Corporate culture is a major driver in attracting top talent, and it is within your power to define your culture. This guide shows you how with five tips.
There are a number of reasons that an organization focuses on building a welcoming and inspiring business culture, and one of the most important is attracting and retaining talent. In today’s competitive hiring marketplace, culture is top of mind for most prospective employees as they decide whether to submit an application or continue with the interview process.
This guide explores the concept of a winning culture and provides critical tips for building a work environment that not only appeals to the type of employees you seek but also helps you retain them.
Is there such a thing as a winning culture?
There is, but there is no model culture—one size does not fit all. What is a “winning” culture at one organization may not produce the same results at another. For example, building a “fun” and interactive environment may work well in a tech company focused on bringing the next best thing to market but will not likely produce the same results in a manufacturing facility. What is a win for your organization depends on the nature of your business, your goals, mission and values.
While the initiatives of other organizations may inform your journey, they do not dictate what a successful culture looks like for you. To be the best you can be, your organization must be true to itself and where it wants to go. Following someone else’s game plan is not likely to be a win for you.
Today’s employees value culture more than ever before
Culture is one of the major drivers in attracting talent. Culture shows up in many ways, including in your remote or hybrid philosophies, compensation strategy, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
When looking for a new position, today’s savvy candidates are driven by much more than salary and title. Evidence of your culture is one of the first pieces of information they seek. In fact, they will begin assessing it from the moment they read your job posting or hear about opportunities from colleagues and friends. Investing in building a winning culture benefits your organizations’ bottom line, too. Companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth.
Common features that candidates look for in a culture
While each candidate will have their own list of must-haves, there is commonality among current candidates as they evaluate cultures of prospective employers. Many candidates, even across demographics, are looking for companies that:
- Align with, support, and mirror their values
- Provide rich benefits, particularly paid time off
- Allow for flexibility in working hours and locations (i.e., offering hybrid or remote options)
- Encourage innovation and focus on people development
- Direct resources to making the world a better place
The vetting of corporate culture has never been so intense, so it is advisable to invest time in evaluating your current culture and taking the necessary actions to create a more employee-focused workplace.
5 steps to achieving the culture best suited to your business
Even if leadership does nothing, an organization’s culture will develop organically, and the results may not deliver a work environment that aligns with the company’s values and goals. Instead, leadership should set a course of action, establishing standards and ways of treating people, and policies and practices that reflect the culture you are trying to create.
However, keep in mind that setting the direction and embarking on an initial plan does not mean the mission is complete. Culture is not static; it continues to evolve in response to new hire mindsets, market forces, and societal changes.
Shaping a business culture takes time, dedication, and is an ongoing commitment. It may require auditing existing policies and infrastructure, and instituting new behaviors and ways of thinking, which initially may be off-putting to some employees (and even some executives and managers). By following these steps, your organization can identify its cultural objectives and stay on course.
1. Secure leadership commitment
It is critical that executive management participate in any plans for assessing and sculpting your corporate culture as they are the ones setting expectations and goals for the organization. Without their buy-in and everyday commitment, your culture may be viewed as simply words on internal communications but not backed up by corporate actions and behaviors.
Modeling your belief system from the top down is vital to instilling that culture at all levels of the organization. If employees see executives leading by example, they are more likely to believe in the company culture, feel good about it, and be invested in the organization’s future because they see it as part of their own future.
2. Identify who you are and who you want to be
Before you can start on the path of building and maintaining your best culture, you need to identify just what that means. Ask questions such as:
- What are we trying to achieve?
- How do we want our employees to view us?
- How do we want the public to perceive us?
- Is there a good, service, or innovation that we want to be our trademark?
- How does our history inform who we are, where we are going, and where we want to end up?
- How do we want to treat people—our employees, clients, and other points of contact (e.g., suppliers, shareholders, etc.)?
- How should we share success and develop our team?
- How should we structure our organization to foster business and individual achievement?
The answers to these questions may be found in your mission, vision, and values statements. If your organization has not yet formulated these affirmations or has not reviewed them in a while, now is the time to focus on such efforts. In some companies, HR has the experience and staffing for this bold undertaking. Where an internal team is not an option, independent HR consultants can be an invaluable resource.
3. Compare your vision to employee perception
Once you identify your ideal culture, the next step is determining where you are in achieving it. Your employees are a key demographic for input because your culture is something they experience every day. There is no doubt that they will have opinions about the culture’s current status and suggestions on ways to improve it. Some effective ways to gather employee input are surveys, focus groups, and small group interviews.
As you evaluate the feedback, you may find that you need to refine your cultural objectives to align them with employee perspectives and expectations. Another outcome of these findings could be some changes in staffing to move the culture forward.
4. Live your culture in everything you do internally
The most effective way of building and exhibiting your culture is by living it everyday—embedding it into all your employee interactions. From hiring to separation, your culture should shine through in all your people policies—how you treat and evaluate your employees, the benefits you offer, the ways you recognize achievement, how the company encourages employee progression and growth—all of these touchpoints and many more should align with the cultural norms you are trying to foster.
Your investment in addressing DEI will reveal a great deal about your work environment, and will either encourage or turn off prospective candidates. Meeting the minimum legal requirements for anti-discrimination and anti-harassment may keep you out of the court room, but may do little to attract top talent.
Reinforce behaviors and attributes that support your culture by building them into your performance management program. Incorporate them into development plans, setting measurable goals that link to salary increases, bonuses, and promotions. Also, keep in mind that how you communicate your HR initiatives—both the mode and the messages—must reflect your culture.
5. Express your culture externally
In today’s marketplace—for both customers and prospective hires—it is important to communicate who your organization is and for what it stands. This shows transparency and builds trust. One of the best ways to do this is through social media.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many other platforms are available 24/7. They allow those outside your company a window into your corporate personality with you shaping the messages they receive. So it is particularly important to have a social media strategy and policies to avoid creating content that negatively reflects on the organization.
In addition to acknowledging and recognizing business accomplishments and events, social media can serve as a space to recognize individual employee accomplishments and share their successes with a broader audience. By doing so, you show the world your pride and investment in your workforce.
With access to so much content on the internet and through social media, your culture is always on display and knowable well before the interview stage. In fact, it often happens even before a candidate decides to submit an application. So, as you build your external communication plan, you must keep in mind the role it plays in attracting talent.
Do not leave your culture up to chance
Your leadership and the team you put in place have the ability to shape your culture. By following the tips in this guide, you will be on your way to defining, living, and projecting a culture best-suited to achieving business and individual success, making your organization the type of place top talent wants to land.