Blog

Why Culture Matters: The Key to Winning the War for Technology Talent

Jean Brittingham, Co-Founder and COO of New Legends Now.
July 06, 2017

Culture is a hot topic—from Fast Company and Huffington Post to the Seattle Times—the headline of the day is that Culture can help you win the war for talent. By most analysis, this can be the biggest differentiator between the companies that almost make it, and those that do. Preston Callicott, CEO of Five Talent in Bend, agrees - “a great culture is critical to the success of his company but admits that many companies struggle to understand how to create it.”

And, yes, in spite of all this press and focus, there isn’t a lot of agreement about what a great culture in a technology company is nor how to build one.  Some think it is the ability to extend the start-up culture as you grow while others feel that it resides in the heart of a charismatic leader who can inspire employees to extraordinary efforts in search of the breakthrough moment.

Companies interpret ‘culture’ to mean many things”, Callicot said. “Startups and tech companies have no secret sauce to culture. Some think by simply posting a set of platitudes from the C-level in the break-room, you’ve created culture while others believe by adding a pool table or the latest gaming console the culture box is checked.”

At New Legends, we describe culture simply as “the way we do things around here.” It is the combination of history, myths, and past interactions that combine to create the assumptions and beliefs that guide people’s behaviors, choices and commitment. People often have a hard time describing culture—but they can tell you if they like the culture of their company… or not.

Should you be paying attention to designing your company’s culture?

That may depend on your answers to a few key questions.

How important is it that your employees:

  • Understand your vision and how their work priorities contribute to the success of that vision?

  • Work effectively together, reach agreements on critical issues, and use the company’s core values to consistently guide behavior and decision-making throughout the organization?

  • Have the skills and abilities to contribute to the company’s success?

  • Are able to understand and respond to customer needs, are able to learn from failures and successes by sharing their learning, and are able to proactively improve the way they work?

We’re guessing you know these are very important for your organization’s success. For technology companies, where attracting and keeping top talent is critical to creating the strategic advantage you’re seeking, these core characteristics of a strong culture are even more important.  The more your employees can experience a clear and powerful culture, the more they can align with it and successfully execute on your strategy.

The great news is that culture can be understood and improved. The first step is to know where you are currently. While we use a powerful survey tool to establish a strong baseline for your culture that reveals strengths and areas for improvement, there is much to be learned by listening to what employees are saying in the break rooms and hallways because the culture lives in the conversation.

The following are real quotes from real employees:

 

Focus Area

Comments from a Strong Culture

Comments from a Weak Culture

Mission

Clarity &

Alignment

  • We have a clear Line-of-Sight.

  • The vision is inspiring.

  • We have the same vision, and are focused on what matters.

  • Focus on our goals is what makes the company reach high levels of achievement.

  • We’re flying blind.

  • We’re just firefighters.

  • We’re not sure what the future holds.

  • Uncertainty is the best word to describe working here.

Consistency & Coordination

  • My manager lives the core values!

  • We’re committed and aligned.

  • We solve problems and we move forward together.

  • Team members seek win-win situations.

  • We’re all stovepipes and silos.

  • Issues remain unresolved.

  • The end justifies the means.

  • Our leaders don’t walk the talk.

  • Internal competition is valued over cooperation.

Employee Involvement & Empowerment

  • We work as a single unit to achieve our daily goals.

  • I am using my skills and brain rather than being micro-managed.

  • We value highly capable people.  

  • The talent level here is very high.

  • We have trouble retaining our best talent.

  • This is a Compliance Culture.

  • Check your brain at the door.

  • Leaders believe they always know best.

Adaptability & Organizational Learning

  • Change is NOT a criticism of the past

  • Forgive and remember!

  • A customer mind-set permeates the organization.

  • Hiding mistakes is more detrimental than making them.

  • Fear is prevalent throughout the organization.

  • Change happens to us, not by us.

  • We can be arrogant…we don’t always listen to our customers.

  • Our philosophy is Naming - Blaming – Shaming.

 

Culture is knowable and it is dynamic. With intention, focus and commitment you can move a culture that is less than optimal, say one maybe by default, to one that is values based, aligned and attracting top talent who want to work with your company. Through designing your culture you begin to achieve higher performance, greater employee satisfaction and breakthrough results.

Culture may well be the best tool you have to attract, retain and energize top talent in the region for your company. If you agree with why it matters, what’s next?


Connect with Jean Brittingham, Co-Founder and COO of New Legends Now.