What is corporate culture and how does it attract top talent?

Most HR leaders know they have a culture problem. According to new research from Gartner, only 31% of HR leaders say their organization has the culture it needs. And it’s not just HR leaders who feel this way. Seventy-seven percent of employees say they encounter tensions in their company culture, which doesn’t bode well for a world where company culture is becoming more and more important to an overall recruitment strategy. Gartner’s research also indicates that the top candidates want to work for companies with the best corporate culture.

“They’re looking for something that they can attach to, that represents who they are, personally and professionally,” says Bryan Kurey, managing vice president at Gartner’s HR Practice. This is why both employers and job seekers are on the lookout for that elusive “cultural fit.” Most HR leaders know they have a culture problem. Kurey says only 31 percent of HR leaders say their organization has the culture it needs. When job seekers have multiple offers in front of them, culture becomes even more crucial.

So what’s corporate culture like at your company? Is it what you want it to be? Here are some ideas for turning things around.

Do some soul-searching

First of all, do you know what your corporate culture is? If not, don’t worry. Most people — and organizations for that matter — are in the same boat. “People generally don’t have a clear understanding of what culture is and what to do about it,” says Josh Levine, author of Great Mondays: How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love. “It’s not ping pong and pizza,” he says. “Instead, culture is all about your organization’s purpose, values and behaviors.”

As you’re assessing your corporate culture, ask yourself questions like:

  • Why are you in business beyond making money?
  • Why would anyone choose to join your organization?
  • What are the purpose, values and behaviors of your employees and management?
  • What are cumulative traits of the people your company hires?

Patagonia, for example, sells outerwear to make money, but its purpose is to encourage people to explore the great outdoors, a purpose that helps to answer the “what is corporate culture” question for Patagonia.

When you consider that the best talent is being wooed by other employers, you definitely want your culture to be the reason that candidates want to come work with you. Get the best candidates by starting with your own employees.

Define your company purpose and values

Do your employees have an answer to the “what is corporate culture” question, and can they articulate it when they talk with candidates — or their friends? That’s where values come into play.

If purpose is your “why,” values are your “how,” says Levine. With a “why” and a “how,” your culture comes to life in your workplace. “Your employees are going to be your best ambassadors of your culture, as much as your PR organization or your company career websites,” says Kurey. Making sure every employee understands the culture that you’re trying to put into place is important, says Kurey, but it should be natural, not a robotic word-for-word recitation of your company values.

“As the candidate goes through this journey of trying to learn more about the organization, are they getting the same feeling across interactions, whether or not the words are different?” he asks. The answer, of course, should be yes.

Look for ways to infuse culture into the hiring experience

“When you walk into a place you immediately get a feeling, a gut reaction,” says Levine. “You know if something is off, or if this looks like a fun place. That’s a symptom of culture.” So what’s the story you’re telling candidates?

“Oftentimes folks walk into a relatively generic office environment, and we’re not creating those moments where we can reflect our culture back to candidates as we’re introducing them to our organizations,” says Kurey. It could be as simple as posting your company values in the entryway, or a framed picture of the founders — something authentic that relates to your culture that can also be a conversation starter.

Back up culture with action

In a perfect world, culture should influence everything including the budget, the staffing, the structure, and the policies that are being put in place. But sometimes there’s a disconnect between the lofty visions a company has and what actually goes on, says Kurey.

“That’s the blind spot that many organizations have,” he says. “They can get everyone aligned to say the right things, but what they’re often not doing is putting the structure behind that vision that then allows it to play out in the employees’ day-to-day work.”

When that happens, it creates cultural tensions. For example, a company may brand itself to the outside world as innovative with new products but not deliver with innovative projects internally. To innovate internally, Kurey says, you have to budget for new ideas.

See what new hires think about your culture

One of the best ways to find out what attracts candidates to your company is to conduct an entrance interview with new hires and ask, says Cates. “This would provide great insight on why talented candidates say yes and exactly how many chose you based on your culture or brand or other relevant organization factors as a deciding factor,” he explains.

That way, if the candidate tells you that they’ve heard wonderful things about the organization and its treatment of employees and their friends have all mentioned you as a great place to work, it can reaffirm that your culture is clear and working for you.

On the flipside, you can also have your recruiters follow up with candidates who don’t accept your offers to see if they could share feedback as to why. Either way, you can can collect the information to continue employer branding.

Taking deliberate steps to either enhance an already positive corporate culture, or in some cases, work toward reshaping one that isn’t working, is imperative for many reasons, but especially for attracting and retaining talent. Says Levine, “you must proactively design your culture — it’s too important to leave it to chance.”

What is corporate culture like at your company? It could be your best recruiting tool

Creating a corporate culture starts on the inside, but when you get it right, it can be one of your strongest recruiting tools to the outside world. With expert recruiting insights and cutting-edge hiring resources, Monster Hiring Solutions can help you attract employees and build an authentic culture geared toward success.