Creating A Sticky Culture to Combat Employee Attrition

Jun 7, 2021 | Employees, Strategy

Last week, during one of my Leader’s Edge Peer Group meetings, a longtime member (Scott Frampton, Landscape Renovations, MN) raised the question of how others are dealing with wage inflation? He asked if others were seeing employees threatening to leave for more money?

A frank discussion ensued regarding how everyone was dealing with wages.

Responses were mixed:

  • Some companies were seeing large jumps in wage inflation.
  • Some companies got ahead of it this spring with wage bumps.
  • Others hadn’t seen this trend emerge at all, but agreed that inflation was real this year.

We then discussed how to combat this trend by creating what I call a sticky culture, one that keeps employees from leaving for money alone.

How are you dealing with inflation? Use these four dynamics to create a sticky culture in your organization, to combat employee attrition. Share on X


There is a common saying that employees quit their bosses, not their companies. I find this is a narrow view. Yes, some people quit bad bosses, but they also quit good bosses because the company itself doesn’t have enough to offer.

That is why you need to focus on creating a sticky company culture.

A sticky culture is made up of the following 4 specific dynamics, in order of importance:

1. Single “We” Culture.

It is critical that your organization doesn’t feel like a collection of sub-cultures, where ‘us vs them’ can rear its ugly head. There can’t be a feeling of office vs field staff, or one dept or branch vs another, or sales vs production. A singular culture across all areas of the company is fundamental.

Gardens of Babylon in Nashville, a member of this peer group, has done an exceptional job of intentionally combining garden center and landscape cultures into one large company ethos. It is owned by two brothers, and they have worked hard at getting on the same page themselves, and then bringing their teams onto this same page. They spend time and money on meetings to make this happen.

2. Strong Employee Bonds.

Employees that have built strong bonds and friendships with each other tend to want to stay together. These bonds are intentionally created by the frequent events that you hold, by the day-to-day interactions and sharing that you enable, and by the team-oriented values, you promote. When your employees have built multiple friendships and have accomplished great things together as a team, they will be less likely to want to leave their work family.

3. Ownership That Cares.

Ownership must demonstrate that they care, taking time to mix with employees and showing an empathetic face. It’s not just about hitting performance benchmarks, but it’s about the owner as head of the family leading the way: touching people as individuals in the firm, on the job sites, catching people doing things right.

Paul Reder, managing partner of Reder Landscaping, in Midland Michigan (also a member of this peer group), has learned this lesson from one of his top salespeople (let’s call him Tom). One year Tom was in a sales funk. When Paul spent time with Tom, he learned that Tom was highly motivated when Paul would visit his jobs occasionally and acknowledge his designs and overall good work. 

It was eye opening to hear a full commissioned salesperson motivated not by money but by the owner’s affirmations and attention. Paul now spreads the love to many of his front line people, and it has greatly helped in their recruiting and retention results. (They are not suffering the typical employee issues this year.)

4. Compelling Company Purpose.

This last criterion is the hardest to achieve. Having a company purpose that represents a crazy passion towards achieving an almost impossible goal. A compelling purpose answers the question, “Why do we work so darn hard for this company?” The answer can’t be profit sharing or making more money, but it has to be something that gets people to jump out of bed in the morning, something that makes your company stand apart.

Todd Pugh, founder of Enviroscapes in OH, and speaker at my upcoming Summer Growth Summit has developed a super compelling company purpose: “To help each employee achieve and become more than they ever thought possible.” Go to his website, and you can read the success stories.

Your Challenge

Giving the attention needed in such a busy year.

A sticky is culture is not created by happenstance; it is very intentional. How well does your company do at these 4 criteria? Bring this article to your leadership team and use it for discussion.

The key to successful implementation is over communication. Sticky cultures require the owner and leadership team to over communicate in all directions: in asking questions and in reaching out individually and company-wide.

Treat your employees as your #1 clients, and employee retention will be that much easier.

Would you like to learn how to create a culture so powerful it will drive your success? Join us at the Summer Growth Summit where Todd Pugh and Myself will both be touching on this topic.