Culture of Attrition vs. Culture of Retention

CultureAttritionI recently worked for two very different companies: Company A, a huge, global company with a heavy reliance on contractors; and Company B, a small, regional company with a core staff that had been there for quite some time.  I was struck by the difference in my first day at each company… 

 At Company A, I arrived at the requested time, then sat for an hour in the lobby as the receptionist tried to reach someone who could escort me into the secured area.  When we found someone, they gave me a basic overview of the facility and took me to my cube.  In my cube, the telephone didn’t work, and I couldn’t log on to the computer without the initial password from my manager, who was unavailable.  (I know this isn’t unusual: and yes, I was thrilled that the computer was physically there.)  I am self-reliant and persistent, so I headed off to get my badge made, then started troubleshooting my phone and tried not to worry too much about how unproductive I felt.

Contrast with my first day at Company B.  My managers were at an off-site, so I didn’t see them the first day.  But, they had sent me detailed emails with tips on getting started, and had instructed their staffs to make sure I felt welcome and to help me settle in.  (Their exact words were, “Make sure she comes back tomorrow.”)  I had more people volunteer to help out than I could’ve imagined.  At first, I thought that perhaps their workload was just lighter than at Company A.  But, I soon learned that people at Company B had a lot to do, too.  They had just made time for me.  After my first week, I felt more committed to Company B than anywhere I’ve been for a while.

The Ripple Effect

Soon before I was due to leave Company A, I was asked to escort a new hire into the building, as our manager was going to be too busy.  I didn’t know what they’d be working on, and I didn’t feel empowered to ask.  When I got them from the lobby, I showed them around as best I could, but I couldn’t answer simple questions like, “What project will I be working on?” or “Who will I be working with?”  When they similarly ran into equipment trouble, I gave them the same basic information I had been given to help them figure it out themselves.

On the flip side, in my second week at Company B, I organized a simple “Welcome Back” cube decoration for a returning co-worker, similar to the one I had been involved with in my first week.  My manager had led the charge on the first one, and she clearly prioritized doing fun, silly things as a team to show how much we valued each other.  It was a precedent that I enjoyed following.

What have you observed about your company culture?  How does it reverberate through your organization?  Would you change it if you could?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Mia Whitfield


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