Gusto Next is our annual conference that celebrates our community through serving up thought-provoking keynotes, interactive breakout sessions, and a chance to build community and share expertise, all while staying ahead of industry trends—and having a little fun while we’re at it. 

This year, with a theme of Unlocking Possibility, we focused on unlocking the talent you need to grow—both across the country and around the world. We focused on leveraging incredible new technologies to unlock scale. And we focused on unlocking your team experience by putting people back at the center of your business. With Next in a Nutshell, we’ve distilled the key takeaways from each of those themes to give you actionable insights for your business in the coming year. 

Dive into our final theme below: Unlocking Your Team Experience. 


At its heart, business is about people. The customers you serve and the team you build should be at the heart of your operation, but you need to unlock a people-centric model that retains your best talent in order to grow. 

Value + Intention = Retention

In a tight talent market, retention is the name of the game. But even when things aren’t tight, retaining talent is a no-brainer for your business. Replacing an employee can cost up to 200% of their annual salary, and the employees you’ve already got bring a lot of value to the table. They are brand ambassadors, they understand who you are and what you’re selling, and they are a key piece of driving profitability. 

And yet, businesses struggle with keeping their teams engaged. Employees always seem to have one foot out the door, waiting for a bigger paycheck or better offer to come along. But retention is so much more than a paycheck.  

of turnover is preventable
greater profitability for engaged teams
total turnover reduction when employees feel valued 

How do you build value? 

When you think about what you’re building, you need to think about which of these pieces of the puzzle will drive the most value for your team: 

  • Compensation and benefits – Offering a 401k provides 100% ROI for your business
  • Flexibility to work when and where I want – 50% increased retention for employers who offer remote work 
  • Challenging and impactful work – Employees are 87% less likely to quit a job if they are engaged in the workplace
  • Opportunities for career growth within the company – Employees who feel they’re progressing in their careers are 20% more likely to still be working at their company in one year’s time
  • Opportunities to learn and develop new skills – Retention rates are 34% higher among organizations that offer employee development opportunities

But building value doesn’t mean a benefits package with everything and the kitchen sink. One of the reasons so many packages don’t work at retaining teams is because they aren’t built with intention. 

What does intention look like?

Intention is making decisions with your end goal in mind. It’s staying pointed toward your north star. It’s knowing where you’re headed and steering the ship in the right direction. 

Ask yourself…

Who’s in the room? 

Who’s there? Does everybody look like you? Take into consideration who you’re talking to before you start designing an approach. 
Who are you looking to impact? 

Contractors, part-time, full-time, or people who are in for the long haul? The approach you take will vary greatly for each type of worker you’re looking to retain.   
How will you measure success? 

Trackable measures are about holding yourself accountable. You can come up with a great retention strategy in theory…but you need to look 6 months, 12 months, 3 years into the future and continue to track that progress.  

“Be honest, stay curious, follow through.”

Be honest with yourself and the people you’re trying to impact. 

Stay curious, ask questions, dive deeper. Your employees aren’t made from a cookie cutter, and you need to design unique packages that create targeted value. Figure out what’s going on with your people and what they need. What’s most important to them? Where will they get the most benefit? 

And the last piece is obvious: follow through. Get it across the finish line. Build the trust that comes with delivering on a promise. 

How does Gusto support this? 

Luckily, Gusto has long been an industry leader in retention-building products for businesses of any size including performance reviews, goal tracking, 401ks, professional development, and custom no-cost, low-cost, and premium benefits packages. Once you figure out what you want to deliver—with intention—we help you provide exactly that to your employees.  

Culture-forward growth

Beyond better benefits, bigger paychecks, and work-from-home opportunities, there is another piece of retention and a truly people-centric business model that lies a little deeper beneath the surface: company culture. 

Far too many leaders feel devoting resources toward culture building is a luxury only larger organizations can afford. But the truth is, fostering culture with intention is something you can’t afford to ignore. Luckily, you can design and foster a powerful culture that drives engagement, builds the team of your dreams, scales with your business, and delivers results, no matter how many employees you’ve got on the payroll.

As we wrap up our deep dive into Gusto Next, we’re brought back to one of the main themes woven through the event: change. The last few years have been filled with nothing but, and the next few aren’t looking any more placid. Businesses that are capable of adapting are the ones who will weather the storm, but what makes a business adaptable? How do you know who’ll sink or swim? 

“An effective culture makes change easier.” – James Heskell

What is culture? 

A strong company culture helps you adapt, helps you see around corners. But culture as a concept feels so amorphous…how do we make it concrete and actionable? How do we think about it like a system?

Mission – Defines your impact in the world. What problem are you solving? Why do you exist? What difference do you want to make? Make it specific! Make it moving, compelling, unique. 

Values – Values aren’t just “integrity” or “kindness.” They should be opinionated, a behavioral compass. They should communicate the things you reward, as well as what’s not acceptable. They should be simple and specific, and they should help you make hard decisions.  

Norms – Norms bring culture to life on a day to day basis. They are how everything comes together: process, systems, and decision-making. You can have all the values posted up on the wall, but that doesn’t really tell the story of who you are. 

Your culture should be a guiding force in decision-making. Not just for you, but for everyone on your team. It’s not just a thing you write down on a piece of paper that might attract a candidate or who you think you should be or wish you were. It’s how your company does what it does. 

PRO TIP: Culture fits for employees are important, but every person you hire doesnt have to be hardwired to fit in. Understanding your company culture and seeing it in action can shape the way your employees work. 

So what’s your system today? What do you want it to be? If you don’t know, or even if you think you do, take a “culture pulse” with employees, customers, and partners. Ask: “What three words come to mind when you think of working at / working with our company?”

You may be surprised by what you hear. And once you know where you are and where you want to go, how do you build a roadmap to this future? 

Set a vision, build a roadmap, BE INTENTIONAL

Once you know who you are and what you want, set a timeframe and say: 

“Our culture will be effective if we…” 

  • [Make this impact] by focusing on
  • [These values] through committing to 
  • [These norms.] 

Think about culture like a product. What pain point are you trying to solve for? How do you build that behavior quickly and iterate? 

Design – Pick a specific thing you want to improve. Maybe it’s how managers make decisions or opening communication between team members and team leaders.  

Build & execute – Start building that behavior with tiny habits. 

“When I… [anchor moment to trigger the action]” 

“I will… [do the behavior you want, but scaled back to be tiny and easy to do].”

“Then, I celebrate!” – Something to create a positive feeling within yourself.  

Measure and iterate – Decide how often you’ll test the waters. Use customer surveys, employee happiness surveys, or even just ask around informatally. Review, reflect, take action…rinse and repeat.  

If you don’t take the time to nurture and build the culture you want, your company will develop one all on its own. Attracting the talent you need and retaining the best you’ve got means cultivating that culture with intention.  

Watch the replays 

Take a deeper dive into the Gusto Next speeches that help you Unlock Your Team Experience: 

Monique Jackson – More than a paycheck: How value + intention = long-term retention with Monique JacksonAnne Raimondi – Culture-forward growth: Designing a people-first approach that scales with Anne Raimondi

And for the full slate of Gusto Next content, head over to

Jaclyn Anku Jaclyn is the Partner Education Manager at Gusto. She started her career as a small business consultant and is passionate about teaching small business owners financial literacy and arming them with great advice. Before joining Gusto, she led business education for accountants and bookkeepers at Xero. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Oakland, CA.
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