Jena Brown, AKA Talent Junky, an independent recruiting operations and brand strategist, recently asked a C-level client how his employees would describe the company culture.
He thought about it for a while and admitted that he simply didn’t know, says Brown. While reports from middle management rolled up to him that “things are great” and people were really happy, the high attrition the company was experiencing didn’t really support that statement.
“After talking with him a bit longer, I learned of his recent focused efforts in creating a ‘servant leadership’ environment, aka culture, that I concluded WAS the reason for high attrition in the past several months,” says Brown. “You see, my client has made great strides in changing his culture to align more closely with the vision and goals of the company. Those who were hired into the old culture weren’t necessarily right for the new and improved culture he’s trying to create.”
So why is company culture so important for attracting talent? Because it’s a huge piece in the “quality hire” puzzle, says Brown. Why is that important? Because quality hires not only impact your bottom line (retention rates, higher performance), it creates the “flavor” of how your service or product is created and delivered.
“You want employees who are like-minded with the values and best practices by which your company wants to be identified,” says Brown. “Having a candidate attraction strategy that speaks to your company culture will increase the likeliness of attracting and engaging talent who will thrive and stay with you longer.”
Here is an example: Back in Brown’s technical recruiting days, she followed a company who re-defined their culture and evangelized it through a culture page advertising the huge slides throughout their headquarters, held company dance parties for campus hires and had a disco ball in their lobby. Fun right? Heck yes, for some at least…I mean, how motivating to be in an energetic, celebratory environment? But many of the software engineers and managers she was recruiting felt it was overwhelming and distracted from the important work they were trying to deliver to clients. They felt pressured to participate in something that embarrassed them and made them feel like the company was taken less seriously than some of the more buttoned-up, conservative software service companies. They were conflicted. The point is this:
“Hiring talent that doesn’t align with your company culture creates personal conflict within the employee that will no doubt impact their work and those they work with,” says Brown. “It’s your responsibility as an employer to set your employees up for success, and making sure their values and work ethic is in line with your culture before extending an offer is the very first thing you can do for them and the rest of your workforce.”
Michelle Prince, Senior Vice President, Talent Management, North America for Randstad USA, agrees.
“Company culture expresses what the organization’s expectations, values and beliefs are and how the organization interacts with both its own employees and the people in the communities in which they do business,” says Prince.
She adds that a good culture addresses and enhances employees’ workplace experiences in a way that creates a motivated workforce that is well-positioned to achieve both corporate strategic goals and personal career goals. A good culture also informs the wider community of the way it will interact and what can be expected from the organization to provide in terms of support to the community.
“Company culture is a focus for both HR and company leaders, particularly for organizations vying for top or scarce talent,” says Prince. “A good company culture can be a mechanism for attracting the right people and retaining its workers even in a competitive job market.”
One of the most evident but often overlooked ways to strengthen a company culture is to invite employees into the conversation, says Prince. So in that sense, the effort to strengthen the culture becomes obvious, but it also becomes inclusive and two-way vs. just top-down, which is usually more appealing to employees and effective in the long run.
The goal of including employees in corporate culture discussions is to find out what is most important to a majority of employees and to specific segments of the workforce. An organization’s cultural positioning needs to address the diversity within the workplace.
Five ways HR can strengthen company culture
Prince offers these five ways HR can strengthen company culture to attract talent:
- Embolden the current culture: Find out and address relevant “corporate culture” issues that are important to current employees. Motivated employees are a company’s best brand ambassadors.
- Be consistent: Develop language that consistently portrays the workplace environment and is used in a consistent manner in recruitment initiatives and materials.
- Be relevant: Find out what channels your potential employees use in their job search and have a presence in those locations by providing easily accessible information and resources.
- Be mobile: By this we mean “mobile” from a technology standpoint. Organizations whose talent-facing communications are adaptable for mobile devices have a leg up on those who don’t.
- Be honest: Candidates have access to more “inside” information than ever before and often come well-prepared with questions and insight. Potential employees greatly appreciate honesty about the “reality” of a workplace so they can make a well-informed decision.
Says Prince: “At Randstad, we believe a discussion of company culture is very important from day one. Forward-thinking companies not only build their brand to attract clients or customers, but also to attract talent through an ‘employer branding’ effort.”
Prince says that employees increasingly want to work for an organization in which they trust their leadership, can do meaningful work and feel their company supports the communities it impacts. All of these issues can be addressed through company culture conversations and initiatives.
Several U.S industries are currently heavily impacted by a talent shortage or skills gap, such as technology, engineering, manufacturing and health care, says Prince. Therefore, organizations in those industries face increasing competition to attract and hire employees to fill open positions. On the talent side, many employees with in-demand experience or skills often have multiple and frequent employment offers, and compensation becomes just one of their employment considerations.
“Company culture is very important to high-in-demand employees, because they know many employers can meet their compensation requirements, but only those with a compelling workplace environment and employee focus will rise to the top of their list,” says Prince.
Company culture defined
Company culture can include everything from working conditions and hours, work-life balance, a team-orientated approach to decision making or what the physical space of a company is like, says Paul McDonald Senior Executive Director of Robert Half in Menlo Park, CA. An appealing office environment, for example, suggests the company cares about its employees and wants them to be comfortable and well equipped.
“Good HR leaders and company leaders should sit down and discuss company culture,” says McDonald. “If they are not already, they should start doing so. They should make a company’s culture a priority because it in turn makes their company a desirable place to work. It enhances productivity, recruiting and retention efforts.
Five ways HR can foster strong company culture
Here are five ways company leaders and HR professionals can foster a strong company culture, from McDonald:
- Make professional development and training opportunities available.
- Create and nurture an innovation-friendly culture where employees feel their ideas will be heard and acted upon.
- Ensure your company offers attractive, competitive salaries and benefits.
- Provide a friendly working environment and the tools to help employees effectively do their jobs.
- Offer ample recognition, rewards and career growth opportunities.
“Your recruiting and interview process should reflect your company’s culture and personality,” says McDonald. “Taking a look at it from a prospective employee’s point of view can help you evaluate and improve your employer brand. Consider everything from your website to your communication methods and follow-up procedures to ensure the most accurate portrayal of your company.”
Consider allowing a prospective employee to take a tour of your offices or meet current employees to get a sense of whether they would fit into your company’s culture. These simple ideas can be key differentiators for a highly sought-after candidate making a career decision. Also, says McDonald, keep in mind people want to be employed where they enjoy working, and even giving back to the surrounding community. Philanthropic efforts, such as volunteering at a local soup kitchen, are part of being a socially responsible company.
“Whatever it is, find out what makes your employees tick, and adjust your management and motivation techniques and the types of incentives you offer appropriately,” says McDonald. “Continual communication is critical.”