Experts say a company's corporate culture is an important attribute for businesses looking to attract and retain top talent.
Experts say a corporate culture that is transparent and honest are important characteristics in attracting and retaining top talent. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Carrick)

PITTSBURGH – Defining your company’s culture, then hiring individuals who share the same values is a key to winning the talent war.

Nearly just as important are operational transparency, two-way communication between management and staff, and managerial honesty and integrity. Together, these factors drive the recruitment and retainment of top talent, according to hiring experts.

Those were the central themes during a panel discussion designed to provide pointers to technology companies looking for an edge in securing and keeping the best employees. The discussion was hosted by Pittsburgh Technology Council, a Team Pennsylvania Foundation investor.

Kristin Chericho, Manager of Recruiting, American Eagle Outfitters, said companies and the prospective employee have to ask whether or not a candidate is a good fit with that company’s culture.

“We might love a person, but do they really want to be here? Is this really the right culture for them?” Chericho said. “It is important to have skill sets, but you can train skills. You can’t train culture.”

Panel moderator Sharon Boslet, Consultant, Towers Watson Organizational Surveys and Insights, said culture matters, but can be hard to define.

“Culture can by fuzzy, it can be hard to get your arms around,” Boslet said. “Simply put, organizational culture is the ‘way things get done around here’.”

Boslet added that culture is designed by an organization’s beliefs and value system.

“Beliefs and values represent the collective ideas and preferences about how the organization should function,” Boslet told the audience. “For example, do we agree that customer requests take priority over internal projects?”

The companies with the best work cultures embrace communications as a centerpiece of their daily work activities.

Elisha Ashwood, CEO, Truly Accomplished, said cultural transparency makes it easy for prospective employees to learn about a company’s value system.

“The more transparent you can be about what your culture delivers, the faster they are going to find you,” Ashwood said. “You make it transparent by saying this is how we evaluate our success. There is a new minimum for socially conscious companies to pay attention to the triple bottom line: What are our profits? How are our people doing? How are we contributing to society?

“That’s a very transparent way of saying, ‘What matters here and what is rewarded here is different than what is rewarded down the street. If you value these things, you will like it here because these things are important to us,” Ashwood added.

Christine Dimeling, Business Analysis Manager, IT, Mylan, Inc., said her company underwent a dramatic cultural shift when it went from 20 staff members to 80 in one year.

“We created open spaces, which leads to collaboration,” Dimeling said. “What really helps us attract talent is communication, innovation and collaboration.”

Branding Brand, an internet marketing company located on Pittsburgh’s South Side, has more than tripled the number of its employees, from 60 to nearly 200 over the past two years, thanks, in part, to the “rules” that govern the workplace.

“The first is to say hello and goodbye every morning; we’re very team-oriented and we want people to feel they are part of the group and we want them to interact,” said Rachel Harde, Recruiter, Branding Brand. “Second, pet a dog. We still have dogs in the office – even with 200 people. We have created an environment where people can come as they are, feel comfortable, and feel this is their second home. The other is to learn something new about your job every day. We have a strong commitment to learning and development.”

It was noted that there has been a shift from hiring based on a person’s skill sets to seeking individuals who hold similar cultural beliefs and values, and that workers want to truly integrate and excel in their work and personal lives.

“There is so much more advocacy for their work and personal life and to have the ability to do both well at the same time,” Ashwood said. “And that’s a trend that is going to continue. Whether a Millennial or a person closer to retirement, workers are moving away from their organizational life being all-consuming to wanting to be able to do both well.

Good things happen, Ashwood said, when an individual has access to both of these dynamics.

“People will stay in an environment where they feel they are rocking it – both personally and professionally,” Ashwood added. “If they feel they can’t do well at both of those things, they will leave you, their city, their relationship or whatever. In all the professional publications you read it’s all about engagement, work environment and retention – and I think that is a great thing.”