Why Company Culture is Key to Recruiting

Once there were two fish who were new to the company. As they swam through the office, a third fish who’d been with the company for a while stopped them and asked, “How’s the water?” The new fish looked at him. “What’s water?” they asked.

Recruiting and Company Culture

You may have heard this anecdote before. When the late American author, David Foster Wallace, used a version as part of a commencement speech, he explained its meaning by saying “the most obvious…important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

A company’s culture is a lot like that.

Your company’s culture is the water you swim in at work every day. Whether you work in an office, retail location, or a fast-paced, service-oriented business, defining it can be tricky.

Often, company culture is one of those things we can’t put into words. Or we use a broad term like “fun,” but can’t distill it down to something tangible. A phrase like “that’s the norm around here” often points to a company’s culture—flexible hours, ping pong tables, or how people use the conference room for impromptu brainstorm sessions. But culture can be intangible too, like assumptions workers share about vacations or reviews, or the way a department “feels.”

Culture is always alive in the background—ideally inspiring, motivating, and reminding employees who you are as a team.

Your culture influences the way your company performs, and vice versa. It also influences the way others from the outside see and perceive your company. And it informs the way you attract candidates—those who fill immediate needs, and the ones who fit a piece of your larger puzzle later down the road.

Consider a company like Nike. Their consumer brand began to take off in the early-80s, built around the power of marketing, sponsorships, and innovative apparel. “Just Do It” became a rallying cry for professional athletes, weekend runners, gym class heroes and soccer moms everywhere. Now an iconic global brand, the swoosh is as powerful a recruitment tool as any. And their career-focused messages echo their consumer-facing mantra—Nike invites candidates to “leave average in the dust.”

Focusing on your culture could be one of the most important recruiting decisions your company makes right now.

As we mentioned in our article on the candidate-driven job market, today’s economic gains create some interesting side effects for businesses:

  • We’ve entered a period where candidates have the more control over who they work for than they’ve had in a decade.
  • More employed workers are adopting a “grass is greener” mentality, and are at least passively looking for new opportunities. (See our article about today’s passive job seekers for more.)
  • Even people out of work know they can be more selective than they were a year ago.
  • Employers must anticipate workforce mobility, and proactively prepare to fill jobs that aren’t even open.

From this information, recruiting and hiring today is falling in one of three categories:

  • You have a current opening, and an immediate need.
  • You’ve forecasted a need a few months down the road and are starting to recruit.
  • You’re caught off guard when an employee takes a new job, and you need to ramp up your recruitment ASAP.

When you amplify your recruiting message with culture at the lead, you support your hiring efforts across all three categories.  

Here are three steps to take to help you get to the heart of your company’s culture in the short-term:

Discover More About How to Match Your Recruiting Efforts with Company Culture

Like what you’re reading? Our next two articles will continue the conversation about culture. They’ll focus on the power of your employer brand, and passive recruiting. Keep an eye out. In addition, if you haven’t already downloaded our latest Spotlight article, “Matching Your Recruiting Efforts with the Candidate’s Experience,” it’s available now.

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  1. Include your employees.

With an estimated 23% of employees looking for new opportunities, starting a conversation about culture will support recruiting as well as retention. And the answers you receive will help you build a solid foundation for your recruitment brand.

Here’s a short list of questions to help you start these conversations:

  • What’s your favorite part of the office/workspace? Why?
  • Do you listen to music while you’re working? What kind?
  • How does your workgroup celebrate a job well done? How do YOU celebrate the same?
  • If this company was a TV show or movie, what type would it be (action, comedy, drama, etc.)? Why?
  • On a scale of “kind of messy” to “pretty neat,” how would you describe the workspaces around yours?
  • Has a customer or vendor ever shared feedback about the company with you? If so, what did they share? (Don’t worry if it’s positive or negative.)

As you build your own questions, don’t worry if they seem broad. Distill them until they feel right. For example, “What’s your favorite restaurant?” may not yield the results you want (though it does speak to the taste of your employees). You can reframe it as, “Where’s your favorite place to grab lunch with coworkers?”

  1. Assess the situation.

Perhaps you want to cut to the chase, ask employees to describe “what the company stands for,” and then run with what you hear. We understand the urgency. But with so much at stake in the current hiring environment, take the time necessary to review the way you’re currently communicating your culture.

  • How are you currently communicating your culture, and where? Is it through the color scheme of your website? Is it in the update to your company’s Facebook page of images from team bowling parties?
  • Does your company have a clear vision and mission statement? Do you share it externally?
  • How do your employees embody the mission and vision?
  • Is their feedback consistent? Where do overlaps occur? Where are the messages off track?
  • Are the messages and images you share externally consistent with the feedback your people shared?
  1. Continue to unpack what you hear and discover.

Begin divvying your insight into separate categories. Go back to broad terms like “fun,” “serious,” “innovative.” What do these look like in real time? Are the team bowling parties all about fun? Or are they about the competition between departments?

Consider the words and messages that pop up on your careers page and in your recent job ads. Maybe the word “teamwork” is prominent in your current recruiting. What if only one or two of your current employees mentioned teamwork, but nearly everyone talked about the perk of working from home once a week? Now you can revisit the messages you’re currently using, and refresh them with ideas that align with your people.

What about the next steps?  

Your company can take your findings in many directions. This initial review may pave the way for team building exercises. Your marketing department may take the reins and lead a full-on internal campaign toward creating a brand book and in-house newsletter, and refreshing the company’s intranet.

As your company’s brand begins to reset around culture, this work may find its way into your recruiting efforts—from the verbiage in your job ads, to the way you share your company’s story on social media, and even to the share price on the stock market.

Whatever direction you choose, once defined, your company’s culture can be a powerful asset in your overall recruiting strategy.

Lastly, remember that with so much movement in the workforce right now, people crave consistency. A consistent message that’s framed around culture may give active and passive job seekers more reason to keep tabs on your openings. A would-be applicant may decide yours is the perfect company for them…if only there was a job opportunity. As they continue to check in, they’ll be ready when the opening shows up.

Match Your Company Culture & Recruiting with myStaffingPro

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