Young smiling workers having a coffee break and talking in relax zone

Keeping your employees engaged and motivated takes creating an environment that offers just enough participation, flexibility and opportunity. (Shutterstock)

@Work | Trends

Build a company culture that retains and engages

Find the right mix of perks, policies and present leadership

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You’ve got the perks and flex policies in place from pizza-day Wednesday to meeting-free Friday. The office doors shut on holidays and employees work from home freely.

Those benefits are important—according to a survey conducted by research firm Clutch in February, 53 per cent of employees said office perks improved their quality of life—but still your numbers don’t add up. Turnover rates haven’t improved, and productivity is stagnant. Not to mention the cut that free coffee stand is taking from your bottom line.

The truth is, workplace trends are saying something new. If you really want to increase employee productivity, morale and retention, it’s all about the letter ‘E’: experience and engagement. (See our case study on how StackAdapt measures up with employees here.)

“Doing one thing, like no-meeting Wednesdays, can be short-lived because you can’t just do that,” says Soley Soucie, division director of the eastern region, for recruitment agency Hays. According to a Hays’ 2017 survey, What People Want, company culture and career growth are on the rise in importance for people—creeping up to the No. 1 consideration: salary—when weighing a job offer or their current role. “It’s more about the work that employees are doing, the engagement of the work,” Soucie adds.

It’s not surprising then that employee engagement and culture management are two of the greatest challenges facing human resources, according to a 2012 SHRM/GLOBOFORCE survey, the Business Impact of Employee Recognition.

The fact is, staff satisfaction, retention and recruitment may require a complete overhaul to your office culture. This change management may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, nor does it have to cost a lot.

“It’s modernizing the departments,” says Soucie. “Not in radical ways. By just doing the little things and making sure the people in marketing and HR are developed enough to keep up with the market trends.”

Modernization takes on different forms. Here are some starting points.


A staff survey is a first step to find out what needs are or, even better, are not being met. Where staff are feeling left behind and where the business could focus more efforts or perhaps innovate. Out of those survey results comes a needs assessment from which you can implement policy changes or add-ons to define your new corporate culture.


How you brand your business to recruit and retain talent is as important as how you attract customers. With that in mind, market your new workplace culture accordingly using social media and other promotional activities. Tap into employee engagement by encouraging staff to share their own feel-good stories and experiences.

“Craft the culture and then tell people about it and share the experience,” Soucie recommends.

“Tie it into the attraction piece … because recruitment and talent acquisition are no longer about the job posting … and the candidates will come. It’s about finding the talent pool yourself and engaging them before they are even looking for work.”


If it hasn’t yet come up, think about what’s on offer for professional development opportunities. Is it just a course without any practical application? Can employees try out a new department or role within your organization? That way skill development and employee retention can work in tandem.

People will leave because they are not being developed. They want to further their careers and stay competitive,” says Soucie.

“Most companies think if they send employees on a course that they are developing them … but why not give people the opportunity to work on a new project or switch roles altogether?” Soucie looks to companies such as Export Development Canada, which not only offers tuition reimbursement and language training, but also “secondments and lateral moves to provide a cross-company view of the organization,” says its website.


When introducing any kind of change, particularly that which affects the overall culture, make sure it’s a top-down approach, meaning everyone, right up to the most senior levels, are walking the new talk they are passing down the line.

“It’s a real challenge to get everybody on the same page,” says business coach, Catherine Thorburn. “It’s got to start at the top.”

Bottom line (and not the monetary kind) adds Thorburn: “Changing culture of any kind is a lot of work, not something that happens immediately. It takes time and effort to reinforce.”