The idea of people as a source of competitive advantage has long been a mantra among HR executives and the authors of annual reports. Today, as the competition for talent intensifies the focus of retention efforts has shifted from individual employees to the work environment. As often explained by the publisher of this magazine, Vera Asanin, contemporary companies interested in winning the war for talent and acquiring and retaining highly skilled employees must shift their focus to corporate culture. Specifically, organizations that create healthy work environments that help employees grow, learn and feel as though they\u2019re contributing to something important are the ones that will thrive in the modern economy. So, how do you build such a culture? Kevin Kelloway and Arla Day (Saint Mary\u2019s University) developed a holistic model of healthy workplaces that presents key elements of a healthy culture. The model contains seven pieces and although not intended to be comprehensive, it offers a useful starting point for thinking about how to build a healthy organization with a vibrant culture. Safety of work environment: Traditionally the safety of the work environment concerned things such as making sure everyone on a construction site wore a hardhat. Although these material sources of safety are important, a healthy culture should also include psychological safety. That is, in a healthy culture employees feel safe to express themselves with no fear of embarrassment or retribution. In addition to improving retention, research shows that such cultures foster innovation. Work-life balance: Today\u2019s organizations have to recognize the numerous and varying stressors faced by employees and offer accommodations that help them deal with life\u2019s demands. In addition to flex-time and generous leave policies, where possible, organizations that want to build healthy cultures should allow employees to work as they see fit. Many jobs in the knowledge economy can support results-only work environments, in which as long as employees produce their deliverables, they can work however and wherever they please. Environment of support, respect and fairness: Healthy cultures are characterized by interactions that \u201cbuild up\u201d employees and are vigilant about addressing practices that may \u201ctear them down\u201d. In such cultures, fairness, support, and respect are built into the organizational fabric. Such cultures embrace the idea of continually exploring ways to foster respectful interaction and commit themselves to the continual improvement of their community of employees. Research shows that organization development processes aimed at building a culture of respect and civility are highly effective. Employee involvement and development: In a healthy work environment employees feel hopeful that their efforts are producing important outcomes and that the organization will support their efforts to continually build their capabilities to contribute even more. Activities such as employee involvement in decision making, ongoing training, mentoring, and career planning foster hope in employees and a culture where everyone feels like they\u2019re growing and thriving. Work content and characteristics: We\u2019ve long known that jobs that are well-designed produce higher levels of motivation and positive job attitudes than jobs that are poorly designed. Work that allows employees to use multiple skills, enjoy some autonomy, receive direct feedback from customers, and work on an entire puzzle instead of a few pieces of the puzzle, are committed, satisfied and work hard because they feel ownership of the product or service. More recent research has shown that these same work characteristics have the added bonus of fostering creativity and altruism \u2014 two characteristics of a healthy culture. Interpersonal relationships at work: We all know that when employees leave an organization it\u2019s often because of their disagreeable bosses. Research on management ineptitude shows that the average rate of management incompetence hovers around 50% to 60%. Organizations that want to build healthy cultures don\u2019t tolerate management incompetence. They invest in management development and hold managers accountable for the quality of the relationships they have with their direct reports, assessing things such as the degree to which the managers help their subordinates build leadership skills. This fosters mutual investment in relationships and builds high quality connections that support the employee development and the environment of respect noted above. Outcomes: Part of the holistic model of workplace health is that it focuses not only on the \u201cinput\u201d side of the equation, but on the \u201coutputs\u201d too. A healthy culture produces individual outcomes, such as psychological capital (hope, optimism, confidence, resilience) and low levels of biological markers of stress, organizational outcomes, such as low turnover and high performance, and societal outcomes, such as those arising from sustainable competition that doesn\u2019t damage the planet. In a world increasingly dominated by extreme drought, rising sea levels and the displacement of populations, organizations that are committed to balancing their need for profit with the needs of people \u2014 all people \u2014 will increasingly be the ones that find they`re winning the war for talent. Years ago I read an article in a business magazine in which a venture capitalist was asked who he\u2019d rather invest his money with: A group of people with a great business plan but no experience, or a group with a poorly developed business plan but loads of experience and great attitudes. His answer was the latter. The right people make all the difference. As the difficulty attracting and retaining the best people continues to intensify, organizations that build healthy cultures that can attract people and keep them on the payroll even, or especially, in the face of attractive offers from competitors, will be the ones that succeed. There\u2019s no substitute for great employees, but they\u2019re of no use to you if you can\u2019t retain and motivate them to do their best work. Organizations with cultures that make employees feel as though they\u2019re part of a healthy, functional, thriving family have a source of sustainable competitive advantage that\u2019s hard to beat.