Love the Ones You’re With Or Lose Them Forever
With the need to fill positions at the top of every organization’s critical goals list, retention must be the priority to create a workplace where employees feel valued—and want to stick around.
by Rachel Fox
“We’re #hiring!” “Join our dynamic team!” “Love collaboration? We want you!”
Scrolling through LinkedIn has never looked like it does right now: colleagues and companies are voraciously hiring—or attempting to—touting their culture, employee wellbeing, and hybrid or remote working models. They are desperate to stanch the record-breaking rate of attrition organizations are grappling with, simultaneously scrambling to backfill vacated positions as well as bring on new people to support business growth. This frenzy isn’t necessarily aimed to engage candidates who are cultural fits or seeking to join a purpose-driven organization. Employers are caught in a state of organizational turmoil and are frantic to plug the holes of a leaky vessel.
But in the midst of this maelstrom, many organizations are forgetting entirely about the people who stay with them.
Well over 20 million people quit their jobs in the last six month of 2021, and LinkedIn says four people are hired every minute on its platform. These new hires need to be properly onboarded, trained, and folded into the culture of their organizations, so it’s strange businesses treat the Great Resignation as fait accompli in lieu of focusing on retention that could stabilize their businesses and stem rapid turnover.
While nearly every organization has made hiring a critical goal for 2022, what’s needed—and often missing from that conversation—is a discussion about the quality of the experience for the employees who are still there. It’s more than merely paying attention to them; companies need to actively make work more engaging and fulfilling for them. The people who already buy into their company’s vision and mission, who put its core values into action, and who are showing up every day, often taking on more responsibilities and work to buffer some of the impact of being short-staffed, are the ones who need their employer’s undivided attention.
Retaining employees in 2022 starts with a culture of accountability—one in which every employee helps shape the critical outcomes for the organization. This equitable decision-making fosters positive change and opportunity for every employee, because every employee is as invested as the next.
At a foundational level, this is done through a connection to the organization’s purpose.
Employees continually ask themselves if they align with the values of their company and if they, as people and contributors, are being valued in return. In a recent McKinsey survey, 70 percent of employees stated their personal purpose was largely defined by their work—and 62 percent of workers said while they get some purpose form their work, they wanted more.
If the answer to the question of values alignment is “yes,” it means an organization is codifying its purpose and leaving space for its employees to build on it. They empower their people to write new chapters of their story and afford them the agency to decide what their success looks like. This alignment has impact reaching beyond engagement and productivity: company evangelism takes root, which increases loyalty and a greater willingness to recommend the company to others.
When employees don’t feel alignment with the purpose and values of their organization, it often is rooted in the employee feeling they are in a transactional relationship with their employer. These transactions—like quick fix financial perks and “thank you” bonuses—reminds employees that their real needs aren’t being met. Since the onset of COVID-19, when people began to reassess what makes them happy when it comes to their job, workers have demanded that their employers invest in the human aspects of their work.
When McKinsey & Company recently surveyed employees on their reasons for quitting, the top three were that they didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54 percent), their managers (52 percent), or because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51 percent). This sense of belonging and purpose needs to come from interpersonal connections with colleagues and managers and meaningful interactions that shape both the individual and the organization.
It also requires an organization to communicate its beliefs clearly and succinctly. Without the right message to deliver its purpose internally and stand it up within an organization, employers are leaving out a critical pillar in the foundation of their brand’s success. Brand stories are key to help employees understand their role and unite the entire team around a common purpose. A clear, compelling story is what helps build a culture which employees are proud to be a part of and creates a level of buy-in that motivates and engages people—no matter their role.
Marketing automation platform Klaviyo wants to empower organizations to “own” their marketing by giving them tools to understand their customer data. It has created a learning-centered culture where employees lead their own development and are given the time, resources, and incentive to upskill and create internal mobility for themselves. They were also recently named one of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 2022—an award based solely on the input of current employees. The comments employees shared on Glassdoor all focus on the organization’s dedicated efforts to support company culture and employee experience.
