Creating An Authentic Culture
But what exactly is ‘culture’ and how can you best showcase it to appeal to candidates? Interestingly it’s a concept that many organisations struggle with.
“Quite often in organisations ‘culture’ is a bit of a dirty word,” says Stewart. “There’s confusion over what it is and how to communicate it. I think organisations need to really look at understanding what their culture is: Is it something positive? And if it’s not, well then what can be done to change that.”
Put simply, she explains, culture is “how we do things around here and what it’s going to feel like to work here and be part of this team,”. She says, “Quite often what I see is that organisations might have ‘bells and whistles’ Mission Statements talking about how ‘this is our DNA’ but the reality of what it’s like to work in that team is very different.”
Employees are increasingly aware of authenticity around a company’s culture, and voting with their feet if the reality on the inside doesn’t align with the outside perception. “If you say you’re inclusive, if you say you’re collaborative, if you say you value all differences then make that alive in how you actually do things,” advises Stewart. “Because the other issue we’re seeing is that, even when people have been successfully recruited into a role, the retention rate sometimes isn’t great if the culture isn’t what people have been led to believe. They nearly feel like they’ve been sold a pup.”
Forget window dressing. “It’s not a case of sticking in a table tennis table and saying that’s your culture,” says Stewart, the most important thing is open communication around values. If an office has a flexible working arrangement in place, it’s important staff feel they have permission to use that. “You can have people feeling ‘I need to leave but I don’t want to be the first one’. There needs to be good old-fashioned communication that ‘we’ve got a flexible working arrangement, and we want you to use it, you don’t need to explain, just do what works for you’.”
“You also need someone who can model it too,” she continues. “People who are more senior who will openly talk about the fact that they have left early because they have to do a sports day or parents evening.”