Culture is top of mind when tech workers weigh up which unicorn they want to work for.
That’s according to the results of a recent broad-based study by Hu-X which assessed conditions at a variety of enterprises, including unicorn startups, Fortune 100 companies, and firms that were ranked as the best and worst places to work by several other studies.
When it came to how workers ranked unicorns (defined as privately held startups with a valuation above $1 billion) “culture and values” ranked above four other factors. Pay wasn’t even the second, with senior leadership ranked as more important in the study.
“‘Show me the money’ is a great movie quote, but showing employees a strong, healthy culture may matter even more,” said Tia Katz, founder and CEO of Hu-X. “Culture determines how employees feel about an organization. If employees are unhappy and their engagement is low, companies can suffer serious hits to their bottom line.”
Priorities were slightly different for more established firms. When workers ranked Fortune 100 companies, for instance, senior leadership was the most critical factor for GlassDoor ratings, but both culture and values and compensation and benefits ranked highly too.
Though seemingly intangible, culture has knock-on effects in the material world. For companies hoping to attract top talent, the results suggest building a compelling and attractive culture pays off.
The same holds for retaining workers. Many highly qualified employees walk out the door not because they don’t enjoy their professional role per se but because they can no longer stand the toxic work environment. As management consultant Christie Lindor says, “people do not quit companies…they quit organizational cultures.”
Compelling strategies may lure in venture capital funding, but when it comes to human resources, culture holds sway. Renowned corporate thought leader Peter Drucker famously said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” since a successful strategy is only as good as the energy and coordination with which it is carried out.
Corporate culture is the glue that binds disparate colleagues together and, when cultivated properly, serves as a pillar that upholds organizations. It provides a foundation through which colleagues can interrelate with one another and all the different parts of the business to work together and stay connected.
Firms with positive cultures also encourage creativity and innovation since employees are more motivated to give their best and try new things.
“These companies excite their employees with innovative visions that shape their culture,” Katz said.
It is crucial to maintain this edge even through an economic downturn and mass layoffs. “(Then) it’s up to companies to support a strong culture through more tactical methods,” Katz said, “including leadership development and employee engagement efforts.”
The research connecting corporate culture to productivity is well established. According to McKinsey, positive culture correlates with above-average performance.
The consultancy regularly tracks through its Organizational Health Index, and in 2018 found firms with top-quartile cultures delivered returns 60% higher than median companies and 200% higher than those in the bottom quartile.
Work transitions present a perfect opportunity for value-driven employment. Professionals going through a career change are often looking not only for a change of industry but to fulfill a budding sense of purpose in their professional lives.
There are a range of free and effective job search tools online, from simple resume builders to whole social media networks. While LinkedIn is ideal for connecting with other professionals, Glassdoor stands out for its plethora of employee reviews and rankings of companies. It has become a go-to essential resource for job seekers to get insight into the culture of a new workplace.
Job candidates can also get a feel for the values of a place through interview questions. These can include asking the company where it stands on issues related to issues such as climate change, inclusion, and family-friendly values. Be sure to ask for specific metrics (such as the company’s carbon footprint) that prove its commitment to its purported values.
This long-term trend looks set to continue, and as employees seek out companies that reflect their personal values, businesses will need to work hard on their culture to maintain their competitive edge.
Work is no longer simply about grinding to earn a bigger paycheck. By focusing on aligning with their employees’ sense of meaning, corporations can offer a more fulfilling and holistic life for professionals everywhere.
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