Get Real for Your Next Hire

Fortune Magazine’s “The 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016” edition is a valuable read to explore the connections between an organization’s culture and successful recruiting and retention. Perhaps most compelling is the story of Publix supermarket, whose founder, George Jenkins, wanted to “create the world’s … best workplace.” That goal remains today at this 86-year old Florida-based chain, the largest employee-owned company in the world. Publix has never laid employees off, offers generous benefits, and promotes internal career advancement. Employees respond by sticking around (5 percent voluntary turnover!) to fulfill the mission of creating a “happy ever after” customer experience: customer service rankings are consistently in the top three in the industry. It appears Publix has figured out a profitable connection between culture and desired outcomes. Have you?

A good starting point is to understand an organization’s culture. Doing so will reduce wasted efforts and costs in recruiting and retention initiatives. Employees with workplace expectations correctly matched to an organization’s culture are more likely to be successfully engaged and retained longer. Contemplating the Fortune articles, surveys, research and anecdotal feedback, employers tend to fall into three broad categories when it comes to culture. Consider what kind of applicant would be attracted to, motivated by, and retained at each:

Compliant

These organizations focus on adhering to legal mandates and maximizing outcomes with minimal employee investment. Optional benefits are an undesirable expense. Employees are expected to fall in line and do their jobs with minimal interruption. Cost cutting, including labor costs, is emphasized to enhance the bottom line.

Aspirational

Most employers determine that meeting legal mandates alone, without investment in employees, will not support the organization’s long-term objectives. Investing in employees through voluntary benefits and cultural flexibility/openness reflects a desire to be an employer of choice for talented individuals. Traditional hierarchical organizational structures and communication methods are most common, with some experimentation to enhance employee input and workplace experience.

Transformational

These employers experiment and often adopt radical new approaches to conduct business and the relationship with employees. Employees at every level are empowered to take action. With extremely high expectations of their employees, they demand an “all-in” commitment with consistent and impactful contributions. Open communication is welcomed to improve the organization’s ability to fulfill goals and support the shared mission. Investment in employee benefits, workplace facilities, relationship building, etc., is considered a top strategy to attract ideal candidates: those with cutting edge skills and aspirations beyond a day’s work.

Which culture category does your organization fall into? There is no “right or wrong”: there are many ways for an organization to operate successfully. The key point is to honestly evaluate the nature of your organization and use this to target appropriate potential hires. Even if the applicant is a perfect match “on paper,” it may be better to select a different applicant. Common practice is to hire the highest-skilled individual for an open position; if that person’s aspirations are mismatched with your organization’s culture, the employment relationship will likely be short-lived and problematic. If you have questions please contact me at jmcdonough@msec.org or call 800.884.1328.