After spending the considerable time and effort needed to find the right talent for our teams, we want to retain them, right? Well, this is getting harder and harder in this tight employment market. It's the hottest Cella has seen in a decade and the war for top talent is on!

So an important question to consider is how important is employee engagement and company culture when it comes to retention?

Gallup reports that teams that address engagement needs in their everyday work outperform bottom teams by an average 10% in customer engagement and 20% in sales. Gallup also estimates that disengaged employees cost US businesses between $483 and $605 billion in annual lost productivity.

Fortunately, according to HR Dive, 75% of the causes of employee turnover are preventable. While many believe that competitive salaries and benefits are the primary factors in retention, in actuality one of the most critical drivers, as noted by Fast Company, is company culture. Also reported by Fast Company is that "a 10% higher base pay is associated with only a 1.5% higher chance that a worker will stay at the company for their next role."

It's also important to understand the distinction of a company's brand versus the culture associated with that brand in the attraction of top talent. Many companies fall into the trap of believing that just because they are a recognized brand - an "important" brand - talent will automatically want to make the jump to that company or stay with that company - but that reason alone isn't the primary recruitment or retention driver. According to Gallup, the most important factor for a talent considering a new role is the company's reputation and it's association with their brand (36%). Companies often forget that people talk, and unhappy employees (or even passive employees) are more than happy to tell others about why they should or should not come on board with their company. Snacknation notes that 49% of employees say culture influences their employee experience more than the physical environment (22%) or the technology they use to do their jobs (29%).

So, how do we go about increasing engagement and retention by focusing on creating an amazing culture in this competitive environment? Here are 5 immediate impactful opportunities to fast track your team's culture.

1. Improve your new employee onboarding experience.

How happy would you be to leave a job (and don't forget college degreed professionals are at a 2.2% unemployment rate, which is essentially full employment) only to find on your first day that it appears no one is prepared, let alone excited for you to start?

Small things like creating a welcome sign at the front desk on your new hires' first day, ensuring their equipment is ready for them to use, including company branded swag with a note on his or her desk, giving a tour, taking your new employee to lunch or assigning a mentor will go a long way in engaging your new hire.

Laszlo Bock, who heads Google's People Operations Department said, "When an employee starts on their first day, we have data that says, if the manager shows up and says, 'Hi nice to meet you, you're on my team, we're gonna be working together,' and does a few other things, those people end up 15 percent more productive in nine months."

2. Create a Culture Committee.

Employee involvement in creating culture goes a long way towards engagement and retention. This also requires company leadership's buy in and participation from the get-go.

Growth Everywhere reports that, "Statistics show that a company's culture has a direct impact on employee turnover, which affects productivity, and therefore success." A Columbia University study shows that the likelihood of job turnover at an organization with high company culture is a mere 13.9 percent, whereas the probability of job turnover in low company cultures is 48.4 percent."

Within the Cella Studios, we have found that Culture Committees with participation from management as well as individual contributors have been the most successful. Forming sub-committees for birthdays, anniversaries, monthly happy hours, weekends or after hours family events such as baseball games, picnics, etc., theme days or annual celebrations is a way to engage team members on many different levels.

3. Offer flexible work from home policies and schedules.

Gallup notes that in 2016, from a survey of 15,000 adults, 43% of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely which represents a 4% point increase since 2012.

In an article from Forbes, Gallup reported that "employees who spent 60% to 80% out of the office working had the highest rates of engagement at work" and "some 54% of respondents said they would change jobs for the ability to choose when they work, and 52% admit they already have such flexibility."

4. Offer free snacks!

Who doesn't love free food? While it would be amazing to offer free breakfasts and lunches as some companies do, offering free snacks and drinks can go a long way! Ice cream socials, pizza parties and pot luck lunches also provide a setting for team members to socialize and develop stronger relationships with their co-workers.

42% of employees whose offices do not have free snacks reported being happy, compared to 58% of employees whose offices do receive free snacks (a 38% increase) according to SnackNation's 2017 State of Company Culture Report.

5. Say "Thank You"

In a recent article by Benefits News, Reward Gateway reported that "although more than 22% of senior decision-makers don't think that regular recognition and thanking employees at work has a big influence on staff retention, 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve "massively" with managers saying thank you more." In addition, 60% of workers would like to see their colleagues' good work praised more frequently by managers and leaders and 84% of employees say praise should be given on a continual, year-round basis.

HRDive notes "employees favor recognition for work well done, especially if it's values-based and "As important as recognition is to employees, it's one of the least expensive benefits employers can offer." According to the 2016 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, recognition amounts to about 1% of employers' payroll and should be viewed as an investment rather than a cost.

Within our Cella Studios we have created two acknowledgement programs - "Cella Cash" where co-workers and supervisors can award studio cash redeemable for various gift cards for a "job well done" or to say "Thank you" for going above and beyond and larger cash awards which are part of our Passionate Performance program awarded by management.

In summary, Gallup's State of the Office Workplace report stated it best, "It bears repeating that only 33% of U.S. workers are engaged." This underscores the importance and opportunity fo creating a culture that drive employee engagement and associated retention.

The report continues, "Improving engagement has to start with organizations closely examining how they attract, retain and engage employees -- because the job market has become and will continue to be less about employees competing for roles and more about organizations competing for employees. Employees will continue to be aware of their options and search for new opportunities. Leaders have to create cultures that reflect the wants and needs of the modern workforce, regardless of job type or industry. They must give employees a reason to choose them, stay with them and perform at their best."

The strategies and tactics outlined above will help you create a culture of engagement that will drive your recruitment and retention successes.