Early this year, the co-founder of a start-up and I were catching up over coffee. Much of our conversation was around creating a great company culture and how this could be a differentiator to attract great talent.
His biggest worry was that companies he was competing with for talent, offered “exotic” workplace benefits that were un-matchable for his start-up. Top talent was “seduced” by workplace perks like game rooms, free lunches and healthy snacks. He was pitching the great culture he was creating- one of empowerment, flexibility, great work, growth…but was losing to the attraction of workplace perks!
His biggest frustration was that in the candidate’s mind, great culture = great workplace perks!
Cut to September, and the world is a completely different place! When I caught up with the same co-founder, he told me a totally different story. Suddenly his start-up was able to attract great talent. Candidates were more open to hearing about the company’s culture and their new hire join rate had tripled! Suddenly workplace perks didn’t matter any more….organizational culture did!
This story is one of many I am beginning to hear. Finally leaders, managers and employees are thinking of organizational culture beyond workplace perks. What an opportunity this is, for all of us to build and pitch what is truly differentiating about our organization’s culture!
One struggle that some people I know are grappling with is – “how can we talk about our culture, without talking about workplace perks?”
Company jargon is easy to master and repeat. Unfortunately, jargon is also the most likely to be disbelieved! Haven’t many of us felt at some time that the “values” and “cultures” of most organizations are exactly the same? Without the context and stories that bring it to life, culture has just been described with corporate jargon or workplace perks.
I have found the best way to describe culture in “real terms” is by telling stories. Examples and stories are always easier to connect with than corporate jargon. When I have told a story to describe aspects of our culture, I have been able to connect to the candidate better. It has also given the candidate the opportunity to ask more questions about the culture. More than anything, it has helped candidates figure out, if this is the kind of culture they want to be part of. Higher join rates and employee retention rates have been the biggest upsides of this approach for me.
For example- instead of just saying we have an “open culture” and “transparency is a company value”, I tell a story that helps a candidate understand how we communicated bad news.
Instead of talking about being a “high performance” organization, I tell the story of how a team made a big mistake, that caused us to miss our quarterly revenue goals and how they used the that learning to turn things around and recently won the “best team award”
Every story gives us the opportunity to make our organization and leaders more human. And our values real!
Real stories touch hearts and make connections. They are relatable. And they are extraordinarily difficult to fake!
With organizational culture more in focus than ever before, this is a wonderful time for us to go beyond the corporate jargon and workplace perks we offer(ed). And start describing our culture through the real stories.
We create stories in everything we do. It’s now time for us to start telling those stories in ways that are real and honest and truly describe our organization’s culture!