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Corporate Culture - Your Secret Weapon in Talent Management: How to Define and Enhance Yours

Jill Monte - Content Specialist ·

Corporate culture. It’s like a magnetic force that pulls talent toward your organization. Is your pull strong or weak? In all seriousness, though, it’s a hot topic in the war for talent. Economists note that when the economy is thriving, employees have more bargaining power, which leads to more competition in the job market. Because of this, many companies must take a closer look at their culture as a primary way to attract and retain employees.

In studying what factors are most important to jobseekers, compensation and benefits still comes in at the top, while second is vacation time. The third priority is the one you want to pay attention to: corporate culture. A recent jobseeker survey by Accountemps about candidates' expectations related to choosing an employer revealed that candidates are increasingly considering a prospective employer's organizational culture when determining where they want to work.

Today, the culture of a company has a remarkably strong ability to improve talent attraction, employee engagement, and retention. The reverse is also true; a poor culture will have a strong negative impact. If your company’s culture is lackluster, ill-defined, or non-existent, read on. You’ll learn about the direct benefits of having an intentional company culture, and the most effective ways to build a positive one.

So, let’s start simple. What is corporate culture? Entrepreneur Magazine defines corporate culture as: A blend of the values, beliefs, benefits, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths all companies develop over time. Digging deeper … what specifically is it that defines the culture inside your organization? Is it the family-like dynamic or flexible work environment? Is it an accessible CEO and quality management team? Or is it more about the social element and perks like ping pong tournaments, free food Fridays, and complimentary gym memberships?

Defining Your Culture

To define your culture, begin with identifying the core values that capture the distinctive character of your company. Invite employees to participate in an information gathering process (whether it be through meetings, surveys, focus groups, etc.) to uncover and define the essence of your organization’s “personality,” so to speak. These questions are a good starting point:

Although culture varies greatly from company to company, one thing is for sure: a clearly defined culture makes it easier to hire employees who complement that culture. Another benefit of a well-defined culture is that it instills a sense of belonging in every employee. And who doesn’t crave a sense of belonging? When employees know they work for a company whose culture is aligned with their own values, they are more inspired and supported to perform at their best ability.

Companies who truly care about their team members are the most coveted to work for. They think of the person as a whole, not just an employee. When vying for new hires, companies are pulling out all the stops. Some are offering customized benefits for working parents – such as onsite childcare and flexible time off, remote work opportunities, job sharing, etc. To read further about the many ways companies are providing supportive cultures for working parents, particularly mothers (who, by the way, number more than 60 million in the U.S. labor force), read this comprehensive article from SHRM that also features thoughts from Heather Huisken, a talent consultant for a consulting company whose culture ranks very high. Want proof? Take a look at this information gleaned from the company’s, 2018 Employee Satisfaction Survey. More than 80% of respondents either Strongly Agreed or Agreed that the company does a good job of offering work-life balance programs.

Talent Consultant, Heather Huisken (mentioned above) had this to say about culture and how it affects talent management.

“When it comes to talent acquisition, we’ve found that company culture is one of the top factors that influence a new hire’s decision to come aboard. On the retention side, when a company lives its core values through all aspects of what they do – from hiring, sending out emails, transparency about company plans and profits, and leaders considering the needs of people first before processes – the better the employee stay rate is going to be.”

"What I’ve seen happen over time at my company is our culture has grown stronger. Our team members who are deeply involved and invested in the company’s success want to see it do well. As a result, they do their part in not only their daily job, but in sharing with others what the organization is all about."

Heather Huisken - Talent Consultant

According to research by Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a businesses’ success. Deloitte’s survey also found that there is a strong correlation between employees who claim to feel happy and valued at work, and those who say their company has a strong culture.

Culture sets the context for everything a company does. A strong culture is common practice among highly successful companies because they have well-defined core values and consensus at the top regarding cultural priorities that align with the organization and its goals. Leaders in successful companies cultivate a positive culture every day and they usually work in tandem with HR and marketing to communicate their cultural identities to employees as well as prospective new hires.

Since company culture affects everything from employee happiness to a company’s bottom line, let’s take a closer look at the benefits a positive culture has on an organization from a talent and performance perspective.

Now that you can see how big a role company culture plays in improving talent acquisition and retention, let's explore aspirational culture and brainstorm culture enhancement ideas.

How to Define Your Aspirational Culture

So how do you go about creating a positive, high-performing culture? If you haven’t yet intentionally defined your culture, start by identifying your aspirational culture (what you want your culture to be). This will guide how the leadership team and the people in your organization think, act and behave. Begin by analyzing the following key elements of your company and its values.

1. Current culture state. Listen to stories, obtain employee and customer feedback through surveys and/or focus groups. Decide …are the stories what you hoped to hear? If they are, great! If not, take a look at our culture engagement ideas later in the blog.

2. Mission, Vision, Purpose. Define your company’s work approach, note how employees interact with each other, share goals and expectations, and highlight which strategies help fulfill the business’ mission.

3. Core Values. What is your company all about? Who do you serve? How do your employees and the work being done make an impact? How do you want employees, clients, partners, to view your company? Take time to thoughtfully write out your values, making sure to get others’ input (see #4).

4. Plan for tomorrow’s culture. Let all employees provide input. Communicate consistently and often. Attain buy-in by inviting feedback and be sure to listen well. Create a plan, share it and communicate it regularly (staff meetings, luncheons, etc.) It’s also a good idea to think about metrics that will help you measure success by gathering feedback from employees. It could be in the form of follow-up meetings, surveys, team-building exercises, etc.

The nature of work is always changing, so the workplace itself must also evolve to support it. By implementing innovative culture enhancement ideas with input from current employees, company culture will get better and better.

Innovative Culture Enhancement Ideas

There are a variety of ways to support a positive workplace culture, but the priority should be aligning business practices with core values and being intentional about your company’s employee experience. This is what can push your organization toward an even better culture.

According to experts like Huisken, more than ever before, evaluating your employee experience should be part of your talent management plan. “To really make your company a “destination employer,” you must carefully craft every aspect of the employee experience – leadership, environment, operations, communication, technology, and culture – to correlate with your employer brand.”

(Side note: Speaking of employer brand … if you’d like to learn more about where employer branding fits into the culture/talent attraction & retention equation, go here.

Now, let’s take a look at these culture-supportive employee engagement ideas that could be customized to your company’s needs and preferences.

Big Takeaway: the very first step to building a better, stronger company culture starts with defining your aspirational culture, then recruiting workers who fit your organization's vision. Once hired, consistently provide them with the trust and tools needed to be a fulfilled, happy and productive team member. Ultimately, this leads to high retention of valued employees.

With intention, focus and commitment, you can move a culture that may be average or less than optimal, to one that is values-based, aligned and attractive to top talent who are excited to work with your company. Through designing your culture with internal feedback and support, you will begin to achieve higher performance, greater employee satisfaction and increased retention.

And there you have it: in today’s war for talent, all signs point to culture being one of the top tools you have to attract, energize and retain top talent for your company. So go on, use this secret weapon to your advantage.