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Culture Swipe: Patagonia, Point Break & Tiny Turnover Rates

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

16 Oct 2023

How does Patagonia maintain some of the lowest turnover rates in the world? The answers lie in flexibility and integrity.

As someone who has tried to surf a total of three times in my life (and failed miserably – I blame my high center of gravity, not my non-existent upper-body strength), imagining myself riding the waves on company time isn’t a benefit that particularly interests me. Watching Point Break (1991) on company time? Now that I can get on board with ????????.

If you’re someone who likes to learn about the perks different businesses have to offer, you’ll likely have read all about Patagonia’s radical (or tubular) approach to its company culture. If you haven’t, you’ll be glad to hear it’s got nothing to do with ping-pong tables, free beer or totally optional work nights out every week.

On the surface, what Patagonia offers its employees is the opportunity to take time out of their workday to surf when the waves are good. But if we dive a little deeper, the company’s simple but effective strategy becomes crystal clear: it’s a business that has built its core values around the great outdoors, the environment, and sustainability, and it actively invites its employees to champion and enjoy those values every single day.

Patagonia tells its people that it’s passionate about saving the environment, and it makes good on its word by sending them out to make the most of it, even if it means they won’t be at their desks for a few hours.

“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top” – Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Founder

Last year, founder Yvon Chouinard donated Patagonia (yes, the entire company) to a non-profit for climate action. All of Patagonia’s profits from now on will go directly into the fight against climate change, which Chouinard expects will be roughly $100M dollars each year.

So here’s what it’s really doing: embracing the fundamental building blocks to a fantastic company culture – one that puts its people first and surrounds them with trust, respect, and flexibility.

And when it comes to impact, the proof is in Patagonia’s pudding. While the average rate of employee turnover in the US is 57%, Patagonia’s is 4%. (No, that wasn’t a typo. Yes, it’s really just 4%.)

There are probably plenty of people at Patagonia who cherish the opportunity to surf more often (and I’m not jealous of their Johnny Utah levels of upper-body strength at all ????). But where the company really comes through for its workers is in the mindset it maintains behind those showier perks.

And unlike Bodhi, it doesn’t have to worry about paying the ultimate price; a healthy company culture is a win-win no matter how you cut it.

The bottom line? Be like Patagonia; empower your people to champion your company values so they feel a greater sense of purpose and belonging.

Our Culture Swipe series is adapted from the Under the Lens section of our weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive it straight to your inbox! ????