Define your organisation’s culture before it derails you

Company culture is an important part of attracting, hiring and retaining top talent.

By Sharon Florentine
June 7, 2017

This is an area where many older, larger organisations get into trouble, says Sean Storin, who founded a job search site, One Degree, which used cultural fit to match candidates with their ideal employer, and who now serves as director of client solutions at the Ken Blanchard Companies.

"Culture's become such a huge buzzword over the last few years, and some organisations are trying to leverage that to get better, brighter talent to come work for them without understanding what it's really all about," Storin says. It's a great thing that these companies want to innovate and to learn how to adapt and change to be successful in an evolving marketplace, but too many don't understand how to go about it, he says.


The invisible hand

"The key to developing a culture is listening. There's an 'invisible hand of the market' aspect to this; employers want to drive culture, but employees are the ones who are actually going to build it. So if the company is deaf to what the employees actually want, what drives people's interest in an organisation, then they're going to continue to be lost," Storin says.

Storin uses a conversation he had with two Stanford students as an example of the need for companies to go beyond paying lip service to culture. The students were each recruited on campus for internships -- one for a major investment bank and the other at a global consulting firm. After their internships, both came away disillusioned and disappointed that the experiences were far from what the companies claimed, Storin says, and now the companies missed the chance to hire two potential superstars.

"You can tell a great story on your website or have 'cool' people recruiting on college campuses, but if the culture doesn't match up, the candidates are not going to stay. Like these two Stanford students told me, ‘Regardless of how good it would look on my resume, I will never work there.' And when I asked why, both said the companies were too 'old' and 'conservative,' and that they just didn't fit in, even though the firms made it seem like they would," he said.

"In a tight labor market, the candidate or the employee has the ultimate say in what's important to them. And yeah, culture aside, no one's going to work for free, but when we look at why people are successful, why they stay at their jobs, why they make a positive impact on business and interact successfully with others -- it's culture. So, firms can emulate culture all they want, but if they don't really listen to what their workers want and what's important to them, they'll never make it," Storin says.

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