Retain Top Talent by Building a Company With Purpose

bunsundesigns April 4, 2015
 The recruiting process has become extremely costly and complicated for many organizations, so much so that it has become its own industry. Since the 2008 recession, many companies have begun investing in customized recruiting services to find the “right” person for the job. On the other hand, technology, the surge in data collection capabilities, and social media tools have made finding candidates easier than ever before.

However, despite the increased investment in and effort behind today’s recruiting processes, nearly one-third of the American workforce changes jobs every 12 months. The harsh reality is that, as a nation, we are completely disengaged from our work. A recent Gallup poll shows that the vast majority of American workers – nearly 70 percent – are actively disengaged, or in other words, are emotionally disconnected from their organization and its mission. It’s easy to imagine how this disengagement causes productivity to plummet, retention rates to decline, and overall employee happiness and excellence to fade into vague notions at best. These negative impacts all come with costs, and it has become impossible to deny that they directly impact the bottom line – it’s estimated that annually this disengagement is costing US companies $450 to $550 billion annually. In short, for most of us, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience and, in many ways, the problem is getting worse.


As concerns about hiring and retaining top talent grow, establishing a desirable company culture has become one of the primary differentiators for today’s leading companies. Many people today see a healthy work environment as more important than a boost in pay. This is understandable given that Americans spend more time at work than ever before.

Designing the culture of your organization is an art form with immense power, and successful managers are aware that organizational design directly affects behavior. This understanding allows them to consider various levers to tinker with inside the organization. With skillful leadership, this unique synergistic system amounts to much more than the sum of its parts – stimulating productivity, creativity, well-being, and ultimately helping a company achieve its goals. So what levers should managers look to pull in order to embed lasting engagement within the culture of their workplace?

There are countless approaches to improving workplace culture and engagement that many companies embrace to attempt to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Facebook, a leader in workplace culture, has a long list to copy from – the company provides profit sharing, communal ski passes, on-site dry cleaners, unlimited vacation days, free coffee, a 401(k) matching program, a dog-friendly office and dog walkers, continuing education, flexible work schedules, nap rooms, mandatory walks in nature, on-site child care, exercise stipends, and the list goes on.

Zappos, another industry leader, is structured as a “holacracy” – it has shed the hierarchical pyramid structure and instead has distributed power among all its employees. To demonstrate this, the entire C-suite serves lunch to all employees one day per week.

Google, another company that has invested heavily in its culture – and holds the title of Fortune number one company to work for for the sixth year in a row – not only provides new parents with paid leave, but it encourages parent-child time and relaxation by providing a $500 stipend specifically for take-out food.


However, there is more to the story. Both salaries and benefits are motivating, but if employees aren’t engaged and don’t truly love what they do, even the shiniest new toys will eventually get tossed aside. It’s the essence of a company, the core values and the purpose embedded in its operations, that keep the greatest talent around. People must trust who they work for, take pride in what they do, and enjoy their coworkers.

In addition to the creative perks mentioned above, Facebook binds its employees together with a values-oriented common purpose of connecting the world online. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population can’t access the web and therefore has limited access to news, educational resources, and other services. Mark Zuckerberg sees getting the entire developing world connected online as a social responsibility that the company is addressing through its new initiative. Although costly at first, this should pay off in the long run by expanding the universe of potential Facebook users. This shared value connects employees through a mission bigger than themselves, building a foundation for lasting engagement and improved performance.

Of course, not everyone runs the world’s largest social networking company, so how can this connection be achieved within a typical organization? What can you do to unite your employees?

One of the most important ways to generate long-term engagement is to foster employees’ understanding of the ethos and values of the organization and their emotional connection to it. It’s crucial to strengthen employees’ emotional ties to the mission of the organization and identify a common purpose to pursue as a team. Mission-driven companies are said to be 30 percent more innovative and boast a 40 percent stronger level of employee retention compared to companies that are solely focused on the bottom line. If you want to bring innovative practices into the workplace, you need to identify a purpose that inspires your employees.

While effective managers are skilled at creating value through process improvements, great leaders know how to align the mission and purpose of their company with the company’s business strategies, culture, brand, and performance measures. Nearly 70 percent of employees in the US today believe that businesses are not doing enough to create a sense of purpose and deliver meaningful impact, and when it comes to Millennials (who will soon comprise the majority of the workforce), more than 70 percent want their employers to focus on societal or mission-related issues. To explore this further, Gallup, Inc. looked at nearly 50,000 business units across 49 different industries and 34 countries. Its findings confirmed an intuitive notion we all share: margins and mission are not at odds with one another – in fact, the opposite is true. To figure out what it takes to stay relevant, innovative, and attractive to today’s most impressive talent, it’s not enough to ask what perks to offer or wonder whether you should replace the conference table with couches and hammocks. Start by asking what the purpose is behind your organization. Why does your company do what it does, and why do you do what you do every day?

After working in the financial sector, Richie Aronson moved to Seattle to work in the sustainable business industry and complete postgraduate studies in sustainable systems. Richie enjoys using his entrepreneurial background to design programs that help others to enhance social and environmental resources. He is currently developing a new concept offering sustainable tourism for travelers interested in creating meaningful impact for underserved communities






Retention and Engagement Initiatives Throughout the US


  • Health care coverage for full time employees – 98%
  • Flex time – Allowing employees to choose their work hours within limits established by the employer – 52%
  • Telecommuting – 59%
  • Continued education (aka professional development) or skill strengthening both on-site – 61%- and off-site – 78%
  • Free coffee – 75%
  • Health and lifestyle coaching – 47%
  • Retirement preparation advice – 43%
  • Subsidy for smartphone – 41%
  • Community volunteering program – 40%



  • Rewards/bonuses for completing wellness programs – 36%
  • Casual dress every day – 32%
  • Laser vision correction coverage – 28%
  • Standing desks – 20%
  • On-site gyms or yoga classes – 20%
  • Free snacks and beverages – 20%
  • Company-owned car for employee use – 20%
  • Matching employee charitable contributions – 20%
  • Mentoring program – 18%
  • One-on-one financial advice – 17%
  • Discount ticket services – 30%
  • Organization-sponsored sports teams – 12%



  • Employee stock purchase plan – 12%
  • Benefits for same-sex partners – 15%
  • Emergency/disaster loans from employer – 12%
  • Job sharing – 9%
  • Pets at work – 4%
  • Paid paternity leave – 12%
  • Paid adoption leave – 12%
  • Nap rooms – 3%
  • On-site stress reduction program – 3%
  • Free commuter shuttle – 2%
  • Elder care assistance – 2%
  • Results-only work environment – 3%
  • Unlimited vacation days – <1%
  • Babies at work – 1%
  • Down payment assistance – 1%
Stakeholder Capitalism
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