How many people consider a company's culture before applying for a job?

You might be surprised to find that the number is very high: 77% across the US, UK, France, and Germany. Over half of the workers in those countries place company culture above salary among factors that contribute to their satisfaction at work, too.

Those are big numbers. And organizations are starting to pay attention. Company culture has become a buzzword and been plastered across what seems like every careers page on the internet.

But what is company culture? What does it look like in practice? And how does it affect recruitment? If you want to hire top talent, you need to know.

Let's start with a definition of company culture:

"Company culture is the combination of people, vision and values that ultimately defines the atmosphere in the workplace and shapes how much you enjoy coming into work." That's how Adam Mendler defined it in an interview with Kununu. There are lots of definitions—but this is one of the best.

Some people say that company culture is the "personality" of your organization. That it is sort of like your internal company brand. It might be called the core of your company, your company's soul, the glue that holds employees together, and all sorts of other things.

In the end, you have to define it for yourself—because it's absolutely crucial for recruiting and retaining great talent. Before we get into that, though, let's talk about leadership.

Culture Starts With Leadership

There are two kinds of leaders that need to work together to institute and improve company culture.

The first is company leadership. The board, executives, and high-profile leaders need to be invested in culture. They need to make it clear to everyone at the company that culture is a priority.

That requires both words and actions. Leaders need to tell managers, employees, and investors that culture is important and share their expectations for the company culture. But they also need to act out that culture. If empathy is an important value in the company, for example, leaders need to be conspicuously empathetic.

But it's not just executives that lead the company in culture. "The most direct way culture is experienced, understood, and translated," says Carl Robinson, "is through the individual behavior of one's boss." Leaders of large and small teams need to enact the values of a company's culture.

Employees look to other employees for models of behavior. If your leaders are models of company culture, the rest of your employees will follow suit. This can have a great positive effect on your company. Including in the recruiting process.


Company Culture Impacts Recruiting

Does a good company culture help organizations attract and retain great employees?

The research says yes.

The Glassdoor study mentioned above found that employees place a strong emphasis on company culture. Most employees:

  • Consider company culture before applying for a job
  • Would not apply to a job at a company that doesn't share the applicant's values
  • Stay in their positions largely because of company culture
  • Value culture more than salary.

If your company culture isn't appealing to applicants, you'll miss out on the best talent in your industry.

And you'll have a harder time keeping great employees, too. Top employees know that they're in high demand. If they don't feel supported by your company culture, they'll look somewhere else (71% of them, according to the Glassdoor survey).

Applicants are coming to expect information about company culture before they apply. Many forward-thinking companies now include information on work-life balance, values, priorities, and other cultural factors on their careers webpages.

When potential applicants don't see that information, they get nervous. So you need to communicate it clearly.

But how do you do that?

How To Communicate Company Culture To New Recruits

Potential applicants expect information on your company culture. And where will they land on your website? Your careers page. That's where you need to talk about culture.

Greg Rokos recommends taking five steps to properly "market" your company culture on your careers page:

  1. Define the culture and establish values.
  2. Highlight and welcome diversity.
  3. Celebrate your social and environmental consciousness.
  4. Promote your flexible workspace.
  5. Display learning and development opportunities

This list is a good place to start when sharing your culture with recruits. But don't limit yourself. Maybe openness to ideas is part of your company culture. If it is, make sure to point it out. If empathy is the number one value at your organization, tell recruits how employees put that into action every day.

Your culture is unique. You can present it in a unique way. Highlight what's important and valuable at your company and make sure to show applicants why that makes your organization a great place to work.

Don't just tell your content manager to include "something about company culture" on your careers page. Make it a point to think deeply about your company culture and how it might appeal to applicants.

If you have trouble articulating your company culture or you can't think of many good things to highlight, it's time to go back to the drawing board. Get your culture in order before you bring on new employees. (We'll look at some specific tips on how to improve your company culture in a bit.)

And when you do bring on new employees, make sure that they're integrated into the culture immediately.

Show Off Your Culture To New Recruits

Making new hires part of your company culture is crucial. The sooner they become comfortable with your organization and how it works, the better. This is especially true if culture was one of the reasons they joined your company in the first place. If they don't see it in action, they're going to be immediately put off.

