Use Company Culture to Hire Top Talent and Engage Your Team

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 9.52.43 AMHiring for cultural fit is one of the main mantras within recruitment nowadays. Recruiters are encouraged to look beyond skills and past the job description to find candidates who “fit” with the organization and its values.

By contrast, we don’t talk nearly enough about how to create a company culture that can attract the best talent. In fact, the results of a recent survey suggested that just over half of companies don’t have a defined culture! This is crazy at a time when top candidates are increasingly concerned with “culture,” and often use it as a differentiator when deciding where to apply.

Inevitably when people bring up company culture, the conversation drifts to perks. How do we top a competitor that offers free dinner for employees working late? We have to provide free lunch! This is never the best way to approach the culture question. There will always be companies that can offer better “things.”

Instead, company’s need to think about creating a working environment that attracts top candidates and can get their team excited to come to work every morning.

Weave Company Culture Into Your Hiring Process

Remember how far reaching the idea of “culture” really is. It doesn’t start when someone walks in the door. It extends to the entire hiring process.

The only experience candidates have of your company comes directly at the hands of your recruiting department. They can browse your website and read your blog, but the way they’re treated is likely to impact their opinion of your company far more – as many as 64.3 percent of applicants reported that they would share a negative experience with their inner circle.

Projecting your company culture throughout the hiring process and providing a top candidate experience has an enormous effect on your employer brand and the number of people who apply. Want to see this in numbers? Google, widely acknowledged to have one of the best working cultures in the world, has upwards of 2 million high quality applicants every year.

Research suggests that creating a positive hiring experience can even affect the way new hires approach their work. 15 percent of candidates who feel fairly treated throughout the process actually put more effort in after being hired.

Make Sure You Have a Purpose

It’s always easier to get people onboard with a few late nights when they’re engaged in their work. Similarly, if your company has a purpose, your employees tend to be more invested.

Think about how you can differentiate your company. What values make you unique? Why should people work for you and not a competitor?

Salesforce provide a great example of a company that has always had a very strong sense of purpose. Founder Marc Benioff has always been keen to use Salesforce people, technology, and resources for charitable means.

He refers to his 1-1-1 model as integrated philanthropy and has built it into the company’s business model. Both staff and applicants know that Salesforce is a company that cares about doing good as well as making money, and this has a huge effect on who it attracts and hires. It also seems to work; it has been named one of Fortune’s Best Companies to Work for six years running.

Your company doesn’t need to be charitable, but uniting your organisation around a single purpose like this can help you create an awesome company culture

Focus on Communication

Whatever your company values, communicate them effectively to your team and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Recent research suggests that 70 percent of businesses see ineffective communication as their main problem — make sure you’re not one of them.

If you want to be know for a collaborative culture for example, make sure collaboration is a central part of everyone’s workflow. To accomplish this, you could hold regular brainstorming sessions so everyone feels like their ideas are heard and try an open plan office to boost employee interaction.

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If your team understand your culture and why it’s important, it will be far easier to ensure that they spread it both internally and externally. It’s the best way to make sure your culture stays on point as your company grows.

Build a “Safe” and Supportive Environment

Making employees feel valued through a safe and supportive environment is also key to creating a great company culture and keeping everyone happy.

When you’re trying to create this kind of culture:

Stay approachable. It needs to be easy for employees to speak to you if they have concerns or are unhappy.

Stay flexible. As long as it doesn’t impact on business success, try and be flexible with your staff. Don’t stand in the way of people who want to work remotely — they’ll be grateful and may be more efficient.

Do things as a teamEven having lunch together every day can help to foster bonds between your employees. If you can create a tight-knot workforce you’re likely to see enhanced productivity and happiness.

A great company culture can make a serious difference to hiring and business success. It does require investment, and some companies are all going all in here — a few have even gone as far as appointing people to run culture.

It might not be something that you prioritize as a business, but the benefits are clear. Staff that buy into your culture will often go above and beyond the line of duty, and a great working environment will also help you attract top talent.

Some of the Related Conference Sessions at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego:

  • Tell Powerful Stories To Answer, “Why Should I Join Your Team?”, April 28, 8:30 a.m.
  • Build a Battle Plan That Will Win the War For Talent, April 29, 9:30 a.m.

