Organizational Values As Primary Recruiting, Retention Tools

Ask HR professionals to identify the core of a company’s success and chances are, most will point to the recruiting and selection process. Performed effectively, these two distinct but inseparably connected activities can result in sustainable profit and growth for the organization and all its employees.

I believe a company’s organizational values, its core values, culture, and mutual expectations, are a company’s best recruiting and retention tool.

Mutual Expectations

In relationships of every nature, including partnerships, joint ventures, service contracts and yes, marriage, the incidence of association failure can be traced in large part to the failure of the two parties to clearly understand, appreciate, and agree to mutual expectations upfront.

The employer/employee relationship unquestionably falls into this category. In fact, outside of a family, work relationships represent the greatest number of people involved. Yet few businesses formally establish clearly stated employer/employee mutual expectations!

The key to a company’s success is a reciprocal, balanced level of expectations between the organization and each of its employees.

Time was when the primary social and work contract in this country could be characterized as “show up, be reliable, do your job, and it’s yours until you retire. When that happens, we’ll continue to take care of you.”

But the erosion of this long-standing, unspoken social contract came about in the mid 1980s, when the burgeoning global economy created competitive pressures in the industrialized world, particularly in the United States. As a result, things began to move to a performance- and quality- orientation regarding the way in which a company viewed its fundamental relationship with employees.

Having built three successful businesses from scratch (the first local, the second national, the third global), I have established organizational values that have held up in both good and bad economic times. In fact, for 10 years before I sold my global company, it was considered the industry’s “employer of choice” for top professionals.

During the earlier days, however, we definitely spent our share of recruitment dollars and often settled for employees who exhibited less than 100% of our ideals. It was only after we established our organizational values (our core values, culture, and mutual expectations) that we hit our hiring stride.

That philosophy, or set of core organizational values, included a number of logical elements to employee/employer success. It wasn’t until we put those points down on paper and had prospective employees review them that we began to experience consistent recruiting success.

A few salient points of what employees could expect from the company: a competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits package; a clean, professional, safe and pleasant working environment; training that will help job performance and broaden career growth opportunities; a working environment that encourages individual initiative; commitment to diversity among staff and the fair treatment of all employees; opportunity to become stockholders within the company; and employee performance that will always be evaluated fairly.

On the other side of this mutual coin, here are a few company expectations of employees: open-minded, flexible and adaptive employees who are aware that change is a constant in the company’s competitive marketplace; self-directed, professional, reliable, career-oriented team players; a willingness to continually broaden knowledge and skills; and being a true company representative in speech and action.

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Career development is another “best practice” recruitment tool. A successful company sees career development as an investment, not a chore. It should start on day one, with a comprehensive orientation program that includes a series of courses about technology, customer service programs, industry fundamentals, and evolution.

Since a full-time training staff is not part of the budget for most companies, “visiting faculty” and/or approved employee volunteers specified to address specific subjects could provide overview and training.

At my global company, a new employee would spend the first two weeks with various “faculty members” addressing the courses and various functions of the company.


Having invested considerable resources in recruiting, selecting, and developing high-quality talent, it’s logical that measures must be taken to keep these desired employees.

The primary retention motivator within the most successful companies is the company’s core values and culture, or its “organizational personality.” Looking forward to going to work every day with people you like and admire, taking pride in the organization, and performing work in a positive environment are fundamental and powerful retention tools.

If a company maintains an effective, appealing culture, its pay scale/benefits can be competitive, as opposed to very competitive. Put another way, if your organization is having trouble hiring or keeping desired employees, chances are your pay scale and benefits are not competitive, reflecting less than attractive organizational values.

Benefits should always be a reflection of a company’s core values. An organization needs to have a genuine awareness of the contemporary pressures of dual-income families, single heads of households, eldercare, and childcare. Believing this, we developed a PTO (paid time off) policy which stated that time could be used for any purpose, including vacation, illness, or personal needs.

The bottom line on pay and benefits is that if you have an ethical, practical set of core values and a culture that reflects them, you can and should be able to offer competitive pay and benefits. If you don’t, and want to upgrade the quality of staff, you must be very competitive. Benefits must reflect your integrated core values, culture, and mutual expectations.

Getting Benefit for Benefits

Over a certain period of time, however, employees may forget how good they have it. So keep your attractive pay and benefits package in the forefront of employees’ minds. Once a year, share with your entire employee family the facts about your company’s salary structure and benefits compared to the local labor market. If your pay and benefits package is good, make sure employees know and appreciate it.

The development and integration of comprehensive core values and culture, the cornerstone of organizational values, takes time. But once instilled, they become an organization’s heart and soul…and its key to successful recruiting and retention.

Walter Hall built three successful businesses from scratch: the first, serving a local market; the second, national; the third, global. In 1960 he founded Walter Hall, Realtors, and by 1968 built it into one of the largest, most diversified and innovative real estate firms in the country. In the process the company became well known throughout the industry. As a result, his real estate firm's Training Division was spun off in 1968 and became The Hall Institute of Real Estate, which quickly emerged as the premier real estate training organization in the nation, often referred to as "The Harvard Business School of Real Estate" within the industry. Starting as an organization primarily focused on real estate agent training, Mr. Hall quickly saw the real need was management development training, which was then totally absent in the industry. This started his life-long quest for researching the best in management principles and then applying them to real-world practice. Seeing an opportunity to apply his firm's knowledge of real estate and managerial principles to the emerging field of employee relocation, he evolved the Hall Institute into Relocation Resources International (RRI) in 1978 which, over the next 25 years, became the largest and most successful privately owned global relocation service firm in the industry competing head-to-head with well capitalized industry giants, such as Prudential Relocation, Cendant Mobility and GMAC Relocation. When RRI was incorporated in 1978, it had negative capital but stayed privately owned throughout its life. When it was sold in 2003, the firm had established credit lines of over $100 million, processed over 18,000 relocating employees and their families around the world annually and had representatives in 118 countries. It had over 200 corporate clients, including such industry giants as Boeing, Capital One, Colgate, Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble, and Verizon.