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And Now for Something Completely Different: A Post About Customers

Wining talent — and customers — comes down to culture.

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Jun 21, 2023

Confession: that headline might be a wee bit click-bait-ish.

Don’t get me wrong, this post is about customers, which makes it different from my usual posts about the candidate experience and talent acquisition. But this post isn’t only about customers. It’s also about company culture and values. Well, and the candidate experience. Ugh. Let me explain…

I came across a recent Gallup article titled, “To Drive Customer Retention, Don’t Neglect Culture,” which instantly grabbed my attention because it’s basically the same advice Talent Board gives clients, except we highlight the importance of culture in driving effective talent acquisition and employee retention rather than customer retention.

Information about a company’s culture is one of the first things candidates now look for during their job searches. In fact, nearly one-third of the candidates in our 2022 benchmark research said they want even more information about company culture than employers are providing (we’re still collecting data for our 2023 benchmark research). Other sources show that culture is now as important as compensation to job seekers if not more so.

In short, the battle to win and retain great talent increasingly comes down to issues of culture and values (fair wages, flexibility, respect, work-life balance, etc.). As it turns out, culture and values are also increasingly critical in the battle to win and retain customers. Values was the #1 marketing content consumed by candidates in 2022 (for the first time in our research, believe it or not), and it’s again the #1 marketing content so far in 2023. Culture is #2.

The Culture/Customer Connection

Now that the economic growth of the pandemic era has slowed, business leaders are currently in the midst of “rightsizing” their companies. Restructuring, budget cutting, and reducing head count are sweeping the corporate world. “But this approach is flawed,” the Gallup article observes, unless it’s “coupled with an intentional investment to build culture.” If it isn’t, you “run the risk of crushing your people. And your people ultimately determine whether you deliver on the promises you make to your customers. If you want to drive customer retention and growth in hard economic times, don’t neglect your culture.”

Gallup highlights the culture/customer connection with a few key facts. “Employees who feel strongly connected to their company’s culture are 2.7 times as likely to strongly agree they feel responsibility for the quality of products or services and 4.9 times as likely to strongly agree they have the speed and agility to meet customer and marketplace change,” Gallup notes.

These strongly engaged employees, in turn, foster greater customer engagement, and “fully engaged customers represent a 23% premium in share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth over the average customer.”

So much for the good culture/customer news. The bad news is that all of the current restructuring, budget cutting, and headcount reductions are not being offset by adequate investments in culture. Gallup reports that a mere 2 in 10 employees feel connected to their company’s culture, only 29% strongly agree they’re proud of the quality of their company’s products or services, and a paltry 23% strongly agree their organization always delivers on the promises it makes to its customers. “These perceptions are symptoms of culture problems,” Gallup states, “and in a competitive market, leaders can’t afford to deliver mediocrity to clients.”

The TA Teams Connection

The growing importance of company culture actually hands TA teams a golden triple opportunity:

Opportunity 1. To bring the right new talent to their organizations—i.e., people who are actually personally aligned to the company’s culture and purpose.

Opportunity 2. To help retain the most valuable, committed, and culturally aligned people for the long term.

Opportunity 3. To help drive customer satisfaction and retention.

At first glance, it might seem like Opportunity 3 is beyond a TA team’s sphere of influence. But that’s not true at all, as Gallup’s data above proves. Customer satisfaction and retention are, ultimately, driven by your people and their connection to your organization’s culture and purpose. In the final analysis, your company’s entire competitive advantage comes down to the quality of the people you hire and retain. And that’s definitely within the TA team’s sphere of influence.

The significance of company culture (and values)—and the disconnects that existed between millions of employees and their workplace cultures—helped drive The Great Reshuffling (or whatever you called it). In 2021 alone, 47 million Americans quit their jobs, and issues of culture were at the heart of their reasons for leaving.

In the wake of The Great Reshuffling, it’s now essential that TA teams clearly communicate to job seekers about their company’s purpose and culture. These things are top of mind for today’s candidates, and they’re the things that help ensure you’re attracting and hiring the right people—those who feel personally responsible for meeting customer expectations and upholding/improving the quality of your products or services.

Keep something else in mind: job candidates are also customers, especially if you’re delivering a positive candidate experience. Years of Talent Board research shows that job candidates are extremely willing to increase their relationships with a company even when they’re turned down for a role when their candidate experience is a positive one. “Increase their relationships” means applying for other jobs, referring others to the company, and buying that company’s products and services.

So now you see why this post is completely different from my usual posts. It’s about customers. Well, and company culture and values. And the candidate experience. Ugh. You know what I mean.

As always, be safe and well.

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