”

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