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Rick Blabolil

Does Your Work Culture Attract and Keep Top Talent?

Of the many challenges organizations face today, attracting and retaining top talent heads the list.

What defines top talent also defines a top performing work environment: creativity, enthusiasm and imagination combined with knowledge and experience. And that environment is generated by your work culture. An ideal culture would be one where every employee’s passions can take root, be nurtured and grow in a way that allows them to make their very best contribution.

Does your organization do this? Answers to the questions below could hold some clues:

  • What is your leadership’s style? Does your management team encourage creativity and risk-taking? A command and control attitude won’t work if you want to attract excellence. Top talent puts a premium on environments that support creativity and imagination, and deliver feedback.
  • What is the role of policies and procedures? Do they exert absolute rule on the way your organization operates? Or, are they primarily used as guidelines, leaving room for decisions “to do the right thing” in those gray areas that are certain to crop up?
  • Are your organization’s values consistent with values that treat people as priceless assets? These include respect for others, integrity, honesty, trust and benevolence. Ideally, these values drive your organization’s culture which, at every point, must reflect those values.
  • Does your organization generate new products, services or ideas? A culture that supports creativity and risk-taking embraces new technologies that support business goals, makes information and data meaningful, and tries to anticipate customer needs. A culture that attracts top talent—and keeps it—is known for bringing creative ideas, inspiration, a will to persevere, sense of purpose and critical thinking to its customers. Is your organization known for transactions and execution or for creative, visionary solutions?

Shaping your culture

Concerns about “corporate culture” burst onto the business scene in the 1980s, with the publication of two books: In Search of Excellence, by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, and Corporate Culture: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life by Terrence Deal and Allan Kennedy.  At the time, the emphasis was on changing corporate cultures. A defined process guided those changes toward a finite end point.

Many of the principles that came out in the 80s regarding corporate culture still apply, but today shaping an organization’s culture is preferred to changing it. This reflects times in which we live: fluid, rapidly shifting, evolving. We continuously shape our culture in response, while staying true to its core values.

This ongoing shaping of culture is a collaborative process between employees and management. It is employee engagement in its purest form. People are drawn to a culture that says- I don’t have to fit into a box. I will contribute, I will collaborate, I will become part of the shaping, I will shape and be shaped.

Shaping a culture is not easy, but it is smoother if your intent is understood by your employees. Otherwise, the perception may be one of just another management theory du jour. Just as you give your employees room to take risks and make mistakes, if your intent is pure and you remain true to it throughout the process, the transformation you are undertaking will be given room to learn from mistakes as well.

The bottom line

Your organization’s reputation for attracting top talent is a magnet that draws new customers and keeps current ones, and it’s your culture that draws top talent. When James Heskett and John P. Kotter, both of Harvard Business School, conducted research on the economic impact of corporate cultures, they found that strong corporate cultures that “encourage leadership from everyone in the firm” produced astounding bottom line results: revenue growth of 682 percent, stock value growth of 901 percent, and net income growth of 756 percent, all in a time frame of just 12 months.[i]

Like it or not, you may be faced with replacing nearly one-fifth of your workforce within the next five years. And that’s just taking into account the 18 percent of Boomers that a report from ADP predicts will be retiring over that timeframe. So, while there will be a surge in hiring, there will also be the grooming of the next generation (gen X and gen Y) of business leaders.

Is your organization’s culture attracting the best talent? If not, why not? And what can you do about it? Have you started shaping your company’s future – today?

[i] John Kotter, “Does Corporate Culture Drive Financial Performance?” February 10, 2012.


Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture. John Coleman. HRB Blog Network.  May 6, 2013.

10 Talent Management Lessons Every Company Should Embrace. Meghan July 23, 2013.