Company Culture: Your New Secret Recruiting Weapon

Jun 26, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 2.57.24 PMRecruiting is an arms war, with rapidly advancing technology and complexity. At stake is the future of your company. Social media has changed the game, raising expectations of the applicant experience and making everything faster and more connected. Employees and prospects have the upper hand and our tactics have to keep up.

But we can all name companies that are snagging (and keeping) top talent. So beyond the most recent recruiting weapons, what one thing is helping them win that race?

Company culture.

What’s Culture?

Company culture is defined as the set of pervasive values, beliefs, and attitudes that characterize a company. It’s what attracts job seekers and keeps employees. It’s not a box to be checked. It’s not a framed mission statement in the lobby. It’s not office decor. Culture is something woven throughout every aspect of the organization. In marketing they call it “brand” — what people are saying about you when they think you are not listening.

Culture plays a driving role in HR. It connects recruiting the right people to designing a benefit plan that supports your mission and values to how performance is measured to where the company party is held. It sets expectations for performance, employee and customer communications, and day-to-day interactions. It creates a structure and set of expectations that allow employees to operate from a place of passion and empowerment. An intentional culture can increase employee engagement, boost service quality, and as a result increase profits.

Building an Intentional Culture

Your company has a culture even if you aren’t actively shaping or defining it. If you’re not being intentional about fostering the culture you want, random forces can create a weak or even negative culture. Here’s how to get intentional:

  • Hire for cultural fit. It’s hard to resist a great resume, killer accomplishments, an intriguing background, and an engaging interview. But try you must. If someone doesn’t embrace and fit with the company culture, they’re going to have a tough time succeeding. It’s common for someone who’s a great cultural fit (but who might be lacking some relevant experience) to ramp up and accomplish great things. Conversely, it’s equally common for people who looked great on paper to flame out for reasons of fit.
  • Align culture to corporate strategy. Identify your company’s top business priorities, such as market share, profit growth, mission, or brand. Then identify how you will achieve those goals: e.g. efficiency, quality, innovation, amazing customer service, etc … Then invest in culture to support those goals and strategies. For instance, if efficiency is the lifeblood of your survival and success, your culture will probably feature communication process and analytics. If it’s innovation, it will reward support for risk-taking, a bias for action and consistent recognition of new ideas.
  • Start weaving culture through the company. Based on your strategic business priorities, take the key components of culture and decide how they inform various functions, from workforce planning to compensation and rewards. Are they in your values? Your goals? Do you promote based on culture-building and reprimand for culture-damaging activities?

Marketing Your Culture to Top Talent

While most companies have nailed the process to find someone with the skills they need, at a rate they can afford, interviewing and recruiting with culture fit in mind is a bit more difficult. You have to incorporate your story, your culture, and your perks into your recruitment marketing materials. Before a candidate even clicks “Apply” — they should feel what it is like to have been there for years. Here’s where to direct your efforts:

  • Community and public relations. If you have something great going on, make sure your community knows about it. Apply for relevant awards and tell stories you want prospective employees to read. For example, if volunteerism is a key cultural attribute you seek in candidates, share your commitment by encouraging leaders and employees to volunteer — and speak into the camera.
  • Company website and careers homepage. This is likely the first place job seekers will look, so showcase an authentic employee experience. You can do this with “day in the life” posts, recaps of events or an explanation of your company values. And get specific here — if you value work-life balance, show exactly what that means.
  • Candidate communication. Engage candidates before they apply and beyond. From the first time they hear about your company to the first day they start on the job, all communication should be consistent, on-brand, and aligned with your culture. Set expectations before the offer letter that culture matters. Be meticulous with the written word.
  • Social media. You might focus your social media efforts on your customers or acquiring leads, but this is also a great way to showcase your culture. Offer an insider glimpse into your company with blog posts, photos of events and quotes from executives. This will paint a full picture of what it means to work at your company — and it will generate the right kind of candidates.

As you review your recruitment marketing strategy, dig deep into what job seekers are seeing, hearing and learning about your company at every touchpoint before they even apply.  This means taking a hard, honest look at your website and social channels, stalking yourself on career websites and forums, and always asking candidates how and what they know about you.

One final thought: Keep in mind what mom told us about making friends: Be yourself. When you own who are you are, you attract people who truly belong. And that’s how you win the talent war.

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