Why a Company Culture is Essential to Hire Top Talent

In almost all aspects of life, people look for a sense of belonging. Finding a place, or group of people, where we feel valued and respected helps to bring out the best in us. The same is true in the workplace.

The culture of any organisation can directly affect the motivation of its employees to get things done.

The right organisational culture can have an incredible impact on the success of a business in many different ways.

From giving freedom to employees to find creative solutions to challenges to helping to attract and retain the best talent, organisational culture is often described as the glue that holds a company and its employees together.

In this article, I take a look at why having a good company culture is so essential for recruitment and retention of top talent.

What is Organisational Culture?

First off I want to define what I think is the meaning of organisational culture.

Far from being an arcane management term with little consequence, to me, organisational culture encompasses behaviours and values that make a business unique and which influence the day-to-day interactions between colleagues, stakeholders, suppliers, clients and customers.

In simple terms, It is the way an organisation goes about doing business.

Why is Organisational Culture Important for Recruiting Top Talent?

As a leader and hiring manager if you understand what the company is really like to work for, it is far more likely that you will understand what type of person would best fit in.

New people who fit comfortably with an organisation’s culture are far more likely to settle in quickly, gain confidence and rapidly perform their duties to the best of their ability.

They are also more likely to stay with the business for longer, thereby minimising attrition, re-hire costs and the hidden costs associated with a poor hire.

So, it is vital to fully understand your company’s culture and be able to communicate it to prospective employees.

The Benefits of Hiring for Cultural Fit

Any person involved in the recruitment of new staff will be only too aware of the long process which can precede hiring a new team member.

From the initial filtering of CVs and covering letters, businesses routinely use established selection criteria – commonly only specific to the job being recruited for – to shortlist a manageable number of applicants to meet.

Hire badly and waste all that time and resource.

Of course, by the shortlist stage, all candidates can be expected to be suitably qualified for the role based upon their previous experience and qualifications. So what subsequently defines the best person for the position?

Perhaps, without ever being really conscious of it, when faced with a selection of candidates of equal talent and experience, you then consider their personal traits and soft skills.

Could you work with them? Will they fit in with your existing team? A deep and implicit understanding of the company culture is required to identify an appropriate fit.

Providing that the existing company culture is a positive one, finding the right person will deliver benefits far beyond their ability to perform the role for which they are employed.

People who work well with others are proven to be more likely to offer and accept feedback and to respond positively to challenges. They are also shown to be more adaptable to organisational changes as they occur, perhaps taking on different roles should it be necessary to support the changing needs of the team.

All of this is essential in maintaining the morale not only of the new hire but of existing team members and those from other organisational disciplines who will be working with them. Nothing fuels staff attrition quite like a poor fit.

Hiring to Match Culture or Hiring for Skill

I have already looked at how feeling confident in the workplace can bring out the best in staff, but in fact, the ability of a candidate to fit in within an organisation’s existing culture could out-weigh their professional background when it comes to deciding who is best-suited for the role.

For example, hiring someone with an extensive background in your sector and relevant experience in the job may seem to be the right decision on paper, but if they don’t get along with your existing team, the longer-term ramifications in staff turnover and the associated costs could far outweigh any sense of ‘hitting the ground running’.

Conversely, somebody with a background in a different sector or less experience who fits well with your existing team could perhaps introduce new perspectives, albeit that they may need to go through a learning curve in some areas to get up to speed in their new role.

The late, great, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying. “We wanted people that were insanely great at what they did, but were not necessarily seasoned professionals, but who had at the tips of their fingers, and in their passion, the latest understanding of where technology was and what they could do with that technology.”

Jobs didn’t care if a candidate’s CV looked polished or if their background was in the same sector as Apple. He just wanted passionate problem solvers. For example, he moved Debi Coleman from another department. She was 32 years old, inexperienced, with a degree in English literature. She became Apple’s manufacturing chief, and then the company’s CFO by age 35.

The degree to which a candidate may fit in is a judgement that you can only make during the interview process when you meet them in person. Having a structured approach in which you can fairly and accurately capture such information could be invaluable to the long-term success of your recruitment processes.

There is a saying that doing a job well means only having to do it once. This is never truer than in recruitment, especially when you begin to balance organisational fit with the more traditional assessment of experiential factors.

It’s important to remember that while many skills may be transferable from one company to another, particularly in functional disciplines like finance or IT, the type of culture in which an individual is used to working could be the single factor which ultimately determines their success and longevity in-role.

In many instances, finding a candidate with a background of working for organisations with a similar culture could be more beneficial than selecting someone with a perfect-on-paper skill set.

The reality is that a significant percentage of skills can be assimilated while in-role through targeting training, CPD and mentoring. Indeed, most new hires will require re-training to some extent to learn how your business operates, regardless as to their professional qualifications, background and experience.

However, fitting in with the firm’s culture requires a willingness not only to learn but to adjust to a way of thinking and working in a new environment. It can be more about individual mindset than skills.

How to Integrate Your Culture into Your Recruitment Process

Now I have looked at the benefits of ensuring a good cultural fit in selecting and hiring from the talent pool; the critical question becomes how best to integrate this into your recruitment processes.

Firstly, it is essential that you fully understand the real culture that exists within your company.

Secondly, you need to promote your culture on your website and social media channels to engage with the talent pool pre-recruitment process.

Effectively marketing your employer brand and showing what it’s like to work for your organisation is more likely to attract candidates who can see themselves working in that environment, dramatically improving the effectiveness of the later stages of the recruitment process.

Thirdly, you need to be able to communicate your culture face to face, and in the way you behave during the entire recruitment process from initial application through to job offer. The way you treat people during the process will be a reflection of what it is like to work for you and your company.

In Summary

Of course, having an excellent organisational culture to start with is vital if you want to ensure you attract and retain the very best talent.

Candidates with aspirations will want to work for an organisation in which they feel they can be heard, make a difference and valued for their contribution.

If you can create a culture that nurtures these behaviours at every level, you are far more likely to be successful in attracting and retaining talented individuals.

Photo credit: cartoon by Nick Maher. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.