One employee said, “This company actually cares about the wellbeing and growth (both professionally and personally) of its employees. This is evidenced by the vast number of support programs that are available internally as well as the top-notch benefits being offered. I have never felt more valued as an employee than I have here.”
This culture is effective because it reflects the promise Klaviyo makes to its customers, and that same growth mindset which drives sales, customer experience, and other external facets of the brand, shows up internally with matching fervor.
Another team member says Klaviyo’s success comes down to living its values and the quality of its people—from co-workers to leadership: “Klaviyo is one of the best places I’ve ever worked, possibly the best. The culture is transparent, open, curious, values-driven (truly), customer-centric (actually), and collaborative. The product is truly differentiated, and actually provides a lot of value for customers. The opportunity ahead of us is huge. I enjoy the work, I really enjoy my colleagues, leadership and the board make the right decisions, and I really believe the company will be incredibly successful.”
With employees’ A+ rating on happiness and culture (not to mention a best CEO award) on the brand comparison site Comparably, it’s little surprise Klaviyo doubled its employee base in 2021. No organization came away completely unscathed from the (still ongoing) Great Resignation, Klaviyo managed to attract new employees while retaining its current team by supporting all aspects of an employee’s wellbeing.
Klaviyo’s culture of learning has created a pathway for both personal and professional development, but has also made an impact on the organization’s customer satisfaction. For example, through the organization’s growth track initiatives, several customer support team members have transitioned into fully fledged software engineers and account managers within 18 months.
This has spurred personal upward mobility, retaining engaged and valuable employees within the company, and letting them deepen Kalviyo’s customer experience by being a dual threat with their newly acquired technical abilities and service knowledge. And Klaviyo doesn’t keep the development confined to individuals: the organization set up a training room where employees can share the knowledge and skills they’ve learned.
Klaviyo VP of People Operations Tammi Pirri explained the importance of this culture of growth for the company and its people, saying, “It makes a big difference for people to see that there is career longevity and that even if you’re in a non-technical role, through training and development you can transition. [Learning is] integrated, not only from a values and culture level, but also something that an employee can give back to others, opening the door for better communication and collaboration.”
As a lifelong learner himself, co-founder and CEO Andrew Bialecki understands that employees are best engaged when they regularly expand their knowledge and skills. Bialecki and his leadership team know that when employees see their organizations invest in their futures and give them space to invest in equal measure, they’re much more likely to stay for the long haul.
Organizations like Klaviyo have mastered the retention algorithm. It has fulfilled the essential elements of engagement by giving its team opportunities to learn and grow, and has placed serious stock in the people who have stuck around. By investing considerable resources and time into its most valuable asset, organizations like Klaviyo actively align their employees with their purpose, empowering hundreds of individual contributors, managers, and leaders to all carve out a path in its story.
Klaviyo has grown from a handful of early start-up employees to an organization of hundreds. Ensuring the culture revolve around what it coins “high slope” employees who are always curious to learn and desirous to level up is a key driver in its incredible growth. This growth means that Bialecki—who once used to interface with every employee—can no longer, however Klaviyo is able to preserve its culture through its story. Because its culture consistently revolves around continuous learning and the intersectionality of employees leveling up to conquer multiple disciplines, Klaviyo and its employees are able to live its purpose—whether or not its founder and CEO is sitting at the table.
Next time a colleague or company posts about their open positions on LinkedIn, do a little digging before scrolling past. Are they also posting about their organization’s strategic approach to maintaining engaged and invested employees? Are they openly showcasing a company culture that reflects its employee’s sense of shared identity? In a job market where four people are hired every minute, companies can’t afford to neglect the ones who never left. Show them the love or lose them forever.
Rachel Fox is a manager at Woden. Whatever your storytelling needs may be, Woden can help. Read our extensive guide on how to craft your organization’s narrative or send us an email at email@example.com to discuss how we can help tell your story.