Workplace Culture & How to Sell It

The days of selecting a new employee based on the candidate with the most experience is long gone.

Today, organisations and candidates are increasingly looking for mutual alignment of ideals and values, so how you communicate messages about your culture is critical to the quality of your talent pool.

Culture can be a difficult element to ‘sell’ because it lives and breathes in a company and is experienced and demonstrated in many different ways & can seem intangible.

Anchoring the culture into messages that are relevant to the candidates you are trying to attract is critical.

The Role of the Gatekeepers

People working in HR and recruitment are often the custodians of an organisation’s culture.

Culture is communicated in all the small interactions they have and in the policies and procedures staff adhere to. The goal of HR should be about intentionally creating a great, life-giving culture and frame their messages to candidates in a way that is relevant.   

First and foremost, this means being specific and intentional.  Before HR begins working on a recruitment campaign, they should take an assessment; find out whether the culture needs some renovating. What do current employees think about working at the company? If certain criticisms come up a lot, they need to set about righting them.

How you work to improve your culture just so happens to reflect it–and job seekers will take note if you tell them about how you’re making it better all the time.

Create & Communicate The Message

Capture and create traditions that support your culture. They’re under your nose every day; you just have to find them. Look for opportunities to create “rites of passage” for new employees, stimulate healthy competition, award prizes and celebrate major accomplishments. These things all give your company personality and are what people go home talking about.

Post these experiences & achievements on social media frequently - this broadcasts and gives voice to your employer brand - one that's genuine and personal.  

Understanding the Cultural Lens

Some individuals will see their organisational culture as "fun" and "positive", yet they want management to have strong leadership and show recognition when it is deserved, so the timing of key messages can be important.  

By seeing culture through the three different lenses of the organisation – colleagues, management and company – hiring managers can better weave it into their messages.

For example:
Describe how the company culture supports collaboration – is it through team work, through open forum feedback or through mentoring?

Explain how the values of the workplace encourage career development. Or, how you demonstrate transparency in the leadership.

And, while you may have instilled a culture of fun, be conscious of the fact candidates still want professionalism and the space to fulfill their job. Consider whether the company’s brand suits the ‘fun’ message early on, or if there might be a more appropriate stage in the recruitment process for that to be showcased.

Promote the Best of Whatever You've Got

You may not be able to offer 6 weeks paid holiday or a sign on bonus, but chances are you do have work-life perks and benefits–from flexible schedules to skills training–that make you competitive. So talk about them!

Sometimes one or two major initiatives can speak volumes about your culture in ways that the daily experience of working within it can’t.

Job seekers in today’s market are arguably more keen on weighing those factors alongside compensation packages than they used to be. And all of them reflect your company’s culture. Hiring managers don’t often think that all of the many ways their companies function day-to-day–even the most seemingly insignificant from the inside–illustrate some dimension or other of its culture. As a result, you can use those features to accurately advertise your brand to candidates who will fit in better than if you don’t.

Finally, sometimes one or two major initiatives can speak volumes about your culture in ways that the daily experience of working within it can’t. The outdoor retailer REI scored a slew of national headlines in the US last year by announcing it would pay its 12,000 employees to go outside rather than work on Black Friday.

Sure, it had the wherewithal to launch a top-notch viral marketing campaign called #OptOutside in order to share that with the world–customers and job seekers alike.

But you can send more modest signals on a tighter budget and still make an impact on how you hire. Simply put, if candidates aren’t aware of your employer brand, you might as well not have one.