By Kurt Greene

Back in 2016, “failure to attract and retain top talent” was the number one concern in a respected survey of CEOs. Today, we know from author and speaker Chris Czarnik that it’s still a problem, except that now the math is painfully simple: There are more jobs than people to fill them, and the numbers won’t improve anytime soon. That means that the key to success in the coming decade requires shifting focus from talent recruitment to talent retention, which means leaders must craft what I call “sticky workplaces.”

“Sticky” is the extent to which employees are enthusiastic about their jobs and likely to invest discretionary efforts at work. When employees are truly “adhered,” they’re much less likely to leave.

Sadly, Gallup’s “State of the Global Workforce: 2023 Report” reports that employee stress is at an all-time high and that 51% of employees are job hunting. Not exactly sticky.

“Workplace” refers to company culture. My 30+ years in business tell me that this is one of the most overlooked and undermanaged aspects of most small and midsized businesses. Culture is the ongoing experience that’s being delivered to the people in that workplace.

Here are three things you can do to start making your workplace more sticky.

1. Leverage new-hire on-boarding as a key retention tool. The impressions a new employee forms in their first 30 days with a company have been correlated to how long they stay with that organization. Unfortunately, most companies’ programs are mostly administrative and compliance-driven. Delivering a unique and culturally aligned experience for your new arrivals over the course of their first few weeks (not days) will go far toward your ability to keep them.

2. Hire for attitude and fit by asking better interview questions. LeadershipIQ identified the top five reasons why new hires fail in a job, and the first four are related to “soft” skills and attributes. Start using interview questions designed for your culture so you can truly differentiate the problem bringers from the problem solvers – and stop using the questions that don’t. In my experience, upwards of 60% of the interview questions most interviewers ask actually fail to confirm cultural fit and to differentiate candidates to any meaningful degree.

3. Require regular one-on-one meetings for every employee, at every level. People stay when they know they’re valued and listened to by their boss. Good one-to-ones are recurring, seldom canceled or re-scheduled, and focused on the employee’s growth and success. One-to-ones are the secret weapon in every great culture I’ve been a part of or am aware of.

We can’t control the talent pool, but we can control who we bring into our companies and the experiences we provide to them so they’ll want to stick around. And that starts with culture.

Kurt Greene leads executive peer groups in Knoxville as a Master Chair for Vistage Worldwide and helps leaders get a grip on their businesses as a Professional EOS Implementer. You can reach him at