Does a Great Company Culture Really Attract Top Talent?

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For the most part, the workplace of today is not your father’s office. Many companies have replaced cubicles with open space. Fluorescent lights have been retired in favor of natural light. And offices with stocked kitchens and ping pong tables aren’t rare anymore.

Companies provide these perks as part of their organizational culture. People do their best work when they’re comfortable and happy and modern companies define values that promote a positive workplace. The idea is that work doesn’t have to be a drag and employers can provide an atmosphere that is fun and productive.

So why do businesses spend extra money to make work all cushy? The payoff comes through hiring and employee retention. The most talented candidates on the market will naturally want to work for coolest company in town. And once they’ve experienced the vibrant, lively workplace, they won’t ever leave.

Why culture matters

Some companies have little to no trouble hiring and don’t go out of the way to create a great culture. They might still define values or write a mission statement but don’t provide the office frills mentioned above. There’s no reason to since they’ll always have capable employees to carry out their operations.

But companies in competitive areas or industries need to go the extra mile to encourage a great candidate to choose their company over another opportunity. For example, technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City hiring quality developers or experienced executives need to provide every amenity they can to attract the best candidates. It has got to the point where espresso machines and art murals are no longer original ideas. Companies are now trying to one up each other with off-the-wall perks, like putting greens, slides and the fanciest furniture you can imagine.

On second thought

The prevailing wisdom among recruiters and hiring managers is people want to work for the hippest companies. Now let’s play devil’s advocate.

A person who makes a major career decision based on office amenities isn’t actually a great candidate. They very well may be great at what they do but it doesn’t mean they’ll translate into a solid employee for your particular company.  

A great candidate (and a great potential employee) should be excited by what your company does, not what it offers. They should want to work in your industry and for your company leaders. They should hope to grow and advance their career with your company. An ideal employee wakes up in the morning excited for the work day ahead – not the catered lunch or office ping-pong tournament.    

Culture is important but it isn’t everything

We’re not saying companies should revert to bland offices and undefined cultures. We’re instead making the argument employers should temper their expectations when using perks as a way to attract talent.

In major cities or other areas where hiring is competitive, cool offices have become table stakes. It’s now to the point where companies are coming up with crazy new ideas, all in the name of having the most unique culture. But does it really pay for itself with the talent it attracts?

Perks matter but they’re only part of the equation. No one wants to go work in an uncomfortable environment that is too serious. But at the same time, most people – especially talented people with employment options – don’t want to do work they’re not passionate about.

Create a great culture that makes the best candidates available want to work for your company. But be sure to thoroughly interview them so you can ensure they’re motivated to grow with your company.