Culture Add: The Soft Skill that Can Make or Break a Successful Placement

By Sam McDonald, Managing Director

No matter the reason for an employee departure and subsequent job opening, the hiring process presents an opportunity to create a fresh start and future potential for the hiring company and the winning candidate. With the right match, employer and employee grow and succeed together, leaving them both better off than before they met.

To find qualified candidates, it’s no secret that companies largely rely on job descriptions that outline the skills, experience, and education required for open roles. Likewise, candidates apply to jobs that match their resume. And employers customarily use salaries, benefits, and other perks to entice acceptance of their job offers, which candidates then weigh against other offers or their current situation before saying yes.

But things don’t always go as planned. When hiring decisions disappoint the employer, the employee, or both, it’s often because one key question was glossed over or completely forgotten during the hiring process: Is there solid cultural alignment between the employer and the candidate? The all-too-predictable outcome of ignoring or downplaying this question results in the inability of either party to truly succeed.

The higher up the corporate ladder that a cultural mismatch occurs, the bigger the impediment to success. Given the criticality of senior-level searches, both employers and executive-level candidates often need an expert intermediary who can delve beyond the obvious job-description-to-resume matching to ensure a real cultural connection exists between the two that is mutually beneficial.

The Great Resignation Brings Culture to the Forefront

Corporate culture has always been an important employment factor, but in today’s environment, it’s often the make-or-break element. An average of more than four million people quit their jobs on a monthly basis during 2021’s Great Resignation. As this trend continues in 2022, job seekers clearly have the edge over employers. Every company trying to find qualified candidates willing to apply, let alone accept their job offers, can attest to the struggle. The same is true for companies that have seen their top talent poached by other firms.

Although some pundits say the Great Resignation is about higher pay, an extensive analysis conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review of 34 million online employee profiles found that, “corporate culture is a much more reliable predictor of industry-adjusted attrition than how employees assess their compensation.” In fact, it found that amid the Great Resignation, companies with toxic cultures fared the worst while those with healthy ones experienced lower-than-average turnover rates.

Based on this study, which aligns with our experience as a retained executive search firm, companies with a well-defined and appealing corporate culture will have an easier time attracting the biggest and best pool of candidates, especially now that prospective employees are increasingly and invariably valuing the intangibles of their workplace—things like purpose and principles—as much, if not more, than their tangible pay and benefits.

The Hallmarks of a Distinctive Corporate Culture

It takes time for companies to create the type of corporate culture that appeals to top talent, and it takes due diligence on the part of prospective candidates to determine if the culture that exists is one in which they want to work. In either position, there are six key signs that a company has developed a healthy corporate culture:

  • Founded in purpose: An appealing corporate culture starts with one or more ideas that employees can rally around. There is nothing quite as empowering or motivating to employees as the sense that the work they do is meaningful and makes a positive difference.
  • Grounded in positivity: Assuming that everyone wants to help drive the business toward success is a self-fulfilling prophecy that creates a collective mindset where people believe that great things are possible, and so they are. This is actually one of Focus Search Partner’s core tenets, which helps us to spot it among the parties involved in a hiring event.
  • Expressed through the mission, vision, and values: Culture is strongest in those companies whose purpose and principles are well-defined and clearly communicated through their mission, vision, and value statements. They leave no doubt about who and what is important so that the company attracts and retains employees whose personal beliefs align with its corporate ethos.
  • Lived by leadership: Corporate culture is driven by leaders who continually demonstrate the company’s mission, vision, and values, not just give them lip service. When leadership is obviously invested in the success and well-being of every employee, it naturally builds unity, trust, and momentum rather than an atmosphere of fear.
  • Combined with business strategy: When you add a thoughtful, clearly articulated strategy to the above elements, it creates a corporate culture that is practically unbeatable.
  • Engrained within the organization: Finally, a healthy corporate culture is never stagnant. It adjusts as internal and external factors change to keep the company continuously moving forward.
Making Culture Part of the Hiring Decision

Employers and job seekers alike need to pay attention to the transactional skills required by the former and possessed by the latter, but that cannot be the only focus during hiring. Regardless of the type of job market that we’re in, both companies and candidates need to place equal emphasis on value alignment if either is to succeed, especially when it comes to members of the executive suite and upper management who are expected to be walking examples of the company’s stated values.

Our search process goes well beyond the job description, allowing us to reliably identify candidates who both complement and add to an organization’s existing company culture, which leads to industry-leading hiring outcomes for everyone involved.

At Focus Search Partners we are committed to forging deep relationships with both our clients and executive- and senior-level candidates. We invest the time to get to know and understand what is important to both our clients and our candidates. Our search process goes well beyond the job description, allowing us to reliably identify strong cultural fits that lead to industry-leading hiring outcomes for everyone involved.

Need help selecting the right candidate or choosing the right job offer? Contact Focus Search Partners today.

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