Organizational culture and its significance in employee engagement, recruitment and retention is a hot topic these days, especially in the architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) and facilities sectors where there is a shortage of talented professionals and baby boomers are retiring at a rapid rate. This is the first blog in a 2-part series on organizational culture as a fundamental business strategy. The key takeaway from this particular blog is: organizational culture needs to be respected for what it is, a valuable asset and a key driver for effective employee engagement, recruitment and retention programs.
There is much variance between organizations when it comes to how corporate culture is perceived. There are organizations that understand its importance and spend significant amounts of money to improve or sustain a positive culture while others, despite comprehending its value, still do not give it the merited attention.
Tom Helbling, President of Helbling & Associates, has a been a search consultant within the A/E/C and facilities industries for more than thirty years. He understands that corporate culture infiltrates through every aspect of an organization. He says, “I’ve seen the effects of strong and poor cultures. I’ve worked with organizations that have great cultures where people are highly engaged, challenged and motivated. I’ve seen others that, quite frankly, have culture issues. And usually, when that is the case, especially in the A/E/C realm, it’s widely apparent within the marketplace.”
From his experience in executive recruiting, Helbling knows that a positive culture is influential at all levels of employees but becomes tremendously critical when it comes to attracting and retaining senior executives. He explains, “If an executive is motivated to explore another career opportunity, his/her motives go beyond compensation and are usually related to an aspect of their current employer’s culture. It can be anything from [their organization] has stopped investing in its people, has begun to micro-manage and/or it only cares only about the bottom line. When an organization begins to emulate these negatives, it holds executives back. They cannot perform to their true potential and they get restless. As a result, the company begins to run a high risk of losing its leaders and this, in turn, makes attracting and recruiting people a challenge. That is a huge risk that no one wants to carry in this market.”
He goes on to say, “organizations need to understand that upper-tier executives want independence, responsibility and an opportunity to impact the bottom line.”
A strong organizational culture is not only critical for engaging, attracting and retaining senior executives. It is a crucial issue going forward as technology allows more people to telecommute and as baby boomers retire and Millennials progress through organizations. Research recently performed by Inc. magazine revealed that 18% of 2012 college graduates consider ‘company culture and the perks’ as their top priority in evaluating prospective employers. Millennials and Generation Xers seek companies that will engage and challenge them, and make them feel like they are a valuable part of a team while, at the same time, leverage their strengths and abilities to achieve corporate goals.
Progressive organizations understand the mindset of Millennials, Generation Xers and executives and have adapted their recruitment strategies accordingly. Just take a look at their web sites, Facebook pages and YouTube videos. Employee testimonials abound about corporate cultures, team work and opportunities for career development. Wes Miller, Managing Search Consultant with Helbling, understands that organizational culture is an important aspect of any position and organization, and recommends that it be included employment ads. He says, “Companies that are using their culture to differentiate themselves in the marketplace to prospective employees are smart for doing so. Adding content [about corporate culture] in ads is definitely beneficial. Professionals get tired of reading typical job descriptions that do not offer any ‘feel’ about a company’s culture. It can be as simple as one sentence that can intrigue a potential candidate.”
Miller recently encouraged one of Helbling’s clients to incorporate something about its culture into its position description. He says, “it was as simple as saying that they wanted someone driven by client relationships and someone who enjoys working for a company where they can create growth opportunities for their teams and for themselves. With that in the position description, [our client] was putting something out there that was different from other companies and it captured people’s attention. Interested candidates made a point to say that they liked reading something about the firm’s culture and mindset instead of just the typical responsibilities and qualifications.”
Jim Lord, Managing Director of Helbling, had a similar experience while recently representing a university on a facilities search assignment. The client added ‘Sense of Humor’ under the requirements of the position. Lord said, “When candidates inquired about the position, many of them mentioned the ‘sense of humor’ part of the description. They said it captured their attention and attracted them to the organization’s ‘personal’ side’, prompting them to consider the opportunity.”
These two examples alone demonstrate the value of incorporating the characteristics of a corporate culture into where they can be instantly recognized - in position descriptions and employment ads. As more companies begin implementing this idea, the value of a positive organizational culture will become even more evident.
There is no doubting the significance of organizational culture when it comes to engaging, recruiting and retaining valuable employees. That is why it is considered a fundamental business strategy. And, while making cultural improvements can be time-intensive and require serious effort, they are not out of reach for any organization.
Stay tuned for our upcoming post on the characteristics of strong cultures and the small steps you can take in improving yours.