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12 Comments on “Use Company Culture to Hire Top Talent and Engage Your Team

  1. Culture is a two-way street- often as much sustained by grass roots as directed/intended by leadership. Trying to instill culture can be like trying to have fun; it’s an unnatural act that only works occasionally. Furthermore, culture often thrives under variety and change, which are exactly the opposite values of most corporate environments, lip service notwithstanding. Finally, few corps are brave or self-aware enough to discuss cultural key drivers; autonomy v. central command & control, classism v. egalitarianism, sloppy v. tight, customer focus v. company focus, secretive v. collaborative, law of the jungle v. strong internal institutions… If you want real culture change or to understand real culture, you have to dig deep and work on the antecedents, and that’s nearly impossible from within and above….

    1. Hey Martin, I agree with your point about the difficulty in instilling culture in an organisation. I think companies can create an environment which makes it easier for employees to thrive – this is the prism through which I see culture…

  2. There isn’t a thing listed here that most ‘leaders’ at companies with horrendous cultures wouldn’t claim they already do, in spades. Martin Snyder is right in his comment, but I’d add that a focus on ‘culture’ requires less over arching, far reaching, unquantifiable nonsense and more focus on nuts and bolts policies. Few employees will honestly give a damn about a company’s ‘mission’ or purpose, though that plays well as a suggestion for ‘mangers’ who want to think they are great generals leading troops into deeply pivotal battles which will be remembered for centuries. In reality most managers are presiding over a group of under paid people who would rather be somewhere else, no matter how positive an atmosphere is created at work. They won’t give a damn about the company mission, they will care about their pay and how much off time they get. They will care about their benefits. They will care about working reasonable hours.

    It’s way past the time that in discussions about company culture we start talking about quantifiable aspects of culture, like how people are paid and treated in terms of policy. You can have corporate ‘leaders’ give as many speeches as you want. They can stand in front of their employees and give a politicianesque speech where every word is a declaration and say, “We! Appreciate! Our! Employees!” But if their pay sucks, their hours suck, and their off time policies suck, and their benefits suck, then they demonstrably DON’T appreciate their employees, and their employees know it, hence the less than stellar culture in that company.

    Get down to brass tacks and stop trying to convince people they can get a great ‘culture’ by painting their walls taupe and giving everyone cake once a month.

    1. Agree that culture can’t mask bad employee treatment. I would argue that great culture necessitates fair conditions for workers though – as well as all the intangibles

      1. But the fact remains that, if companies’ ‘cultures’ follow a normal distribution of what most people would consider generally positive to negative, then most of them are average, and a significant amount of them are lower than average. Then, consider that we live in a society where, at least in the US, labor has been systemically devalued, and that despite the BS from the BLS, unemployment is still massively high if you count long term discouraged workers. Those factors shift the whole distribution curve to the left, meaning average is still average, but below what most employees would want and expect. Simply put, corporate culture and employee satisfaction are not a priority when people are viewed as easily replaceable and low cost components of the company. And right now, that’s how they’re viewed by most, despite lip service to the contrary.

        And who do you think is having the most trouble recruiting, those at the top of the distribution, or those at the bottom? Do ‘recruiters’ for Google have to convince people that working in place with average to better than average salaries, literal free lunches, and ‘unlimited’ off-time is a good thing? Not really. As recruiters we generally work with the companies who are having trouble getting and retaining people, which means there are usually deep problems in the companies we work with that they’re likely not making much if any effort to correct.

        1. I agree that it isn’t enough of a priority for companies at the moment. It can make the difference when you’re trying to attract high flyers and ‘A players’ to your company though.

          I would also suggest that the perks you are listing for Google is an inherent part of their culture…

          1. I’d say it’s a part of their culture, not sure about inherent though. Any company on top of the current heap can make offers the others can’t match. The real trick is to see if they keep it going in harder times, or if their much vaunted managers fall back into confirmation bias and stop treating their employees as investments and start treating them as costs to be controlled. My guess is the latter will happen, but I’m a cynic.

            But my overall point is culture is much simpler than most people make it out to be. A company’s culture IS how they treat their employees, plain and simple.

          2. If we’re getting reductionist I think you’re right, you can boil culture down to that. I think the points that I raised in my article are part & parcel of good employee treatment though

          3. I agree, but it’s too high level. It gives people the opportunity to disconnect what they think they’re doing from what they’re actually doing. It’s not hard to measure how employees are treated, there’s market data available for salaries, vacation time, hours worked, etc. How does your company compare on those metrics is the key question. And there are plenty of ‘leaders’ out there in corporate world who think they’re doing everything you recommend, and that they’re great leaders who treat their employees well, while still treating their employees like garbage by any objective measure. To really address culture we need to get out of the rarefied air and address the basics before you can start caring about the company’s ‘mission.’

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