Here are three ways to integrate new recruits into your culture after they start:

1. Hold culture training

Everyone in your company should be able to articulate the company culture. They might see it differently or emphasize different points. But they should know what you aim for as an organization and what you expect of them.

Don't conduct training just for your new recruits. Include veterans, too. Not only does this show your new employees that you're not just doing this for show, but it also reminds long-time employees that culture is important.

2. Assign a mentor

It's one thing to tell new recruits about your culture. It's another to have a long-time employee show it to them. A 2012 study found that mentored employees, compared to non-mentored ones:

  • felt more positively about their workplace and leadership
  • appreciated growth opportunities more
  • felt more informed about their organization's direction.

Make sure mentors know what's expected of them. Tell them specifically that they are to integrate their mentees into the company culture. This kind of connection not only makes it easier for new employees to integrate into the culture but also improves your workplace by establishing new connections.

3. Show culture in action

How are your executives encouraging a positive company culture? If a new recruit can't answer that question shortly after starting a job at your organization, your leadership isn't taking an active enough role.

Keep communication open, share expectations, and talk about how leaders make decisions. There's no better way to instill confidence in your culture than to show it in action. And that message coming from leaders is a strong one.

How To Create A Culture That Attracts Great Talent

If you aren't 100% confident that your company culture is helping you recruit great talent, it's time to make a change. Organizational culture goes far beyond just bringing in the best recruits. It can change how effective your company is.

Look at the companies who have reputations for great cultures: companies like Zappos, Warby Parker, Southwest Airlines, and REI. These are highly successful companies, and many people attribute that success to their culture.

But what is it about those cultures that attract such high-quality talent? What do employees really want from their employers? Mercer's 2019 Global Talent Trends study provides some insight.

Here are the top three things that made for the best work experience around the world:

  1. Ability to manage work/life balance.
  2. Recognition for contributions.
  3. Opportunities to learn new skills and technologies.

All of those are part of a great culture. Of course, other factors like salary and benefits are important, too. To be a truly attractive opportunity, your company needs to provide a full package of "hard" and "soft" benefits.

So how do you go about establishing the kind of culture that attracts the best talent? Here are three steps you can take today:


Be transparent

This is crucial. Transparency is required for building trust—and it's one of the things employees want most in a manager (especially when it comes to performance evaluation). In many cases, that means sharing company data and showing employees how their work is making a difference in the organization.

But you have an extra opportunity here to show that you value transparency in your company. Talk to your employees about culture. Tell them that you're looking to understand improve your company culture. Give them the opportunity to provide feedback and ideas. Be transparent about the fact that you're trying to make an improvement.

This is something you can do right away. Send out an email to your employees or schedule a meeting with team leaders. Start the conversation about company culture right away, and let people know that it's a priority.

It might take longer to build transparency into your other processes. Make that a priority, but start with a discussion.

Encourage flexible working arrangements

Employees want work/life balance. And that often means flexible working arrangements. Research continues to show that many employees want to work from home at least part-time.

And with benefits like increased productivity and reduced turnover, it's a wonder that only 7% of American companies offer the ability to work from home.

Offering flexible working arrangements like variable hours and the ability to work from home shows your commitment to your employees. And that's a big part of establishing a great culture. If you don't already, look into offering more flexible options.

Show your employees that their work matters

The study from Mercer showed that employees value purpose-driven companies. People want to know that their work matters. So make a point to let people know how their work is making a difference.

Show people how their individual projects have benefitted your organization. Make it clear how your company is making a difference in the world. Share your vision with your employees and help them see your progress toward it.

Executives and leaders often have a clear view of the company's purpose. Employees have more trouble doing so. Start helping them see that their work matters, and you'll see an improvement in company culture overnight.

Conclusion: Don't Underestimate Company Culture

It's easy to write off company culture as a trendy buzzword. But it's more than that. Culture can make or break a company. And that starts with recruiting.

Potential recruits have high expectations of their prospective employers. And if you're not meeting those expectations, you're not going to recruit the best talent out there.

Now we want to hear from you.

  • What steps are you taking to understand and improve your company culture?
  • Have you seen changes?
  • What's proven to be effective?