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Culture Trends and Best Practices to Help Organizations Improve Employee Retention

By Lyn Currie, Managing Director, Waterstone Executive Search

We’ve seen a lot of shifts in the business environment in the last few years. It’s not just the pandemic, hybrid work models, the great resignation, quiet quitting, or the marathon for talent—the last few years have required leaders focused on building a high performance culture to be incredibly agile and to re-think the way they engage their teams to drive growth and success, all while navigating changing culture in the workplace.

While there is no roadmap for navigating this new work environment, there are some best practices helping top performing organizations stay ahead of the game when it comes to talent acquisition and improving employee retention. And they all start with corporate culture.

Four trends that we’re seeing today that directly influence a company’s ability to retain top talent include: a people-first focus; a focus on culture and purpose; a continued focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion; and an investment in learning and development.

A people-first focus
Organizations with high-performance cultures have leaders who lead with empathy, who view their employees as individuals and work to customize their leadership style to meet the needs of those individuals, and who aren’t afraid to share personal stories and experiences that help build a transparent, psychologically safe work environment.

We are also seeing increased emphasis placed on employee mental health and well-being – from talking about mental wellness in the workplace and establishing working groups to support health and wellness among team members, to putting budget behind training and increasing benefits related to health and wellness.

A focus on culture and purpose
More than ever before, we’re seeing employees (and potential employees) who want to connect with the purpose of an organization. In fact, in our executive search business, it’s not unusual for candidates to ask about a client’s purpose, values and culture in the first interview – often before they ask about compensation. As a result, organizations are putting their culture front and center to help them attract top talent – but this move to focus on culture and purpose is also strengthening their position when it comes to retaining talent.

It is not uncommon to see culture and purpose highlighted as part of the employee value proposition, showcased and encouraged on the organization’s social media channels, celebrated at town halls and team meetings, built into the quarterly and/or annual review process, and more. But it goes beyond just engaging employees in culture and purpose – top organizations are also measuring employee engagement, listening to feedback, and ensuring that team members understand the impact they’re having related to both goals and purpose.

A continued focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion
While diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has long been a focus point for organizations with winning cultures, what we’re seeing in top organizations today is that their approach to DE&I has matured. In 2020, as the result of local, national and global events, organizations took the opportunity to pause, listen and learn.  In 2021, organizations were implementing the plans and actions that were established coming out of that period of listening and learning. Today, we’re seeing organizations continue to implement new initiatives and strengthen their commitments to DE&I, but they’ve also moved into measuring and assessing their efforts – and making changes to reflect the ongoing evolution of DE&I within their organizations.

Investment in learning and development
Learning and development is second only to purpose when it comes to culture-related questions that we’re hearing from candidates considering changing organizations. People want to know that their employer encourages growth and development, and to understand the supports available to them in growing their careers. From taking learning and development in-house and establishing comprehensive employer-led training programs, to working to define career development plans with their team members, organizations today are adopting a learning culture that is helping to grow and retain their top performers.

Leverage culture to support retention
Let’s chat about how these insights can help you find and retain top, purpose-driven talent who are aligned to your culture – today and tomorrow. Schedule a meeting with our team today.

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Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sitting down with all of the senior team members at DRiWaterstone Human Capital to find out, in their own words, what drives them and why DRiWaterstone is one of North America’s top executive search firms for the non-profit and social impact sectors. First up, President and CEO, Jennifer Dunlap:

  1. How does your background in the non-profit sector influence your approach to executive search?

    At the core of DRiWaterstone is our belief in the organizations we work with, our clients, and in what they do and why. I take very seriously our impact and feel the weight of what we do. I believe that what we do matters – it has a significant impact on an organization’s ability to deliver their critically needed services.

    If a search doesn’t work out – it’s not just money. There’s a negative impact on our clients’ services and on the people they serve. And that’s just unacceptable. Having grown up in the non-profit sector, having lived that for 25 years, that’s at the core of why I do what I do. It isn’t just a search; it’s helping an organization find the right leadership to move them and their mission forward.
  2. What kind of bench strength does your team bring to mission and purpose-driven clients?

    All of our senior consultants have worked in the non-profit or social impact sector. They all come to us having real understanding in those sectors. They are purpose and mission driven individuals and know how to hire for that.

    Our Executive Search Associates, administrative support, and consultants all come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they have one thing in common – they’ve all made a conscious decision to work for an organization that supports mission and purpose-driven organizations. Some worked in non-profit, some worked in corporate and were unsatisfied - that commitment to the mission and purpose-driven organizations we service is the commonality.

    The whole team believes what we’re doing is important and that we’re doing it for important organizations.
  3. Why should mission and purpose-driven organizations consider working with a firm like DRiWaterstone to fill their leadership roles?

    There are a few reasons. One is productivity cost. A lot of organizations don’t understand the cost of not recruiting the right person at the right time. They may say “we can do this ourselves,” or “we can’t afford a recruiter,” but then all of a sudden it’s been nine months and the role still isn’t filled. That has a cost associated with it.

    Another reason to work with DRiWaterstone is that you’re working with a partner who understands not just the industry but the individual organizations.  We’re a world class firm that does this work at a price point that’s appropriate and affordable for most non-profit organizations, and we work with our clients to develop relationships not just complete assignments. That’s really what we want to do, not just a series of one-off searches. For example, I’ve been doing searches with the AARP and the AARP Foundation since 2002. I understand the AARP enterprise so I can assess candidates on technical expertise, but also on their alignment to the culture and what it takes to be successful at AARP.

    At DRiWaterstonewe bring expertise and value, but we also care about what we’re doing.


At DRiWaterstone, we work with mission and purpose-driven organizations across the U.S. to help them build mission and purpose driven teams. We’d love the chance to work with you – reach out today and book a meeting with our team and find out how we can help.

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