SBM Articles


Culture and Employee Retention

by Kathy Cooperman

How would you describe the culture of your organization? How would your employees describe it?

Imagine a workplace where people at all levels are highly respectful toward one another. What would it mean to your business if people told their friends, families and neighbors, “I love my job!”?

Too many organizations today are losing valued talent because of toxic work environments. A recent study estimates that “for hospital medicine, the overall cost of turnover is probably at least $400,000 per provider and could easily be $600,000 or more.” That could be devastating to the bottom line and patient care.

Making smart hiring decisions is just the beginning. Once a professional is recruited, onboarded and in place, the challenge to keep them just begins.

Toxic cultures

What exactly is a toxic culture? Based on my research and experience in working with employees, professionals, executives and teams of all specialties, a toxic culture might include:

• Punitive, old-school leadership
•Employees frequently criticized but rarely recognized/rewarded
•Strong factions/cliques causing infighting
•Intimidating environment (screaming, yelling, profanity, throwing things)
• Ineffective leadership skills at the highest levels
• Unclear vision and performance expectations
• Information being hoarded; communication not shared with employees
• Unfair or nonexistent performance reviews
• Low-trust environment
•Power struggles (double standard for management, unfair treatment of employees)

Culture assessment

I’ve observed cultures firsthand through my consulting and executive coaching. I’ve conducted 360 leader assessments, including verbal interviews with bosses, peers and direct reports. I’ve also conducted culture assessments and gained an in-depth look at the inner workings of how things get done behind the scenes.

I’ve learned that few organizations stop to assess their cultures. The cost of ignoring a toxic culture is disastrous in terms of turnover, morale and profitability. Customer care suffers as a result.

Where do you begin to measure your organization’s culture?

Finding a valid and reliable assessment tool is the first step. I prefer the LEA leadership culture survey from Management Research Group. The result of the assessment is a report that paints a clear picture of “what it’s like to work here.” Leaders shape the cultures of their organizations. They determine what gets noticed, rewarded … and in many cases what gets ignored or even punished.

I facilitate the culture assessment process using the following 10 steps:
1. Identify a sponsor and/or culture project team.
2. Identify critical leadership practices for achieving the mission of your organization.
3. Select the best culture assessment (online preferred).
4. Communicate to everyone what’s coming and how they’ll be involved.
5. Administer the online culture assessment (promise anonymity).
6. Preview results with culture project team/sponsor.
7. Plan rollout of results to all; hold group feedback sessions.
8. Explain next steps and form action teams.
9. Close the gaps to reach top workplace benchmarks.
10. Resurvey in 12 to 18 months.

Invest in your most valuable resource: your people. Rather than guess at what it’s like to work in your organization — measure it. Help shape the culture that helps you achieve your mission.

Kathy Cooperman, an executive coach and leadership expert, is the president and founder of KC Leadership Consulting LLC. For more information, contact her at, or 720.542.3324.
Submitted 236 days ago
Categories: categoryLeader Acceleration
Views: 267