In any conversation about the tech industry and hiring practices, we tend to hear a lot about this idea of “cultural fit” or “company culture.”
It’s an acknowledgement that, not only do you need to create a company culture which works well for your business, but an environment and culture that will be an attractive prospect for potential employees.
As you’re probably well aware, it’s difficult to recruit top tech talent. The best people are in hot demand and honestly, it’s not all about salary and benefits. Quite often, the less tangible aspects of the job, such as company culture, play a large role in whether or not you can convince someone to come and work for you.
How does your company culture play a role? Let’s look at what’s been going on in tech companies:
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What is Company Culture?
William Craig describes company culture as something that is pre-existing in the genetic code of the business. It doesn’t matter if the company has one or one hundred employees, there will be some kind of values, beliefs, norms, and attitudes expressed in the everyday operations of the company.
It’s also important to note what company culture is not. Many companies will espouse values—they’ll even display their mission and values on the wall or in other prominent places. But, those do not indicate company culture. They might say what you hope culture will be, but they don’t override the everyday attitudes and beliefs that occur in the organization.
The other thing that culture often seems to get mixed up with is your company perks. While the foosball table and catered lunches might be fun, delicious, or convenient, they are not likely to be core pillars of your culture. In fact, there are tech companies with absolutely amazing benefits packages who still struggle to get top people onboard.
As far as the link between culture and recruitment, remember this: In the tech world, word gets around fast. The true identity of your company culture will be revealed to the world whether you like that assessment or not.
Your “Employer Brand”
As Richard Mosley points out for Harvard Business Review, there has been a distinctive shift in the last couple of decades in terms of branding within companies. Whereas previously, the norm was to focus on corporate branding and the face for the customer, now there is a huge focus on “employer branding”, denoting the organization’s reputation as an employer.
These days, you’re best advised to get your team members involved with the recruitment process by becoming advocates for your company:
“Times have changed. The rise of social media has made companies a great deal more transparent. People are far more likely to trust a company based on what its employees have to say than on its recruitment advertising. This means that talent attraction relies far more heavily on employee engagement and advocacy.” (Richard Mosley)
Creating and promoting a company culture that is attractive to potential new hires begins with engaging your current employees. As we’ve indicated, culture isn’t the sign you have up on the wall, it’s what actually goes on in everyday practice and will either engage or disengage your employees.
One of the key goals of surveyed employers for employer branding is to secure their long-term recruitment needs, as shown in the graph by Richard Mosley below. Employers need to not only engage their employees as advocates, but work on the marketing factors that communicate their culture externally.
Cultural Fit or Homogeneity?
Obviously, as a hiring manager, you want the best people for your team, right? Amongst all the talk of “cultural fit”, sometimes things start to get a bit blurry. Why? It’s that human element. We always advocate to “make recruitment human again”, but of course the caveat here is that humans are highly fallible.
We all do this, whether we recognize it or not. If we’re in a position to be hiring, we have a tendency to hire those whom we “like.” The prevailing attitude has often been, “I’ll hire someone I can see myself having a beer with” or “someone who fits in with the team.” But, the danger here is that you get a very homogenous workplace. In doing so, you could be missing out on strong candidates who would really add to your team, whether or not you want to catch up with them at the pub.
What do you really want in a candidate? Someone who walks, talks, and thinks exactly like everyone else? Or, someone who adds a special “something” to your team? They might not like all of the same things, but perhaps they approach things with a fresh perspective that could really drive your team forward.
Another point to note here is that if your team and culture get a reputation for being homogenous, you could turn away good candidates before you’ve even met them. Hardly anyone is particularly comfortable with walking in somewhere and feeling like they stand out for being so different from others in the team. With the reputations for a lack of diversity that have dogged so much of Silicon Valley, excellent candidates of diverse backgrounds may just give you a miss.
How to Improve Company Culture
Like any company, you want to build a culture that not only attracts good talent, but builds your business too. If your company culture is not quite where you’d like it, or if you want a bit of a “sense check” for understanding how you are perceived, here are a few pointers to try out:
- Get input from your team members. There is no one closer to the culture of your company than the people who actually work in it. Seek feedback and encourage team members to give their honest views of how they perceive your company culture.
- Evaluate your “employer brand” as it is perceived outside your company. This could be achieved by surveying key target audiences.
- Clearly define your core values and vision. These aren’t the essence of company culture (as indicated earlier), but they are certainly contributors—particularly if they are regularly reinforced with employees. For example, vision and values could be incorporated into performance reviews.
- Walk the talk. You’ve got to be genuine about your desired company culture and demonstrate it yourself if you want others to follow suit.
- Focus on helping employees grow and supporting their needs. The saying about happy employees being productive definitely has merit, and happy employees will also bring about a positive culture at work.
- Have perspective about your hiring habits, are you falling for the “someone I’d have a beer with” strategy? If you want to have a team that is diverse and avoids too much of the homogenous “everyone thinks like me” aspect, then look to hire for “cultural add” rather than a closed idea of “cultural fit.” What can the person bring that will really add to your team, while still preserving the overall culture you want in the company?
When it comes to recruiting, it’s important to remember that company culture can be a key attraction or repellant to good candidates. The idea is that you want to attract those who will add to your company, but it’s okay if you’re putting off those who wouldn’t be a good fit at the same time. Just make sure that the perception you create isn’t too narrow, to the exclusion of those who are otherwise well-qualified candidates.
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When you assess your company honestly, is the predominant “employer brand” or culture helping or hindering your recruiting efforts?
Potential employees want more than just a job with salary and benefits. In fact, in the competitive tech world, they tend to be spoilt for choice when it comes to those things. Most people seek more—the intangible elements that make a place attractive to work for.
If you want a great employer brand, it really starts with your current employees. Work together with them to ensure that company culture is where it needs to be and that they will be willing advocates of your brand. A positive employer brand will have top candidates knocking on your door.