Invest in your culture to recruit and retain the best

Culture isn’t just about perks. It’s about vision and motivation. Here’s how to transform your workplace into one that attracts and engages top performers.

Most conversations about workplace culture tend to focus on perks. Which organizations provide free lunch? Which offer gym memberships? Which ones give you the best “stuff?”

Perks are great, but they’re not the best way to build a culture that attracts top talent.

Inevitably, there will always be a different organization that can offer better “stuff,” so trying to compete on perks isn’t worthwhile.

The trick is creating a working environment that makes your team excited to come to work day in and day out. This is what candidates and employees really care about.

Here are four points to consider when shaping your culture:

1. Start when you’re hiring.

Culture isn’t just for your current employees. It starts the moment a candidate first comes across your organization—either inbound or when your team is sourcing candidates.

Candidates might browse your site and read your “About Us” page, but the formative impression they’ll have of your organization will be based on their interactions with your recruiting team.

If you’re not careful, you can do real damage to your employer brand at this stage.

The organizations that sustain high application numbers tend to be the ones that are the best at transmitting their culture to candidates.

Google is the market leader here. It’s fantastic at broadcasting its culture of innovation, and it has 3 million applications each year to show for it.

How do you promote your organization’s culture to prospective applicants and give them a great hiring experience?

  • Encourage your team to share. Share insights on social media about what it’s really like to work at your organization. This could be anything from pictures of team events to blog posts written by members of your team.
  • Engage potential applicants. Recruiting is a team sport. Encourage your whole workforce to engage with interested candidates.
  • Provide an excellent candidate experience. Treat your candidates like customers. Keep them updated at every stage of the application process and provide as personalized an experience as possible.

2. Create a motivational work environment.

Is it the responsibility of management to motivate the troops?

High performance is often attributed to leadership. Most organizations look for top managers who can squeeze extra effort from their team and inspire them to new heights.

I’m going to go against the grain here.

I don’t think we can depend on management for stimulus. Your team has to want to work. Motivation is highly personal.

The best way to encourage personal motivation is to create a positive working culture. Fostering a supportive environment where employees feel valued and happy can pay huge dividends.

Here are few considerations that can help you build this kind of culture:

  • Be approachable. If an employee has a problem, make it easy for him or her to come and speak to you.
  • Be flexible. If someone needs to work from home every Wednesday to pick up children from school, don’t stand in the way. Employees will be grateful and may work harder as a result.
  • Be a team. This can be as simple as having lunch together every day. Work on fostering bonds between your employees and you should see an increase in happiness and productivity.

3. Craft a unique mission.

People like to work toward something.

If your organization has a purpose, it’s far easier to get your employees engaged, nurture potential applicants and keep candidates interested.

Salesforce has managed to retain this sense of purpose despite its size. A great example of this is its 1:1:1 model, which has been adopted by the likes of Google, Dropbox and GoPro.

Since the organization’s conception, founder Marc Benioff has advocated the use of technology and resources for charitable means. It’s something he refers to as “integrated philanthropy,” and it’s built directly into the Salesforce business model.

Everyone at the organization knows that they’re not only producing and selling a product that makes it easier for sales teams to manage their workflow and close leads. They’re employed by an organization that genuinely cares about doing good.

This helps Salesforce attract and retain a talented workforce, now numbering 13,000, and has led to its being named one of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” six years running.

The model isn’t designed for everyone. You’ll have to sit down with your team and pinpoint exactly what your own mission is.

It’s the recruiting team’s responsibility to sell this mission to candidates interested in applying. It’s what makes your organization unique and convinces applicants to choose you over a competitor.

4. Communicating culture is essential.

The vision has to come from on high.

Your management team should have a clear idea of what it wants your culture to look like, but it’s vital to communicate that idea to the rest of the workforce.

This is the only way an organization can unite around a singular purpose. Benioff was instrumental in driving the Salesforce vision forward, and your leaders have to do the same for your organization.

If communicated effectively, culture can and should form an important part of everyone’s workday.

To form a collaborative culture, organizations should make working together a key part of every employee’s routine.

There are a few ways to do this:

  • Use collaboration software like Asana or Trello to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Hold frequent brainstorming meetings to make sure all employees feel that their ideas are heard.
  • Try an open plan format for your workplace instead of hiding everyone away in separate offices.

Some organizations take an unconventional approach to achieving a high level of collaboration.

Software developer Valve actually gives all its employees a desk with wheels and encourages them to roll around the office and get involved in projects they can add value to. This whole process is documented in its employee handbook—well worth a read.

You may want to keep your desks firmly anchored in place, but ensuring effective communication from the C-suite down will make your culture far more likely to stick.

In conclusion

Creating an awesome culture requires a certain investment of resources. Some organizations go as far as appointing a “Chief Cultural Officer” to manage the process.

Providing your team with a great working environment is the best way to get employees to go consistently above and beyond the call of duty. It’s also one of the best ways to attract top talent.

Ben Slater is the VP of Growth at Beamery. A version of this post first appeared on Culture University.

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