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Win over the Culture Critics – 4 Factors in Attracting & Retaining Top Talent

In an organisation, culture is shaped by every operational element that make a business unique – from dress code, business hours, employee benefits and HR practices, to the company’s attitude towards clients, service providers and competitors. In the career start market, top candidates are increasingly savvy about selecting a company based on cultural elements, scouring the “Best 100 Places to Work” lists in order to target the best of the best. Why? These clued up candidates know that most of the time, the type of tasks they perform day to day will probably be similar no matter who they work for – so why not do it in a company with a great culture?

What Top Talent value in a prospective employer can certainly vary, but through the thousands of interviews we conduct yearly, we find there are 4 common cultural factors that the best candidates value above all else, and are key in both their attraction and retention. Strangely enough, all of these factors are present in the cultures of the employers who consistently rank in the Top 100 lists. Coincidence? I think not! These 4 Factors are:


1. A Strong Company Culture


Candidates are attracted to a business that knows who they are, why they exist, and is clear about the way in which they do things – whether it is selling concrete or running multi-million dollar advertising campaigns. In a 2012 study by Deloitte on “Culture in the Workplace”, results revealed that there was a strong correlation between employees who say their organization has a clearly articulated and lived culture, and those that say they are happy at work and feel valued by their company. Unfortunately, only 19% of executives and 15% of employees believe strongly that their culture is widely upheld within their own organizations. This leaves a lot of employees feeling disengaged and unhappy at work, and on the hunt for a company who demonstrates the cultural integrity they crave.


2. A Culture of Learning & Development

When we advertise a Graduate Program, we get four times as many applicants as any other role. Why? Because in these programs it is implicit that tangible, scheduled, and measured learning and development activities will take place in their day to day role. While we are not suggesting that every company should offer graduate programs, the volume of applications speaks to the need candidates are searching to fulfil – structured learning and development.
Most of the Top 100 Employers will have a structured learning and development plan in place for every role in their company. Some of them fund courses; some offer days in lieu if a candidate wants to pursue a particular learning opportunity relevant to their role. Others offer lunchtime courses where employees can up-skill in a particular area, like Microsoft Excel or an internal software package. No matter what the method, all of these businesses do not overlook the importance of ongoing learning and development, and encourage their employees to identify opportunities to grow in their career.


 3. A Culture that Values Rewards & Recognition

Many companies neglect to recognise great performance because they are worried that it will give employees the idea (or the green light) to ask for a pay rise. Candidates are not always motivated by money, and it is important to build a culture that celebrates achievement and consistently recognises performance in other ways – as well as paying what is fair in the market. Whether it is through public recognition like an achievement award or a simple thank you, recognition is critical for employees to remain engaged with workplace goals.


4. A Culture that Communicates Opportunities & Embraces Career Progression

Top 100 companies consistently communicate opportunities within the business to give employees visibility of where they can take their career. Many of these companies also actively plan career progression with their team in monthly one on one sessions or at quarterly reviews. Not only does this keep this person feeling engaged and motivated, it also provides a Manager with an effective framework for providing feedback on current performance and identify areas of improvement for the employee to reach their career goals.

Now more than ever, companies are focusing on building a strong and distinct culture to attract and retain better talent. Google is a great example of a strong culture that embodies the 4 factors, but really takes the concept of a great culture to a whole new level. They offer flex time, tuition reimbursement, fully catered cafeterias, on site doctors, massages, hairdressers, car washes and fitness classes. In the technology space, Google are viewed as one of the coolest kids on the block – and who doesn’t want to be friends with the coolest kid on the block?

It’s easy to see why candidates are attracted to this kind of environment, but you don’t need these kinds of perks in order to build a strong culture that will attract and retain Top Talent – many of the Top 100 companies do not offer the kinds of perks that Google do. Ensuring that the 4 common cultural factors are present in your business will keep your talent pipeline full of ambitious and hard-working people ready to jump at the opportunity to work for you – regardless of the industry that you are in or what your business does day to day. Having a strong culture of learning and development with excellent communication of career paths will also keep your top performers engaged in their role and working towards being part of your business long term.


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