The value of a strong organisational culture has become widely accepted over the past decade as being a key contributor to organisation wide performance. When developed and inculcated properly, a set of cultural values in a workplace provides context for the work which that organisation does and how it develops, reacts and responds to both challenges and opportunities.
With millennial and Gen Z employees having a very aspirational mindset, the importance to them of working in an organisation possessing, or developing, a set of values and culture that appeals to them and allows them to develop both personally and professionally is hugely important. Our research here at gradireland shows that 71% of the students surveyed, in Ireland’s largest student survey, said that they would accept a lower salary if they felt that an employer was particularly suited to them. 73% of them also said that it was more important to be fulfilled than to earn lots of money.
In terms of graduate recruits, an organisation which represents a cultural fit is obviously hugely attractive. HR professionals have a massive role in shaping a graduate’s perception of organisational culture within a company at a very early stage. Then the focus needs to be on recruiting those who show themselves to be an eventual fit for the culture and values of the organisation. Of course, this fit does not always happen naturally; orientation, training, performance management and mentoring are a vital part of ensuring a graduate recruit’s sense of belonging and that they are contributing to the culture of an organisation. In order to ensure that the cultural message is unified from senior management to new hires, graduate recruiters need to ensure senior management buy-in to deliver this message throughout the business. Of course, the importance of culture and values within an organisation is still a relatively new concept within business and enterprise. When planning and developing a cultural strategy for your organisation, remember that the strategy must exceed the business goals of the company and how the culture can help develop those. The culture of an organisation responds and develops not through interaction with metrics or technology, but by engaging with its most important asset, the people.
In an interview, Siobhan Talbot, Managing Director with Glanbia identified some of the elements that make for effective cultural leadership. “I think having a clear vision and communicating it to your team is hugely valuable. Take time to describe what the future looks like and feels like and then share that vision with your teams. It is also important to recognise and anticipate the challenges and to build team resilience. A compelling vision that gets your people excited and aligned will create huge energy and focus,” she said.
Of course, identifying this compelling vision can be difficult during the early stages of defining a culture and set of values for your company. The concept itself can seem distant and very hard to nail down. While an organisation can market to the outside world that they are ‘ethical’ or ‘research-driven’ or ‘innovative’ or ‘customer focused’, it can be very hard to translate that internally in a way that employees understand how it relates to their day to day work, how they do it and how they interact with others. Increasingly, companies strive to outline and reinforce their culture in terms of how the working space looks, dress-code, attitude to fixed working hours, how meetings are conducted and how decisions are made. HR can help hugely in terms of unifying a culture ‘blueprint’ for a company by:
- Working to identify common traits that span the company’s organisational structure. These could be personality based, experience-based or achievement based.
- Get a cross-section of organisational views with representation from all levels and functions so you can identify some areas of common purpose and importance.
- Match these to the overarching cultural strategy where possible. For example, if the feedback shows that transparency is very important to employees, consider how transparency projected by the company externally and to customers.
- Make the values and culture clear through messaging and documentation, but not excessively so. A good culture is one that’s a natural fit, not one that employees should have to delve through reams of documentation to uncover!
Some of the more obvious challenges that HR professionals can encounter during the recruitment process can be solved by taking culture into account. Ask candidate’s what sort of place they want to work in, where they would fit, and what is their perception of your company? From their answers you’ll be able to gauge their suitability. Don’t expound about your organisation’s cultural values at the interview, let them prove, or reinforce your belief, that they are the right sort of cultural fit for what you’re seeking to achieve. Of course, you’ll need to challenge your own views too in relation to culture and values so make sure you have two or, ideally, three in the interview or selection process.
Whether you have a well-established culture within your organisation or are in the process of defining and establishing one, don’t torture yourself with trying to find someone who is a ready-made fit for the organisation, this can lead you to mistakenly ignore other traits that the candidate might have that would deliver for the company’s objectives while you work with them to develop their knowledge of the company’s culture. Another, far worse, mistake would be to try and tailor your company for a particular candidate or cohort of candidate’s. Providing an inaccurate picture of your organisation leads to poor morale, poor retention and a lasting damage to your firm’s reputation in terms of attracting the next batch of suitable candidates.
With culture serving a greater and stronger role in impacting directly on organisational performance and perception, the role of HR professionals in refining, marketing and reinforcing culture to graduate recruits is more important than ever.