Culture is the key to creating a company that people want to work for

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Aug 21, 2020

MarketingCharts staff

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of articles from MarketingCharts, which provides up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.

One of the top elements of an employer brand – for 73 percent of the professionals surveyed – is having a defined and clearly articulated culture, according to a new report from Hinge Research Institute.

Other factors also ranking high in the survey of professionals was the ability to attract qualified candidates (51 percent) and strong brand differentiators (48 percent). A substantial minority say a website that reflects their employer brand (37 percent) and content that supports their brand (34 percent) are important elements.

In the study, the researchers wrote that an employer brand consists of two elements: a firm’s reputation as an employer and its visibility to potential employees.

“The first element, the quality of your reputation as an employer, is a measure of how attractive your firm is to candidates. The second element, visibility, is a measure of how widely known that reputation is within your target group of potential employees. An unknown firm with a sterling reputation will usually struggle to attract quality candidates,” according to the report.

Researchers advise fixing any cultural problems that may exist, find a way to set a firm’s culture apart from other competitors and clearly articulate that difference and use the narrative in highly visible places including the firm’s website.

The study was conducted in recent months in the midst of the global pandemic.

“In today’s crisis environment, potential hires are taking a hard look at whether prospective employers’ values are aligned with theirs, while recruiters are putting a premium on maintaining a healthy workplace culture,” said Lee Frederiksen, managing partner of Hinge Research Institute, in a statement.

Other findings from the study:

  • When asked what factor finally convinced them to take a new job, active seekers cited culture most often, even though they had identified salary as their highest priority. A competitive salary, however, came in second, followed by opportunities for growth.
  • Deciding factors for taking a job were salary and culture for mid-career and senior-level candidates. For entry-level, salary and professional growth opportunities tied for first place.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the biggest hurdles to creating a strong employee brand and making it visible to prospective recruits? Has COVID-19 altered what drives employment decision-making and is it likely to last?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Those companies that have an established culture in place can easily talk about it without thinking about it because you can see they believe in it."
"This question is being asked at probably the most sensitive time in recent memory, so, yes, corporate culture is paramount right now."
"Fair or not, good or not, people are absorbing things through the lens of the pandemic and they are making decisions through that same lens."

Join the Discussion!

15 Comments on "Culture is the key to creating a company that people want to work for"

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Zach Zalowitz

I think the biggest hurdle is visibility of actions (not just words or a mission statement). Culture, to me, has to permeate all areas of the organization. If the organization doesn’t see leadership both setting the example and reminding the organization of the “why” of the organization, then no fancy internal marketing or communications can bridge that. It starts with actions. I can say that for me, where I work now at enVista, culture starts with our leadership and you can see it in action every day. Truly a level playing field here where our leadership takes accountability and where any/everyone can have a voice in decisions and give input.

Xavier Lederer

Very good point on the crucial role of senior leaders in shaping a company culture. The foundations of company culture are its values — a set of rules that employees live by on a day-to-day basis. If senior leaders don’t live by these values, or tolerate their team members not to live by these values (for instance: tolerating people to repeatedly come late to meetings when a company value is “We stick to our commitments”), the company’s culture will be weak.

On the other hand: if senior leaders live by the company values and enforce these values in their teams, and if they leverage values as one of the criteria for hiring/promotion/demotions decisions, these values will permeate all areas of the organization — which will help attract talents who are in line with these company values. For instance: Hiring managers will naturally include values in their hiring decisions, and employees will refer their friends who fit the value profile (“You would love working here!”).

Dave Nixon

One of the largest hurdles to creating a strong EX is the sheer amount of effort it takes to change behaviors and culture, as well as the large operational expense that many retailers cannot afford right now. They will have to get creative to find ways to build that culture through strong fundamental values knowing many employee programs will be difficult to fund.
But it can be done — even in the face of disruption like COVID-19. If Best Buy can have associates offering to work for free after a furlough in a traditionally difficult job (in the stores), over time you can create that loyal culture with leadership that sees EX as a key component to being a great brand.

Richard Hernandez

Personally I believe the culture of a company is the biggest attribute determining whether or not I would consider working at or with a company (I thought this even before the pandemic). That consists of what they stand for, how employees like working for company, what they contribute to the community, etc. Those companies that have an established culture in place can easily talk about it without thinking about it because you can see they believe in it. Those that have to think about it and really are not able to answer questions about what their culture is, don’t believe in the company culture or do not have a good comfort level about it.

Jeff Hall

Strong, lasting workplaces start with leaders having the courage and maturity to embrace a mindful, empathetic approach when defining values, behaviors and ultimately, culture. The course of our work has identified six key traits to sustainable, healthy cultures: purpose, belonging, achievement, autonomy, balance and voice. Organizations who successfully integrate these elements into the foundation of their culture not only attract solid talent, they correlate to sustained workplace satisfaction, employee retention, and have a positive downstream impact on customer experience and satisfaction.

Gene Detroyer

Excellent comments. Of the traits you listed (all are quite important) I would rate autonomy as most important.

