Across industries, employees seek out receptive, engaging and adaptive work environments. But what is the secret sauce for hiring and keeping talent? How can you create, develop and sustain the culture needed to entice and retain top performers?

We know that a company’s work culture is critical to employee retention. A few years ago, research suggested employee retention hinged on the effectiveness of managers alone; new data reveals a shift toward a more complex reality. Competent managers and fair compensation are still essential, of course. However, those elements alone are not enough to keep employees fully committed to one company over another.

According to a study discussed in the Harvard Business Review, employees cited three main reasons why they ultimately decided not to quit their job. Those who stayed “found their work enjoyable 31% more often, used their strengths 33% more often, and expressed 37% more confidence that they were gaining the skills and experiences they need to develop their careers.” Across industries, employees seek out receptive, engaging and adaptive work environments.

But what is the secret sauce? How can managers, CEOs and HR professionals create, develop and sustain the culture needed to entice and retain top performers?

The secret sauce

To understand the ingredients that make up a killer company culture, it’s important to understand that the millennial workforce has undoubtedly contributed to the shift toward receptive, engaging and adaptive work cultures. They make up more than one-third of the entire U.S. workforce and esteem emotional intelligence, authenticity and independence over higher compensation and previously sought-after job titles.

According to a recent Gallup poll, millennials are the generation most likely to hop from job to job. The same poll puts the onus of this stat on employers, stating that millennials want to pursue work that makes them feel worthwhile and that they will likely stick to a career if they receive a compelling offer that takes this into account.

Whether your organization is looking to recruit and retain millennials or more senior professionals, here are six effective ways you can create the kind of work culture that attracts and keeps high achievers.

1. Don’t hire to fit the job; fit the job to the hire

Limiting your employees to a one-paragraph job description can make them feel underutilized.

Find someone who can do the job you need them to do, but also make sure to take the time to consider their strengths, weaknesses, passions and ambitions. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments — ones that accommodate the worker, not the job description.

Give your employees space to play to their strengths. Tailoring the job to the worker might seem inefficient at first, but it can save you time and headaches in the future.

2. Craft an entry interview

Usually, honest employee feedback doesn’t happen until the exit interview. Don’t let that valuable information go to waste when it could be used to keep the worker from leaving in the first place.

Give your new hire a week or two to get used to their new position, and then conduct an entry interview. Ask them which project has been their favorite so far, when they found themselves most immersed in their tasks, and what passions they have outside of work.

Listen carefully and adjust where you can. Be honest about what you need from them as an employer. Let them know if you cannot make the adjustments they want and why.

3. Create opportunities for connection

Having a friend at work can be a great retention tool. Plan group service trips. Encourage employees to take part in happy hours.

Do what you can to build community and avoid making your workers feel like just a number. Create a positive and friendly environment by asking them to share stories about their lives, family members and loved ones. Most importantly, pay attention.

4. Prioritize growth through education

Employees who stick around do so because they see themselves contributing to a company’s success — and they see the company contributing to theirs.

Whether it’s bringing in speakers, hosting workshops or investing in courses for your employees, education is key to contribution. You can create a space where your employees’ skills can develop by cultivating an atmosphere of collaboration.

Don’t silo your employees. Ask them what projects or tasks they would be interested in doing that might fall outside of their job description. Create in-house resources and cross-departmental tasks, so everyone has the chance to communicate with, help and learn from one another.

5. Silly can often mean success

Organize events where your workers can have fun and bond. Maybe host a dinner where recruits can meet your other employees in a relaxed and welcoming environment.

Alternatively, rent that bus or limo for that special event you have coming up so that everyone can travel and arrive together. Allow for opportunities for your employees to be silly, to laugh and to enjoy themselves.

In a positive environment, your employees may feel more comfortable being themselves and making real friendships with their co-workers. And this can lead to a culture of respect, trust and creative collaboration.

6. Cultivate a culture of abundance

I love to start meetings — no matter the context of the meeting — with one simple ask: “Tell me something good.” This question helps the individual or team shift to a mindset of abundance from the start.

Stephen Covey coined the term abundance mindset in his 1989 best-seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, defining it as “a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others.”

He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset, which is founded on the idea that if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning (in some way or another) in a given situation. Leaders who are able to foster this positive spirit have the best chance of fostering employee engagement.

Your employees are the hero of this story. It is your job to create a meaningful work environment in which they can thrive. When you are recruiting, put the worker first, not the job description.

Pay attention and give them space to make the most of their unique skills. Motivate them to imagine how they could contribute to the company’s current and future goals—and then provide resources and educational opportunities to further those goals.

Humans are not widgets. Organizations that recruit humans instead of roles and that cultivate a supportive culture will reap significant advantages in a competitive job market.

Jill Butler is the CEO of and founder of RedKey Realty Leaders St. Louis — an independent real estate agency created on a foundation of love, service and fun. You can find RedKey on Twitter @RedKeyStLouis and on Facebook.

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