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  • Writer's pictureMike Bensi

Reach for Talent by Selling Your Culture

If I asked you to think about your favorite company brands, it probably wouldn’t take long to come up with a solid list. Giants like Apple and Starbucks consistently rank at the top of the most well-known brands.

But if I asked you to describe the internal brand of each company on that list, how much information would you know? You could share some benefits they offer or other nice perks, but can you describe their internal culture?

Why does this matter? For one, it is increasingly difficult to recruit top talent in today’s market since candidates have their choice of options when looking for the next opportunity. Second, company culture ranks at the top of the list of qualities people look for in a job. Which means employees don’t just want to know what the pay and benefits will be in the interview; they need to see the culture to see if they’d fit in.

How can you better sell your culture to potential candidates and existing employees?

Identify your culture Simon Sinek states that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Companies need to identify their culture to communicate the why to candidates. By doing so, it ensures you have the right people coming in the door with an appreciation for how their role fits in to the company. And when people collaborate around a cause that is bigger than themselves, a powerful, unifying bond is created, even in the busiest of times.

Two ways to keep that bond is to be intentional with values and build a tribe. Create values that align with the culture and big picture, and think about everyday things you can do to reinforce your values. Then build a tribe. A tribe will ensure the “why” stays top of mind. In his book Tribes, Seth Godin says, “leaders lead when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect to itself.”

Talk about your culture Storytelling is specifically tied to brand building. Your brand is made up of your people, your culture, and your leadership. If you’ve noticed that companies with the strongest brand usually have the best culture, it isn’t by accident.

Start by telling your story online. Build a strong employer brand in all locations, including your career site and social media. Nearly 80% of job seekers use social media in their job search , so the look and feel of your brand can determine if top talent will decide to apply. When creating a strong employer brand, think about engaging photos and video, information about departments and employees, and up‐to‐date and relevant material about your culture. Try finding a great photographer externally or an employee who loves to take pictures to capture those to support the storytelling.

And don’t forget to create brand ambassadors! Organizations continue to rank employee referrals as their most successful source of hires, above job boards, social networks, and corporate career pages.

Be consistent with your culture Create consistent and compelling experiences. Events like holiday parties and other social activities can create consistency in your brand and support an inviting culture. But what about other employee experiences? Would you consider your performance reviews inviting? Are your Open Enrollment communications engaging? Learn to incorporate your culture into your people and HR processes, and connect your values to everything the employee experiences.

Measure your culture Like most organizations, you want to know you are on the right track, have the right culture, and are engaging employees.This is because opinions matter today. If you think about it, marketing departments monitor brand image and company reputation in public forums. Now, you also need to monitor public commentary about your organizations through sites like Glassdoor.

One way to do this is through employee and culture surveys. There are countless companies and resources to allow to gather feedback and suggestions, or you can create your own! Allow employees to give feedback on how they are feeling, what’s working, and what opportunities you may be missing out on. And let them know you are hearing them!

Create a two-way conversation

Try creating space for 1:1 meetings to gather feedback. Use the time not to tell the employee what to do, but to get feedback. A great question set to consider asking your employees periodically includes:

  • What do you love about working at this organization? And what is one thing that you want me to keep doing to keep this up?

  • What can I do to reduce any concerns or frustrations and improve your role? And what is one thing that you want me to stop doing to help?

  • What do you want the organization to start doing that we’re not doing already?

Measure the right numbers

In a culture focused on performance, it is welcomed (and expected) to set and share goals, and to stay connected to them. It’s employee engagement at its most basic level. Create the right goals and make sure we’re measuring along the way. Numbers help us tell whether we are winning. And we all like to win. It’s good to win, but sharing numbers helps create transparency and openness across the team. The health of your culture should be a strategic priority that is of concern to all leaders. It has the potential to support business growth and profit, and thus should be considered a core business performance variable.

Culture and employee engagement should no longer be thought of just in terms of an expense or one-time project, but instead as an ongoing strategic investment. And it can’t reside at the top or alone in one office. Culture has to be done in partnership, so employees truly believe they have the power to own it.

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