Cathy Hotka

Culture is everything. Strong, well-defined brands (think Starbucks, Best Buy, Tractor Supply, Trader Joe’s) are blessed with a keen sense of what associates contribute. Associates don’t have a job — they have a mission.

Andrew Blatherwick
A company culture is something that has to live and be lived by the whole team. It starts at the top and is not something that can be rolled out like a new marketing slogan. Employees and customers very quickly find out when companies state their culture is X but act in a different manner. It is not easy to change a company culture particularly as a company gets bigger. It takes time and a very well planned and structured approach that has to be bought into by the staff. If a new CEO arrives and wants to impose his culture on the business he will need the support of all his management team and the rest of the organization, but most important of all he will have to demonstrate that he personally lives that culture and hasn’t just read it in a book. A shallow culture will always be exposed when times are tough and when hard decisions have to be taken. This is when management and the company have to focus on what… Read more »
Rachelle King
Consider the pandemic one more added barrier to communicating a strong brand and driving visibility. Fair or not, good or not, people are absorbing things through the lens of the pandemic and they are making decisions through that same lens. So, in addition to brand value and visibility, in today’s environment, prospective recruits are also looking for workplace safety and what happens to me, my income, my job if I get sick. Employers need to also find a delicate way of letting prospective recruits know that they have taken steps to protect them during this pandemic. These are underlying but common fears and concerns that have become relevant in employment decision-making during this pandemic. While the pandemic may not have affected the priority for a decent salary and a good place to work and grow, it has certainly surfaced new questions about safety and protection in the workplace. Some employers have answered these concerns with remote working options and enhanced benefits (where possible). It’s not likely these offerings will continue post-pandemic. Even remote work options… Read more »
Gene Detroyer

There is a wonderful book that I require my M&A and Entrepreneurship students to read. The first half of it discusses how national culture affects company culture. The second half discusses how in the very same company the very same culture that built it, destroyed it over time.

In my experience and my studies, the worst cultures are the ones that demean independent thought. “We don’t do it that way,” newbies are told when they look at things differently.

Culture is also endemic in an organization. It is not something the leader can just say, or signs that are plastered on walls throughout the company. it must be lived from the top down. The biggest hurdle is to get the middle management to change. They rely on culture for their position, strength and persona and they are reluctant to lose that.

Georganne Bender

I think there’s a third element: What really happens inside the company once you are hired.

The brilliant brand marketer, Adrienne Weiss, CEO of Adrienne Weiss Corporation, defines every brand as a “country with its own unique language, customers and rituals.” Or as one of our clients pointed out, “It’s just the way we do things around here.”

That culture is what attracts both employees and customers to the company. The big question is how the company backs up that perceived culture.

Does it sound like a great place to work on the company’s website and social media profile, but not so good for the employees actually working there? Does what happens at the corporate office translate down to the satellite offices and to the stores? And during the pandemic does that culture still live while the employees are working at home? We all know that the company’s touted perception isn’t always reality.

Natalie Walkley

I couldn’t agree more that culture is the key to recruiting and retaining people. One of the biggest hurdles I have seen over the years is finding people that match your company DNA. Companies have to look beyond skillsets, certifications, and previous success, and look at who individuals are as people — their motivations, their attitudes, how they are wired, and so on. Of course this is hard to discern in a standard interview process, hence the challenge for creating a strong employee brand. When an employee says, “these are my people” — they have most likely found a place they will thrive.

Ralph Jacobson

This question is being asked at probably the most sensitive time in recent memory, so, yes, corporate culture is paramount right now. I can also say that culture has long been a factor in recruitment, especially in our relatively tough retail industry. Being sensitive to this fact is key for employers to attract top talent now and in the future.

Sterling Hawkins

Culture is really everything. Culture drives what questions are asked, what problems are seen, how we handle pushback and even what ideas arise. I know the researchers recommend trying to set your culture apart from competitors, but that approach would likely leave the culture superficial and contrived. Culture starts with your people and what you’re out to do. It can be inspired by vision and realized by people willing to push past any limits to achieve it, or it can be dead, flat and survival-based (very little middle ground). Instead of just coming up with marketing language to differentiate your culture, the place to start is within to see what’s really there.

Shep Hyken

One of the biggest hurdles to creating a strong employee brand (through culture) is making sure that every employee understands the culture. The best of the best have figured this out and know that a simple vision statement, one sentence long that is easily understood and memorized, is a powerful start. My favorite example is the Ritz Carlton’s Credo: We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Everybody learns it, understands it, and then is trained on how to deliver it. Get that right and a lot will fall into place.

COVID-19 has changed the way we do business, not just throughout the pandemic, but forever. Companies have adopted existing technology they wouldn’t have used for several years into the future. Many executives I interview realize that what they change is working so well, they won’t go back to the way their companies used to do things. This is actually good for both the company and the customer.

"Those companies that have an established culture in place can easily talk about it without thinking about it because you can see they believe in it."
"This question is being asked at probably the most sensitive time in recent memory, so, yes, corporate culture is paramount right now."
"Fair or not, good or not, people are absorbing things through the lens of the pandemic and they are making decisions through that same lens."

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