Toot Your Culture Horn — But Don’t Lay on It

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When leaders ask me why and how a “cohesion culture” is important to talent acquisition and retention, I refer to the advice my Grandma Goldie once told me: “If you don’t honk your own horn, don’t expect someone else to do it for you. Just don’t lay on it.”

This sage advice is a perfect reminder that it is appropriate and acceptable to tell people about what we do and why it is special. However, the cautionary reminder at the end of Grandma Goldie’s advice gives crucial context: “Just don’t lay on it.”

Before you get to touting why candidates should want to join your company, let’s examine what it means when an organization creates a cohesion culture, which I define as a culture in which people feel a sense of belonging, have value, and commit to the organization’s goals because the organization has committed to them. As you might have inferred, this ideal work environment needs three key elements: belonging, value, and commitment.

When it comes to tooting your own horn, tell folks what is special about your organization and do it with zeal — but be sure it is authentic and genuine. Otherwise, you’ll just be making noise. The better approach is a subtle honk or two that cuts through the clamor in the recruitment space.

Although my expertise is in speaking and consulting on talent retention, I understand the need for talent acquisition teams to outline and communicate the cultural values, stories, traditions, and customs of an organization. Recruiters toot the horn of the organization, and if it’s a well-calculated honk, it can turn the head of a prospect and give great insight into what’s happening within the four walls of the organization.

Honking Gets Attention

Employees want a truthful glimpse inside the organization, not promotional hype full of catchphrases and exaggerated promises. Your candidates don’t want to guess what it will be like when they start working for you. Instead, they want the story — the real story.

Today’s workforce wants to know: Will I fit in? How will I be treated? Do I have an opportunity to contribute? What does advancement look like? These are more than just the inquiries of curious candidates. As I explain in my book, Cohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent, the answers to these questions form the basis of an organization’s culture.

According to an Accountemps survey, 64 percent of employees are likely searching for a new role while working at your organization. That is why a cohesion culture is so important: It doesn’t just bring employees in, but it also makes them want to stay once they get there.

If you want to be an outstanding place to work, then focus on employees first. The natural byproduct of employee development is a commitment to one’s self and the organization. People seek to have meaningful relationships and want to be needed. They want to be valued and respected, and they truly want to achieve. Candidates are drawn to cultures that put their needs first, and employees are more likely to succeed in environments where their individual development is tired to desired organizational outcomes.

Organizations that fail to build cultures to retain employees never receive a “best place to work” designation. The work my team and I have done at the South Carolina Federal Credit Union to create an organization that has been repeatedly designated as a best place to work is proof of that claim; our employees live in a culture they love.

For more expert recruiting insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

It’s Not Just Why You Honk, But How

To make sure that you are tooting your culture horn effectively, I offer these five practical tactical initiatives:

  1. Showcase what it’s like inside the four walls of your company by using social media. When you tell the story from the inside out, you receive two great benefits: employees enjoy telling others why they love where they work, and management keeps the juggernaut rolling because they got it right and everyone understands how to replicate the process.
  2. Utilize tenured employees as part of a personal endorsement program. Ask employees to provide an endorsement of what it’s like to work for your organization.
  3. Offer a “Come to Work Day” that invites candidates into your office for a personal inspection. Let the candidate select the day to demonstrate your commitment to transparency. This allows the candidate to see the work environment in true form. Note: This is not for every new hire. Use this option for hard-to-fill positions or to entice recruits for senior-level positions.
  4. In addition to placing ads on popular job sites, leverage online reviews through sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, etc. Both current and past employees should be encouraged to submit reviews. Note: If you feel your culture is not yet cohesive, delay this tactic until you’re sure about what you will get. You cannot hide bad reviews, nor should you.
  5. Make sure your leadership team is completely on board with how you promote the culture. This group can make it or break it once a new employee starts to come down from the honeymoon phase, so their input matters.

All in all, these tactical initiatives require 100 percent support from the top down. Otherwise, you are just honking your horn to hear it toot. For continued success, make sure what you are touting is truthful and authentic; you have complete senior leadership support; and the culture is one that everyone can live, breathe, and own.

I believe every employee who is recruited deserves to have the opportunity to be retained. When leadership builds a workplace that encourages people to belong, makes employees feel valued, and focuses on the needs of the employee first, then they can align employee success with organizational goals. All of that combined is the foundation of a cohesion culture.

Dr. Troy Hall is the chief strategy officer for South Carolina Federal Credit Union and the author ofCohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent .

By Dr. Troy Hall