Culture: Here’s Why It Matters Now More Than Ever Before

“I wanted to let you know that I got the job offer,” she said excitedly.

She had two interviews last week — one with a noted brand and the other with a fast growing start-up. One firm really wants her but they are on a hiring freeze until Q1. This is a dilemma that a lot of folks would kill for in this climate.

As we discussed how she was going to approach the offer vs. the “non-offer,” I was amazed at how she was approaching this decision. She talked about the pros and con’s of each company, her career growth and potential development at each, the known brand vs. a start-up, etc. All this came from a Gen Xer.

No alignment with her personal brand

My other discussion this week was from a Gen. Y/Millennial who had a job interview with another known brand. She knew the brand was not quite for her, but really wanted to find more out about the role.

She mentioned that the company’s lobby was a mess and not inviting at all. One of the recruiters she met with was chilly, to say the least, and according to her, bordered on being rude. This recruiter was asked a question, and as she tried to answer, was talking over her throughout.

When she walked out she knew that even if offered the role, she would not accept. In both cases, there was no brand alignment with her career. In all our discussions, the issue of salary did not come up.

You are the one being interviewed

If you are an organization seeking talent, the pendulum has swung away from you — and you are no longer in charge.

That’s right — you no longer have the upper hand with talent. You’re the one that is being interviewed. If that person sitting across the desk from you is top talent, you and your organization are the ones that are under the microscope.

No longer is top talent sitting, waiting, and hoping for YOUR call. They can have their choice of jobs.

Not only that, but just because you are a known brand (and that alone may add a few points to the equation), it’s still the top candidates that are creating the formula when making the hiring decision.

Not so long ago, the toughest part of job hunting was getting a decent offer. Today, people with talent get a flood of offers.

Their challenge is sorting through all of the choices to find the one that’s best for them. The organization’s challenge is learning a new organizational skill: How can I compete?

No, I have decided not to accept your offer

There are many reasons why a job candidate might have to turn down a job offer: the money, the work itself, or the people and culture at the company. In all these situations, money did not come up in the discussion. Work, people, and culture was paramount — and that is why the pendulum has swung.

How an organization approaches this conundrum will determine how successful they are in getting the talent they need. Innovation will be determined by the level of talent and how inspired it is.

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The days of being the big shot in your industry, and having that mindset that everyone wants to work for you, are coming to an end. There was a line in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, where the magazine editor character Miranda Priestly tells her assistant Emily that “everyone wants this.” She was shocked when Emily said that, no, she did not want it or want to be a part of it.

Culture matters now more than ever

Culure is the elephant in the room. I remember reading a quote a while back that said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” a remark attributed to the late management guru Peter Drucker. No matter how far reaching a leader’s vision or how brilliant the strategy, neither will be realized if not supported by an organization’s culture.

Culture is the sum total of what people within your company believe and value about your organization. But are you in a company that is characterized by distrust, fear, and bitterness?

Recruiting for a company like that is a lot different than recruiting for an organization that is characterized by creativity, innovation, and a sense of responsibility for the entire organization.

Culture should be a discussion within the executive suite, because while strategy is the direction to the destination, culture is in the driver’s seat.

The work WILL matter

Is your company looking to grow their people and let them spread their wings? One of the people that I mentioned earlier said while she has a great job, she has been pigeon-holed doing the same thing day-in and day-out. There are no opportunities to grow. Career development is basically non-existent.

To a new generation of workers, work DOES matter. Work will have to be interesting and challenging like it is  at Google where we have all heard about the company granting time for employees to pursue their dreams while at work.

While this might not work at every company, you must encourage the whole person to come to work — because it the end, it is no longer about you.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


8 Comments on “Culture: Here’s Why It Matters Now More Than Ever Before

  1. Bless you, Ron! I’ve been beating this drum for a good while, and I don’t think anybody gets it. You do, and articulate it beautifully. Thanks.

  2. I am currently searching for work and fully agree with this article, of the available options my decision on who I work for is very much based around how the business projects itself to me as the candidate as much as I need to know I fit or want to fit their culture

  3. We are all in the middle of these questions, just the scale and acuteness varies. Nicely written and the main point stands out clearly. Thank You for the article!

  4. Interesting note that with the Gen Y hire, there was no mention of salary in her decision to rule out working for one organization over another. Culture is it for professionals and will only become more important as Gen Y fills employee ranks. By providing a fun and holistic culture to recruits, an organization becomes incredibly competitive…even without salary in the mix.- Randy Hain, Managing Partner, Bell Oaks Executive Search

  5. It’s one thing to put on a good show upfront during the recruiting process. It’s entirely
    another to actually change a negative culture and maintain it at a desired level.

    Personality assessment not only at the executive level but through all levels would be a step toward understanding just the kind of culture that exists within an organization. Leaders should open themselves up to face what could be an uncomfortable truth.

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