How to Build a Culture That Woos Top Talent

The best employees want better pay, better perks, and better working conditions. Top companies are willing to provide it all.

With so many options, though, today’s top talent has begun to look beyond the benefits package and evaluate potential employers based on cultural fit.

What Makes a Good Culture?

The best company cultures put employees first. No matter how strongly you feel about your mission, you can’t tell your employees how to build a culture on your behalf. Leaders plant the seeds; employees provide the growth. Fail to put your employees first, and your seeds won’t grow. Research from Hays found that 47% of employees actively looking for new positions cite company culture as their primary reason for job hunting.

Make employees feel at home, however, and your business will reap the benefits. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, several companies have had opportunities to showcase their focus on employee well-being and remote work culture. When businesses act in the best interest of their employees, potential workers are more likely to view those companies positively.

To establish a company culture that will help your company attract and retain top talent, follow these essential tips:

1. Establish values employees actually share.

Company cultures don’t develop behind closed doors. Talk to your employees about their thoughts on the company’s mission and purpose, then lean into those findings as you create your values. You may discover that the aspects of your company you believed to be most important don’t resonate as strongly with your team.

Digital marketing company IMPACT put together a team of people with varied roles to establish its core values. Bring in your best employees from every level, and talk to them about why they like working for the company and how they feel about the company’s mission. Common threads among those answers will help you clarify values that mean something to your workers.

2. Turn gratitude into a best practice.

The best candidates want to work for employers who appreciate their contributions. Show top talent you deserve their attention by establishing a culture of gratitude.

Lucid earns the respect of its employees by leaning into a culture based on gratitude. One year, the company made a flowchart to publicize a compliment from every employee’s direct supervisor. At the front desk, managers and employees can pick up always-available thank-you notes to provide handwritten appreciation to people who deserve it. On Slack, Lucid’s “Fist Bumps” channel allows employees to recognize one another for good deeds, and the person with the most bumps each month earns a gift card.

3. Clarify and communicate your culture in writing.

Ten years ago, Netflix famously published a culture deck that Facebook’s COO said might be the most important document to come out of Silicon Valley. Since then, Netflix has continued to earn its reputation as a stellar employer in tech and entertainment, thanks in large part to its communication of — and commitment to — its company culture.

You can’t maintain control over your culture unless you clarify exactly what your culture includes (and excludes) and communicate that information to workers and prospects. Otherwise, your culture could evolve into something unrecognizable. Potential hires who could become stars on your team would never hear about what makes your culture special. Craft the language and tone of your cultural statement carefully, then publicize your work both internally and externally.

4. Solicit feedback and change when necessary.

Even the best cultures change over time. Google, for instance, revisits its core values every few years to make sure its mission still holds true. The company’s top mantra, “Focus on the user and all else will follow,” makes it easy for Google teams to understand their mission. If work doesn’t benefit the user, the work must change.

Meet once every year to talk about your company culture, and review how that culture influenced your performance over the previous months. How did your values and culture shape your decisions? When did your culture help you land a big hire? To what extent did employees’ engagement with your culture come out through their work? Ask employees how they feel about your culture at least once per year, and if the winds start to shift, be ready to make changes.

Building a company culture that appeals to top talent takes time. You can’t flip a switch and convert from one set of values to another overnight. With effort and buy-in from your team, however, you can plant the seeds of a culture that will help your company grow for years to come.

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