As companies struggle to attract the best candidates amid a talent shortage, it's becoming increasingly important to have an appealing culture. But do companies even know what their culture is?

The biggest concern for CEOs in 2020 is attracting and retaining talent, according to a recent survey. This chimes with evidence of a talent shortage that is leaving companies competing to attract the best candidates.

When weighing-up potential employers, salary and benefits are among a candidate’s highest priorities. However, it is becoming clear that company culture is a growing consideration. Even college-leavers, who might once have been expected to take whatever offer they could find, are being encouraged to consider company culture before they accept a job.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Attracting The Best Candidates Means Understanding Your Company CultureHR professionals are aware of the importance of culture, but it isn’t a simple situation. Hiring people who ‘fit’ the culture might undermine team diversity, for example. Senior staff might not realise that their company’s actual culture is not what they thought. Attracting the best candidates means understanding your culture, being able to adapt it as needs changes, and then maintaining it. Companies need to ask why someone would want to work for them.

“Attracting the best candidates means under- standing your culture.”

Understanding your culture

Hiring for culture ‘fit’ is problematic because it can lead people to employ candidates who think like them, share a similar background and, too often, are the same gender, race or age. Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix warns, “What most people mean by culture fit is hiring people they’d like to have a beer with.” Diverse companies do better, so businesses should look for candidates who bring new perspectives but still fit the company’s core values. .

That means understanding what those values are, and how they are reflected in company culture. Unfortunately, that understanding is often lacking. Only 28% of employees strongly agree that their employer’s stated values align with their actions, according to one 2019 survey, while separate research found that 7% of Millennials say they dislike their employer’s culture so much that they plan to change jobs in the next two years.

“Only 28% of employees strongly agree companies live up to their culture.”

The best way to understand your company’s actual culture is to ask your staff:

  • Do the company’s values show up in their day-to-day work?

  • Do they feel valued and rewarded for their contributions?

  • What would they change about the organization? 

Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

Changing a culture

It’s possible that you won’t like what you find when you dig into your culture, which means it is time for a change. Kevin Martin, of the Institute for Corporate Productivity, recommends several steps for changing a culture, including listening to employees, making sure that change is led from the top, and ensuring that progress is measured, monitored and reported.

He notes that in 2015, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, told shareholders that “our ability to change our culture is the leading indicator of our future success”. His efforts were a success, increasing the stock price by a factor of five and taking the company’s market capitalization beyond a trillion dollars.

“Our ability to change our culture is the leading indicator of our future success.”

– Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Companies amid a culture change cannot stop filling vacancies until they have finished, so it makes sense to use recruitment to develop the culture you want to see. That means considering which candidates might help to seed the culture you want.

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Maintaining a culture

Microsoft’s culture was enormously successful for a long time but, by the time Mr Nadella arrived, the marketplace was different. Sustaining a culture as business conditions change is an ongoing challenge, especially for fast-growing companies.

Companies undergoing ‘hypergrowth’ have difficulty with finding talent, according to the World Economic Forum. These firms may scale from 10 to 1,000 employees in a very short term, so maintaining culture is a challenge.

Jordana Valencia, a venture capitalist who has worked with startups across Southeast Asia, says the key is having a clearly defined culture and then reinforcing it with training. She recommends communicating culture through a digital learning library combined with in-person training.

Getting the company culture right can be a never-ending project. However, in the quest for top talent, culture offers a competitive advantage that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Key Takeaways

  • Attracting the best candidates means understanding your culture, being able to adapt it as needs changes, and then maintaining it.

  • The best way to understand your company’s actual culture is to listen to your staff.

  • Beyond listening to employees, when cultures need to change, the process should be led from the top and it should be measured, monitored, and reported.

  • Culture needs to be reinforced with training via, for instance, a digital learning library combined with in-person training.


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