Unlock The Secret To Great Retention

Core values get made fun of a fair bit.

I know a lot of businesses insist they “live and breathe” theirs but often they’re simplified ideals stencilled on the wall that mean very little in practice.

That said, core values are indicative of a company’s culture. And research shows around 70% of people would turn down a job offer if they knew the culture was bad.

The effect’s similar when it comes to retention.

Case in point: C Space are a startup that got absorbed by an industry giant. So the company’s culture changed from scrappy to slick overnight.

A third of their employees left. And only half said they’d be happy to continue working there. So C Space audited their culture. Starting with their core values.

jordan-whitfield-112404-unsplash (1)

Staff were asked to avoid common buzzwords and come up with actionable statements which would determine their values. They settled on:

● I’ve got this
 Show the love
 Do what scares you
 Only accept awesome

To begin with, it worked.

But a year in, the cracks started showing.

“I’ve got this” became an invitation to abandon struggling colleagues, while “show the love” was an excuse to suck up to management.

“Only accept awesome” implied working to the point of exhaustion.

People started leaving again. So C Space added two more values.

 Tell it like it is
 Open up and listen

Doing so’s helped. Retention’s stabilised and growth’s back up.

But shouldn’t it be much, MUCH easier?

freestocks-org-618080-unsplash (1)

Netflix have core values just like everyone else. What makes a difference is how they’re applied.

Patty McCord’s the architect of culture at Netflix, having served as their Chief Talent Officer for 14 years between ’98 and ’12.

In an article outlining how the streaming service “revolutionised HR”, McCord explains that a high performance culture of motivated employees begins with two simple recruitment principles:

1. Only hire spectacular people
2. Sack everyone else

It’s actually nowhere near that cutthroat. But the company learned early on that hiring one excellent person was better than hiring several average performers.

And if an employee’s abilities are overtaken by the scope or scale of the business, they’re offered a pretty hefty severance package:

“…we had to be willing to let go of people whose skills no longer fit, no matter how valuable their contributions had once been”

ross-findon-303091-unsplash (1)

The world’s most popular streaming platform’s a different entity to agency recruitment. So I had a chat with Gary Lai, Managing Director at Charterhouse Singapore.

Retention at Charterhouse is affectionately described as “unusually good’ around the Hunted office.

And it’s no surprise that hanging onto top talent means they enjoyed a record year in 2015. And every consecutive year since.

The key to the company’s success begins with their core values:

● People

● Equality

● Intelligent Insight

● Agility

The latter two are arguably more relevant to the nature of the service Charterhouse provides. And the importance of equality speaks for itself.

So Gary and I mostly spoke about how important that first value is.


‘This core value is central to our success, which underpins everything we do, and in return has translated into a successful and established brand that our clients and candidates trust’.

The hiring strategy at Charterhouse is similar to Netflix and other successful companies: quality over quantity.

The idea’s to invest in people: from clients to candidates to Consultants.

To build teams of like-minded individuals who are passionate about recruitment. And to bring on board people who are capable of performing at a high level, with an equally high degree of autonomy.

I’ve written before about how autonomy’s important if you’re fostering big billers.


Hiring strong performers doesn’t just contribute to a winning culture in the office: it bolsters the company’s reputation in the market as well. Because being renowned for taking on the best talent in the industry is priceless employer branding.

The result? Apart from four consecutive record breaking years, Charterhouse boast turnover at just a third of the industry average. Hence “unusually good retention”.

The longest serving team member’s been there for 15 years and counting. And on average, consultants are there for 3-4 years minimum.

So why’s retention so vital?

Because if you can outlast your competitors you’ll bill more; you and your market will know one another better; you’ll find growing your business is easier; and your career will take off accordingly.

And finding the right culture’s instrumental to doing so. But culture’s much more than just words on the wall. That’s just where it stems from. And there are a number of situations where actively seeking out a winning culture will benefit you.

When it comes to business development, focussing on companies whose core values not only reflect the interests of the candidates in your market, but also align with your own, will give you more common ground to build rapport over.

It’ll also make working with them infinitely more enjoyable, long term.

Have your candidates study a client’s core values and screen how they identify with them. This can be a particularly strong thing to leverage at interview, so coach them on this. It’s not the only way to overcome the “team fit” objection, but it’s an excellent place to start.


When you’re consulting your candidates on offers they’ve received, particularly if they’re stuck on which company to choose, bring it back to their cultural values. These are reliably more important than comparatively superficial factors like a bump in salary or a shorter commute.

In managing your own job search, you know you’ll flourish in an environment that aligns closely with your own values. So drill down on them. Find out how they’re applied on a daily basis. Ultimately, this will be why you stay in a job for longer.

And business leaders: have a look at your retention rate. If it needs work, auditing your culture’s a good place to start. Take the lead from your team but don’t overcomplicate it.

As an example, Charterhouse allocate budget to Consultants to spend on food, drinks, social events, sports committees, and fundraising initiatives. The team even choose how the office is decorated.

Strong cultures often succeed off of robust core values.

And based on what I found from writing this article, the most effective ones involve trust, autonomy, and a good sense of team spirit. Although they’ll be different from agency to agency.

Regardless, core values should influence any company’s recruitment policy. Which in turn, can make a measurable difference to team motivation, employee satisfaction and overall retention.

Company’s culture’s one thing that benefits from solid retention. Your bank account’s another.

Above all, it’s an individual’s work ethic and willingness to succeed that makes a huge difference. Because if you can hire for that, it’s likely that retention takes care of itself.

Check out Charterhouse Singapore on Hunted for the chance to work with Gary Lai and his team.

And if Singapore’s too far from where you are, Charterhouse have offices in Australia, Dubai, Qatar and Hong Kong.