Workplace culture is more important than salary or flexibility

In a climate of skills shortages and starting salary inflation hitting hard, it’s important to know how to attract and retain the best talent. Recent research, revealed in WorkBuzz’s State of Employee Engagement Report 2022, reveals that workplace culture really matters. Indeed, it matters so much to those looking to change jobs that culture in the workplace ranks more highly than salary or flexible working arrangements.  Indeed, they describe this key finding as your “secret weapon”.

So, what does the research reveal and what does this mean on the ground for employers who wish to attract and retain the best talent in a climate of recession, skills shortages and low candidate supply versus demand? And importantly, why does it matter when it comes to hiring business leaders and executives?

What the majority want from their employer

The State of Employee Engagement Report has revealed that a sizeable number (45% of UK employees and business leaders) list “a great culture” as a primary consideration when job hunting. The remaining factors, including salary, don’t rank anywhere near as highly. 31% see salary as a primary factor and just 28% list how interesting the work is. Even lower down the list is Flexible working location (27%) and opportunities for career advancement (27%). These other factors are important, but not up there with workplace culture.

It’s clearly the culture of a workplace that is attractive and holds allure, enticing a candidate to take the job.

The data is robust, coming from more than 400 UK organisations and questioning employees as well as business leaders and HR teams.

What is your workplace culture?

The difficulty is that ‘workplace culture’ is much less tangible than a quantitative measure such as salary. So, what exactly is your workplace culture in real terms, and why does it matter so much to candidates?

The easiest way to understand workplace culture is to imagine it as the character of your business. It’s the summary of your business values translated into the environment that your employees work in. It permeates the attitudes between leadership and employees, but also between colleagues. It shapes behaviour.

There are a number of characteristics of a positive and attractive workplace culture, including:

  • Equity

Each individual is valued and, as such, resentment doesn’t build. Employees are judged fairly for their work.

  • Recognition   

Employee’s achievements are recognised and rewarded, encouraging them to strive further in line with organisational goals.

  • Voice

Employees in a positive work culture know that their opinion matters and is both respected and listened to. Everyone contributes to the whole.

  • Policies

Workplace policies are fair, comprehensive and in line with company ethics and values.

  • Communication

Communication with employees is clear and collaborative. Feedback is sought and acted on effectively.

Why is workplace culture so important?

The most productive and positive workplace cultures make their people feel valued and important. These people end up feeling their work is meaningful, even if the task at hand is sometimes hard to define as such. That’s really powerful.

A positive workplace culture is important for many reasons, but the overriding one is that it is the overall culture, and how this plays out day by day, that makes for a great holistic employee experience. It’s what makes people enjoy their jobs. And employees that enjoy their workplace and their job are committed, engaged and motivated employees. You have lower staff turnover – an important factor in the current climate.

While the scales are slowly tipping, we remain very firmly in a candidate-friendly market. With low unemployment and record high numbers of job vacancies, candidates can take their pick when it comes to looking for a new job. Employers have to work hard to attract the best candidates.

A good workplace culture is also important for employee wellbeing. Another finding of the State of Employee Engagement Report is that employee wellbeing “remains high on the agenda” for businesses. Your talent is the bedrock of the organisation, so ensuring high levels of wellbeing is important.

Furthermore, data consistently reveals that a positive working culture underpins productivity. Put simply, a positive culture motivates employees to work harder and better. Added to this, employees in an open and collaborative workplace culture will more easily take accountability and learn from their mistakes.

Lastly, an excellent work culture is essential for your organisation’s reputation. Customers and clients care about your ethics and values and this extends to how you treat your employees.

How can you improve your workplace culture?

The good news is that workplace culture isn’t fixed and it can be improved over time. There are some core elements of business practice that need your attention:

  • Leadership

An organisation’s culture springs from leadership. Leaders should emulate and create the culture they want to see e.g. clear, collaborative communication and a shift away from blame and shame.

  • Workplace policies

Businesses should constantly evolve and improve workplace policies. Policies are how employees see the culture of an organisation in its most tangible form.

  • People and recruitment

People should be rewarded for embodying the culture you want to see within the workplace. Likewise, candidates for vacancies should be chosen for their suitability for the workplace culture. Remember, technical skills can often be taught whereas the right personalities and soft skills are harder to shape!

  • Communication

Especially in a world of hybrid working, communication needs time and attention. It should be easy for employees to communicate with leaders and with each other. Sharing opinions should be the norm.

As leaders, it’s vital to cultivate relationships in the workplace. You need clear, transparent and comprehensive policies rooted in fairness and trust. Employees should be rewarded, and understand why and how recognition is given. The workplace should feel comfortable, welcoming and fair. They should feel they matter as individuals.

At the core of improving your workplace culture is hiring the right employees, and especially senior executives. Competency and skills are important, but behaviours, values and beliefs are perhaps more so.

Executive recruitment that inspires and leads

At First Executive Recruitment, we recognise the high importance of developing a profitable and productive workplace culture from the right executive team. We know that it is leadership that is the cornerstone of culture.

Let us help you find the best fit candidates for your executive roles so that your business can succeed through its culture, and also attract the best talent going forwards. Get in touch.

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