News & Insights

What Employees and Candidates Look for in a Company Culture

In just about any article that you read about the current hiring market challenges, you’ll see the term “culture” come up often. Industry experts all agree that your culture is a key determinant in a candidate’s willingness to join your organization and an employee’s willingness to stay on board.

But exactly what are those candidates and employees looking for when they attempt to gauge your culture and decide whether it’s a good match with their wants and needs?

If you expect to attract and retain the top talent it takes to grow and thrive, you can’t assume what your candidates and employees mean when they say they value a company’s culture. In a job market that continues to be extraordinarily competitive, it pays to know exactly what talent is looking for in a company culture today. 

What is a Company Culture?   

While the definitions may vary a bit, at a minimum a company culture encompasses its mission, vision, and values, which are typically stated on your website, in internal documents, and displayed at your offices and other work sites. It also includes components that may not be stated directly, but which certainly impact your workforce’s experience and perceptions, such as managers’ (unwritten) expectations and office politics, to name a few.

Even though some companies don’t give much thought to their organizational culture, it’s integral to your success. Culture affects everything from your ability to recruit top talent, to your employee retention rate, job satisfaction, worker productivity, and even profitability. 

To ensure you can find and keep the talent you need to achieve your objectives, you need to have a good handle on what job seekers and tenured staff look for in a positive company culture. That understanding will give you a solid foundation to take the next step: improving your culture to align with the expectations of your current and prospective employees.  

What the Research Says About Company Culture

Often, business leaders believe they have a good sense of what employees and job candidates value in their culture. But in many cases, those perceptions are based on hearsay and assumptions. Even when companies use tools like surveys to assess how employees view their culture, there are limitations to what they can glean. Employees aren’t always candid in surveys (even when you assure them the results will be confidential) and few companies survey their job candidates about how they view the company’s culture based on the interview experience.  

However, one vehicle that employees and candidates do tend to feel comfortable using to share their thoughts about a company’s culture is online review sites, like Glassdoor. To leverage this valuable source of information, researchers at MIT Sloan analyzed 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews using a natural language processing tool they developed for the specific purpose of analyzing employee feedback. Their objective was to determine which factors have the greatest effect on an organization’s culture score on Glassdoor. 

To the researchers’ surprise, some elements that leaders tend to assume are important about their culture didn’t rank as high as might be expected. In fact, while organizations often tout perks like employee benefits when recruiting talent, they ranked lower than other priorities.  

Respect Tops the List

The factor that outscored any other in the MIT Sloan study by a wide margin was an organization’s respect for its employees. While respect is a broad term, it usually encompasses elements like displaying courtesy and consideration and treating people fairly and with dignity. In the Glassdoor reviews analyzed, people used very strong language to describe how their companies do or don’t show respect for employees—demonstrating just how important it is and the depth of feelings it can provoke.

The next most-often cited elements focused on a company’s leadership—specifically, leaders who are supportive of their teams and demonstrate the company’s values through their own actions.  Employee benefits and other workplace perks, which are often emphasized in recruitment ads, ranked in the middle of the pack.

What to Consider When Evaluating Your Culture

In addition to these top priorities, employees and candidates consider a broad range of factors when they evaluate your organizational culture and determine whether it’s a good fit with their values, desires, and expectations. The following tend to be strong indicators of a company’s culture:

  • Turnover rate. High turnover signals that employees are dissatisfied with the company and willing to leave for a better environment, whether that’s driven by salary or other requirements. Even in a labor market where employees are changing jobs more readily, higher-than-average turnover can be a sign of a poor culture.  
  • Average employee tenure. Generally, employees stay with a company longer when the culture is positive and supportive. Low tenure is often an indicator of a negative environment. 
  • Diversity and inclusion. Now more than ever, employees and candidates look for a company culture that encourages the development of a diverse workforce and demonstrates inclusiveness in its hiring and operational practices.   
  • Open communication. Transparency and open lines of communication, at all levels, are must-haves for any company that wants to attract and retain top talent.  
  • Accessible, authentic leaders. When your leaders are visible, approachable, open, and honest, it tells employees and candidates they are heard and valued. 
  • Growth and development opportunities. Organizations that provide various vehicles for professional development and advancement tend to be viewed as having a more positive culture than companies that don’t make these opportunities a priority. Whether it’s investing in ongoing training or laying out clear paths for career advancement, these measures show employees and candidates that you value them.  
  • Trust in employees. The remote work trend is a prime example of how companies can be challenged to display trust in their workforce. Organizations that believe employees can work productively outside an office environment are viewed as more trusting than companies that assume their workers can’t be productive unless they’re present on site.
  • A passionate workforce. While it’s hard to quantify the level of passion of a company’s workforce, you know it when you see it. When a company’s staff is deeply committed to its mission, highly enthusiastic about its work, and excited to start work every day, that’s a clear sign of a positive culture.

Now that you know what employees and candidates are likely to look for in a company’s culture, how do you accurately assess your organization’s culture and ensure it meets expectations? Turn to the recruitment and strategic HR experts at M3 Partnership and Placement! 

The M3 team has extensive experience helping organizations improve both recruitment and retention through our wide range of services—including organizational and cultural assessments that offer deep insights and employee engagement programs that improve staff satisfaction and retention.  

Schedule a call with M3 to learn how you can gain the insights to ensure your culture supports better employee recruitment and retention.