Ask someone what they like about where they work, they might say “it’s the culture.” Equally, someone else may choose to leave for the same reason. The thing about a company culture is that you have one, whether you like it or not. As an employer it’s down to you to make sure it’s a good experience as it hugely influences your employer brand.

This article is all about how to find out what your culture is like, from the people who know it (and matter) most – your employees. We’ll share how we do it and show you some recent examples of how we’ve built a creative platform from the process.

Company culture – why it matters in talent acquisition

It’s far more than a nice to have, it’s increasingly a candidate differentiator.

For their survey ‘Culture over Cash?’ Glassdoor polled more than 5,000 people across four countries: the US, UK, France and Germany. Among key findings, Glassdoor found that more than three-quarters (77%) would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there, and well over half (56%) said company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. What’s more, 73% said they “would not apply to a company unless its values align with their own personal values.”

All of this was in 2019, before the pandemic and the ‘Great Resignation’ made us even more interested in the values and purpose behind the organisations we work for.

What exactly is company culture?

Ask a room of your employees and they’ll give you many different answers. In many ways this isn’t surprising. A culture is something that’s experienced, and experiences depend on interactions and influences. Things like the way an organisation is led, attitudes towards employee wellbeing, investment in the buildings and tech needed to work, promises made compared to promises kept and increasingly the level of psychological safety – the ability to take risks, make mistakes and speak up without criticism. It’s a mixed bag and always will be.

A good definition comes from ‘Great Place to Work’. They state that “company culture is how you do what you do in the workplace. It’s the sum of your formal and informal systems and behaviours and values, all of which create an experience for your employees and customers.” The end result is that it produces a set of lived experiences which will make your employees feel a certain way. Opinions are formed – and increasingly, shared.

How to gauge your company culture

Your culture isn’t defined by what the leadership would like it to be, it’s how your people actually see it. So, the best way to find out is to ask them. Research and insight into how your employment offer is perceived is always useful data to have. The more you understand what is demonstrably good, and ideally different, about working for you, the more of that you can deliver. Likewise, you may discover that what you think contributes to an attractive culture doesn’t in reality.

At That Little Agency, we use a robust, but quick and agile, research process to ensure that we uncover the real truth. We identify core audiences and often segment these down into smaller employment groups to provide a detailed picture. The process varies – we use online surveys but get the best insight from focus groups and one to one interviews.

Client case study – Hastings Direct

At the heart of our recent employer proposition refresh for Hastings Direct was their desire to represent the culture of the business as it is today. To meet this objective we needed to identify the themes that resonated well within the business. Also known as ‘proposition pillars’, these helped us to develop messages that the research told us would connect with their different target audiences.

The output, ‘Simply Hastings Direct’, highlighted that their people have a ‘certain something’ about them. This individuality is able to flourish in the Hastings Direct culture and that would form the basis of a supporting creative campaign.

View the case study here:

Client case study – NFU Mutual

Mutual values and fairness in business ethics have always defined the culture of NFU Mutual. This meant that when it came to a campaign to recruit pricing professionals, we knew that the culture and values would be as important to the right candidates as they were to the existing team. In fact, we wouldn’t be able to create meaningful employer brand communications without this insight.

That’s why we interviewed a number of the pricing team to understand their thoughts on the things that influenced their culture – like development opportunities, variety of work, leadership and the benefits. The output from the process gave us the feedback to create the NFU Mutual ‘Universal Truths’ – in effect the answer to the question ‘why work here’.

View the case study here:

Culture and employer brand checklist

A few takeaways to ensure what’s best about your culture is reflected in your employer brand:

It matters to candidates: Research tells us that if they can’t find what they want to see – or don’t like what they find, they won’t apply. That’s why you need to research and reflect the pillars that form your culture.

Opinions will differ: Which means you need to identify your different internal audiences and ask them what matters to them and what they feel they experience. Your perception of this as an employer may well vary from the reality as experienced by your people.

It’s often ranked higher than salary: Candidates want to work where they feel the values align to their own. This makes your culture and purpose often more of a draw than your remuneration. The cost-of-living crisis may have dialed this down a little, but it still matters for your comms.

You need to live and embed it: Having listened, discovered what matters and built a creative proposition, your culture is the actual experience of how you deliver. Words need to move into genuine action. Straplines and posters aren’t enough. Leadership visibility and support is essential.

Your people are your best culture advocates: You employer brand content will best reflect your culture if your own people either feature in or generate much of the content themselves. Candidates will trust it more. This doesn’t need to be expensive, but you might want to help them with guidance and an agreed process for posting.

Keep listening: Don’t make asking your people an annual thing. Make feedback regular, it doesn’t need to be via a tech platform, being listened to is just as valuable face to face. You will be better for knowing what your people like or dislike about working for you.

Measure and manage: Keep tabs on what people say about working for you on sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn and respond to any comments – good or bad. Your culture and its impact on your employer brand are fluid – its value can go up as well as down and needs managing.

Need a little help?

If you feel that you’d like some help, support or even a little chat around building your employer brand or any aspect of your talent attraction strategy just drop us a line. After all, much of our best work has started with a cup of tea and a Zoom call.