You’re probably familiar with the business cliche that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”–meaning that a strong company culture is far more important than a fancy business plan. It’s an essential ingredient for recruitment (and retention) success.

The Great Resignation, the Big Quit, the Great Reshuffle, Quiet Quitting – whatever you want to call it, its effects on today’s businesses are both brutal and thought-provoking. One big change we have seen is the centering of company culture as a primary consideration of job seekers looking for greener pastures.

Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. A recent Glassdoor survey polled 5,000+ workers from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Here are some takeaways:

  • 77% of survey respondents would consider a company’s culture before seeking a job
  • 56% prioritize a good workplace culture as more important than salary
  • 73% of respondents say they would not apply to a company unless its values align with their personal values

This tells us one thing: in today’s job market, it takes more than just an attractive salary package to bring in great talent – you need an outstanding culture. We’re not talking about free gourmet lunches or summer Fridays. Not lavish perks. Not even Cadillac benefits or a sweet office. 

Not that perks are unimportant—they’re a great way to attract talent and build loyalty among employees. But in an uncertain economy, perks and incentives are being scaled back by some of the world’s biggest companies.

What is less costly for employers to build and invest in? Company culture. Today’s forward-thinking employers need to ask themselves: How can we consistently make our workplace better? What are our values? How can we show our team members that we appreciate their hard work and dedication?

If your company doesn’t already have an established culture, and your gut (or employee attrition report) is telling you that something has to change – it’s time to really start thinking about planning, creating, and maintaining a workplace culture that will simultaneously attract talent and foster an environment where everyone can flourish.

Company culture – what it is and why it’s important to make it more than just your marketing spiel.

What is company culture? Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer. In the business world, company culture generally refers to the unique identity and shared values of an organization. It’s often discussed in relation to how well that identity is communicated to employees and customers alike. 

Company culture is also what differentiates you from your competitors and lets prospective employees gauge why they might want to work for you instead of them. While company culture isn’t synonymous with your brand, they are two sides of the same coin and are deeply related in that cultivating a robust company culture naturally results in a positive brand image.

No need for new tricks. Cultivating these 6 time-tested workplace cultural traits can elevate your status as employer of choice.

Empathy & Transparency

The power of empathy in leadership should not be underestimated. New research conducted by the Catalyst found that 86% of employees who perceived their leaders to be empathetic were able to handle the demands of their work and personal lives compared to 60% of those who felt less empathy from their leaders. 

When leaders genuinely model the value of empathy, it permeates through every aspect of the organization, including one of its most critical parts: recruitment. How is empathy mirrored in recruitment? Think of a streamlined hiring process that makes the candidate experience uncomplicated, transparent, and enjoyable, and one that always has the potential employee’s needs in mind. 

Showing off your empathetic culture in the recruitment process can be done in a few simple, yet impactful ways, such as: 

  • Providing an easy way to upload resumes where applicants or supporting documents (referrals, transcripts, etc.). 
  • Clear, prompt, and engaging communication. From the language in your initial job posting to your social media, email responses, and interviews, clear communication is key.
  • Respecting the candidates’ time and schedule. If you’re hiring someone who isn’t in your time-zone, try to adjust the interview schedule to their hours, not yours.

When it’s clear that you’re putting the human behind the resume first, you’re succeeding in showing the empathy that today’s candidates are searching for.

Flexibility & Trust

Post-pandemic, remote, and hybrid work is the new norm. But many leaders worry that staff working off-site can hurt their existing workplace culture.

But here’s a plot twist from new Gallup research: giving the flexibility and options for employees to work away from the office does not erode your workplace culture.

Gallup found that while 27% of leaders believe their workplace culture would get worse if many employees work remotely long-term, only 16% of individual contributors say the same. This means that 6 in 10 U.S. employees at all job levels anticipate that if remote work becomes a norm at their organization, it will not have a long-term impact on their culture.

While it’s true that remote work has its own unique set of challenges and can leave individuals feeling isolated, if you already have a culture that fosters independence, self-motivation, and an open-door policy for employees to ask questions when they need help, remote work can actually add to your culture—making it more open, less hierarchical, and more inclusive.

And when it comes to bringing in new talent, remote work is increasingly viewed as a necessity, not a perk. And this applies to all job levels. In this recent study, 90% of executives noted that they expected to work from home, driving recruiters to remove “location” as a prerequisite in their recruitment efforts.

But what if you run a business that simply isn’t suited for remote work? Flexibility and trust can be felt and given in numerous ways: 

  • Offering flexible work hours
  • Being generous with PTOs
  • Providing ample time to complete projects
  • Giving staff leeway when their personal life interferes with work hours (childcare concerns, mental health breaks, etc.), 

At the end of the day, remote work policies are not just a hot new trend in HR; they’re about helping employees succeed. And employees want leaders who trust them to do the right thing and make good decisions, no matter where they’re working.

Fun, Friendly & Engaging

Research from MIT Sloan revealed that during the Great Resignation, toxic work environments were the No. 1 reason driving employee turnover across industries, drastically overshadowing other concerns. And while giving a toxic workplace a full makeover is a complex process, developing an upbeat and positive culture at work is certainly an effective remedy to toxicity and can spell the difference between a place people want to spend their time and one that makes them dread coming in every day.

Let’s define what that means. “Fun” doesn’t just mean casual Fridays, “friendly” goes far beyond team lunches, and “engaging” doesn’t mean haphazardly putting together team-building activities.

A great place to work means building a culture where things like trust, respect, and cooperation are valued; the fun, friendly, and engaging part will naturally follow. Check out these tips:

  • Hire for attitude, train for skills. Hire people who are upbeat and positive—they’ll want to bring others up with them.
  • Encourage participation in activities outside work. If your team feels like they’re part of something bigger than just the work they do, they’ll feel more invested in their job, and they won’t be so quick to move on when something better comes along.
  • Encourage your employees to support each other and share ideas and strategies for succeeding at work. You might even consider starting a company newsletter or Slack channel where employees can post about things they find interesting or inspiring.

A positive culture doesn’t happen by accident—it takes intentionality and effort on the part of both management and employees. Ultimately, the most basic way to cultivate a fun, friendly workplace is to foster an environment where people feel safe to be themselves.

Diversity & Inclusivity

A diverse and inclusive workplace culture is rightfully becoming more important for companies. Studies have shown that diverse companies enjoy 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee and that diverse management can increase revenue by 19%. Gender-diverse companies and executive teams have also been shown to outperform less gender-diverse peers.

But the benefits of diversity and inclusivity go beyond financial gains. 

A variety of perspectives leads to better problem-solving, faster learning, and more innovative ideas. In addition, three out of four job seekers and employees prefer diverse companies and coworkers.

Building an inclusive culture requires a willingness to embrace differences and create an environment where staff feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. To achieve this, companies need to make sure that their staff knows that diversity is something they value in their organization.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. Not only does it benefit individual employees, but it also provides significant business advantages. As the global market continues to expand, businesses that adapt by creating a more diverse workplace will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.

In today’s competitive job market, work culture isn’t just a line item on a budget sheet.

A strong work culture is a living, breathing entity—one that can be strengthened, improved, and maintained by great leaders and managers. The best companies in the world have figured out that the quality of their work culture is directly proportional to the overall success of the company. They know that happy employees are productive employees, and they do everything they can to support their employees’ happiness knowing that it not only promotes employee engagement in the present, but it attracts the talent required for success in the future.