In the current employment market, company culture is an important differentiator for organisations looking to recruit and retain top talent. While this fact is well known, employees continue to feel overlooked, unappreciated, unheard, or even bullied. Companies, particularly in the tech sector, who work to foster a positive company culture will reap the rewards, experiencing improved recruitment and retention, higher morale, better teamwork and increased productivity. 

A positive company culture, however, cannot simply be willed into existence. Each day, it must be defined, fostered, lived, demonstrated, and communicated. For new employees, this process doesn’t begin on day one, it actually starts much earlier.

Company Culture and the Tech Sector

The tech sector’s influence on company culture cannot be overlooked. Images of hoodie-wearing CEOs or high-paid employees huddled around the foosball table first served as fodder for pop-culture parody but were actually indicative of things to come. In the broader labour market, work-life balance has increasingly been prioritized by employees, while companies recruit for soft skills in an effort to foster a culture of collaboration and communication.

Defining Your Company Culture

It’s imperative that company culture be communicated to new or potential employees, but before this can be done it must properly be understood internally. Leadership should discuss it openly, and consult with employees throughout the company. 

Does current practice align with stated goals? Oft-competing values and variables such as work-life balance, innovation, teamwork, process, chain of command, individualism and the leeway to experiment should be addressed openly and honestly. This clarity will inform the recruitment and onboarding processes. 

Communicating Company Culture to Candidates

It is important that recruiting with company culture in mind does not become confused with recruiting for homogeneity. In one well known case study from the UK, a company removed all identifiable information including names and age from applicants’ submissions and kept things like hobbies. The existing team were largely cyclists and their human proclivity to homogeneity showed through as most new hires going forward were also cyclists.  Study after study shows the cultural and economic value that diversity of culture and thought brings to the workplace. What is important, however, is that candidates are given a true description of what they can expect when they arrive. 

Technology workers are often drawn to innovative, fast-paced environments, but this does not make them immune to burnout. What measures does your company take to ensure balance? Only when this is communicated accurately can both sides truly decide whether there’s a good fit. 

Job descriptions must also be carefully constructed. Those who arrive at work and are surprised by the day-to-day nature of their job may be disillusioned, leading to poor morale and high turnover, to the detriment of the company as a whole. 

Companies should develop unambiguous materials to showcase company culture in advance. This is done in two ways. First, the things within an organization’s control such as their website, careers page, job descriptions, and social media content they put out. Secondly, the things outside of an organization’s control must be considered, these include third party employer review sites like Glassdoor, employee social media, and product and service review sites like G2. 

Ensuring that an organization is aware of these areas is especially important so you don’t get caught unaware by a well-researched and important hire. Many hiring managers will address negatives directly while aligning expectations with internal realities. Doing so will not only help both parties avoid disappointment, but can help the company stand out from their competitors and attract the interest of more high-calibre candidates. 

Recruiting and Interviewing for Soft Skills

Recruiters have come to realize that it’s easier to retool for hard skills such as technical know-how than it is to instill qualities such as patience, communication skills, and the ability to work in teams. 

Companies that know what so-called ‘soft skills’ they’re looking for in a candidate should be open about it with candidates and in job descriptions. Additionally, psychometric testing is being increasingly used to determine what personality traits candidates will bring to the table. This is another way companies can be proactive about company culture. 

Promote Teamwork and Communication During the Onboarding Process 

Companies that value teamwork and collaboration should demonstrate this during the recruitment and onboarding stages. Having candidates meet team members from various departments will give them a greater sense of company culture and will provide the company with additional perspectives on the candidates. 

After hiring, new employees should be provided with information about the internal communications process and what resources are available to them should they have questions. Mentors and ‘onboarding buddies’ are valuable in helping people learn the ropes and develop professionally, both technically and culturally. 

The more individuals a new hire meets in the early going, and the more they learn about the collaborative environment, the better equipped they will be to contribute to the team as a whole. 

Company culture can no longer be considered a backburner issue, or something that just happens organically. Forward-looking companies in sectors such as tech will benefit greatly when the culture of their workplace is optimized for innovation, problem-solving, and collaboration. Working to achieve this is not an event, but an ongoing process. The earlier it begins, the better, especially for new hires.

Kemp Edmonds is the Managing Director of The Canadian Workplace Culture Index.

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