UK: Reflections On Talent Attraction And Retention - Where Does Culture Fit Into The Equation?

Last Updated: 16 December 2015
Article by Wayne Carstensen

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

Many a talented employee working for a miserable and unpleasant manager will tend to tolerate this manager in order to work for an organisation with a "cool and with-it" digital culture. While many an employee who works for the nicest manager you could hope for, still leaves in a flash because the culture of the organisation is not to their liking. The point of this being that the organisational glue for talented employees is much more complex now than it used to be and that culture is a key ingredient in this glue.

So what culture should we strive to develop in organisations seeking to attract the right talent?

And here comes the "Catch 22": Does the culture of an organisation stem from the way in which managers treat their people or is it the employees themselves through their ways of working and behaviours who determine the culture of the organisation? In truth, perhaps both are major influencing factors.

The manager who is empathetic and concerned for their talented peoples' wellbeing, work life balance and development can only win the day when supported by a modern organisation with a positive overall culture. But being a weak manager who does not lead or an unreasonable manager who does not seem to care, are not conducive to creating the right cultural building blocks. Leadership development has therefore also been high up the ranks of importance in the HR trend reports. And this is doubly important because to achieve a good organisational culture, all of your leaders need to be pulling in the same direction at the same time.

There are of course other key ingredients to this culture dynamic, for instance technology in the work environment now plays a key role in building a culture to attract the right talent. Having wireless with internet and intranet access in the office is a great start but it needs to work 24x7 and be fast and reliable. Waiting for things to load is not conducive to developing the right culture. Printers must work every time and IT support needs to solve issues promptly without the need for constantly needing to chase them up. Furthermore, providing or allowing employees their preferred choice of device – iOS, Windows or Android is essential as this allows for personalisation and teaming in the workplace – "oh you're also an Apple user - check out this new app!"

More and more employees are depending on cloud enabled mobile technology to get their jobs done effectively, many simply could not function without it – everywhere email, anytime social media, anywhere telephone, functional apps etc. This also enables a work from home option which can help to improve work life balance in these increasingly stressful work environments we all love to moan about to our friends and colleagues. However, employees need to have the ability to turn this connectivity off when on holiday, and I am seeing more and more organisations encouraging this trend today. We don't always need to be instantly contactable!

Having TV's streaming news and organisation updates in the common areas and open plan offices is another feature that makes a difference to the building a digital work environment by enlightening people and also providing the necessary brain break for a few distracted minutes – similar to what a "smoke break" used to achieve for some people, often the opportunity to allow out of the box innovative thinking to happen.

But the corporate community events that physically bring people together still remain of paramount importance. Technology appears able to cut costs elsewhere but best not target the budget for the team event!

I recall many years ago when doing interpersonal skills training presentations, we led an exercise where we asked people to stand in a square and in their minds identify two or three people in the room whom they believed to be totally different from them. We asked a number of questions across all aspects of life – sport, religion, food, entertainment, hobbies etc. and asked people to count the number of times they stood next to the person they thought was so different. When all with a common answer to the question stepped forward into the square the lesson was learned forever - we are not always as different as we think we are! This recognition potentially being a key foundation building block of the right culture needed in organisations today.

An organisational culture that helps people find common interest, supports individual growth and success, allows work life balance and results in employees feeling a sense of appreciation from their peers and the greater organisation might be a "cool" to work for culture. But perhaps, at the end of the day, this "cool" only takes us so far. On a day to day basis, the ease with which I can use my corporate technology, and the consistency of management behaviours, the latter being led by effective leadership development programmes, also, in my view, loom large in the employee-retention game.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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