Beyond the revolving door: Crafting a culture where employees thrive

Every company has at one time, or another, faced the inevitable turnover of employees. This change sends waves through our teams, our processes and even our client relationships. Over our 45-year history, Grafik has not been immune to these waves. In this journey, we’ve found that the cost to replace an employee is much larger than the cost to build a culture that our team feels they belong in, one where they want to stay and see opportunities to grow. 

According to a recent Gallup survey, “​the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary — and that’s a conservative estimate. So, a 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year.” However, it’s not just the money that costs the company. It is the compounding cost of time to find a replacement. Interviews by department heads, HR professionals, recruiters, etc., plus the time for onboarding and training a new employee and helping them enter the company ready to succeed. With this in mind, we must ask ourselves, how then do we retain our employees and strengthen our teams? It all starts with a willingness to change, as an organization, as leadership and as teams. But the truth of the situation is this – and we can’t ignore it, or hope it solves itself – change is hard and it takes time. 

So, how do we start this change? 

We do it with our people in mind. And while some of the most practical, economical and innovative ways to grow an organization and build healthy teams feel out of reach (financially, time restrictions, etc.), we’ve compiled a list of the top five things you can do to retain employees, increase productivity and build a culture at your organization where everyone is proud to be a part of the team.

1. If you say it, do it. Saying you want to make a change isn’t enough, action is required.  It’s not enough to hope for and wish for positive change, much more is needed. Investing in culture, building processes, and fully exploring and implementing the capabilities of the subscriptions/services we pay so much money for, that’s where the magic happens. When we put intention—be it funds, people, time, or a mix of all three—behind a new plan or strategy, that’s when change begins to happen. That’s when our goals begin to appear within reach and not just a “maybe one day.”

2. Process documentation is KEY. One of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff says, “my approach was like I was a chef and I refused to write down recipes. Every time someone ordered lasagna, I would make it completely different from the last time. I wouldn’t keep the ingredients in the same place in the kitchen. I wouldn’t keep the knives or pans or plates in the same place. I wouldn’t do any prep before the restaurant opened, I’d just sit there anxiously waiting for someone to order something and then I’d panic to create it. Never really improving on the recipe.” If you don’t write down the process, you are this panicked, anxious, hurried chef and you end up making every customer a brand new lasagne, wasting a lot of time and burning out your team and yourself. Recording and publicizing processes across the organization is so vital to the ability of the organization to grow. Otherwise you are repeating some of the same items over and over in new and changed ways, which can lead to confusion among your employees and clients. 

3. Invest in tools for efficiency – here are a few of our favorites:

  • Confluence – the Wikipedia of our company. This is where the documents, details, processes, onboarding lists (for new clients and new employees), and many other details that slip through the cracks of employee turnover or org chart rearrangement. Keeping these items all in one easy to navigate place that everyone has access to, has REVOLUTIONIZED how we make things happen at Grafik. It’s a space to store all the details of a process, clean it up a little (so other humans can understand it) and then go back to it when you forget the next time. If we only kept count, but I would bet that the most said phrase at Grafik is, “is that in confluence yet?” or “where can I find that in Confluence?” not because it’s unorganized (it’s quite the opposite) but because our team knows that this is where we keep the most sacred, tested and true practices of our company. (Now don’t get any ideas and try to hack into ours, because Atlassian is super secure.) 
  • Google email templatesThis simple trick will save you HOURS of your life if you ever find yourself re-writing the same emails over and over.
  • Slack – creating unique and even fun channels! Grafik has a general channel for everyone to post client wins, general updates, celebrations (anniversaries and birthdays) reminders for the team, etc. It’s like the white board at the office, only everyone really looks at it. Some of our fun channels include: momswhografik, diversity_inclusion, well-being-grafik-values, photo-scavenger-hunt, and current events. We also have client-specific channels, channels to reach our invoicing team, and department channels.
  • Divvy – oh my word, how this has changed the game for our company! No more hours spent begging for receipts across our agency. Gone are the days of manual entries into quickbooks. This system has revolutionized how we track our spending and monitor our larger budgets like media spending and subscriptions. I’m not selling Divvy, I promise, it has just changed the way we do accounting and how our team understands the financials of our agency.
  • BambooHR – this platform brings together all the beauty that is human resources, with all the tracking of time off, anniversaries, birthdays and evaluations (self and team).

4. Invest in the mental and emotional health of your team – according to Forbes, “One study found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees.” Employee burnout is also a global concern. In a survey of over 1,000 respondents by Deloitte, 77% say they have experienced burnout at their current job. So how do we innovate and grow our businesses without burning out our teams? We need to keep evolving and looking for the next thing that will define our organization and for the next way to best serve our clients as they serve their customers while also protecting and providing for our teams. Here are a few of the ways we invest in our team at Grafik:

  • Access to fitness – Gympass
  • Support their Mental Health – through Gympass, our employees also have access to many mental health apps like Headspace, Fabulous, Sleep Cycle, Meditopia, ZenApp, and Calm. 
  • Support and create inclusive events that celebrate diversity across your organization.
  • To help our employees avoid burnout, we have a summer hours program where they get to sign off 2 hours early on Fridays in the summer (no making up hours required!)
  • Our staff also blocks off 3 hours 2 days a week, so that as an agency we don’t schedule any calls (client or internal). We call these our Productivity Hours. Employees are encouraged to use these agency-wide protected hours to get into the work that needs to be done without interruption. 

5. Build a culture of authenticity. A place where your team celebrates the wins, supports each other through tough times, and everyone is and can be heard. This means that everyone knows about the new deal that was won or the project completed. Share the client love notes with the team in big letters and send employee appreciation gifts/tokens when employees go above and beyond (meals, gift cards, etc.). Your people are your biggest asset. Never forget that. Talking with our teams about their satisfaction and future at the organization is key to employee retention. It’s time to train your teams to have meaningful, real conversations, where authenticity is celebrated and promoted (btw this is Gen Z’s FAVORITE THING, and no, I’m not a Gen Z’er, so this is not biased). Have a true open door policy for real conversations to happen where employees are heard and real change happens from feedback. How do you do this in a work-from-home culture? We’ve found success in encouraging our teams to take a real lunch break and even schedule some fun lunches with their teammates – where no work is done, only relationships are built. Online trivia games, photo-scavenger hunts, wedding and new baby celebrations (with a stipend for a meal) are valuable culture building moments that our team enjoys. And while your team may be fully remote, there’s always the possibility of hosting an annual or semi-annual in-person event that includes time for team building and even small group breakout sessions to foster genuine conversations between department heads and employees. Maybe try a Q&A of the leadership team to really get to know them or a survey to access employee wants and needs. 

At the end of the day, we want our organization to succeed, but not at the cost of our employees. So with change, progress and new stages, we keep our employees front and center in each step, from brainstorming to implementation and beyond. I’d like to leave you with a quote from “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” author, Jim Collins.

“When [what you are deeply passionate about, what you can be best in the world at and what drives your economic engine] come together, not only does your work move toward greatness, but so does your life. For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered.”

May the change begin, with you. 

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