Posted On: March 15

For many, many businesses today the only competitive differentiator they truly have is the quality of the people that they can get, grow, and keep on their team… and the relationships they create with their customers.

Competitors can copy your products, beat you on price, match all of your distribution channels, spend more money on marketing and advertising, and outmaneuver you on social media. However, if you can attract, develop, and retain top talent and then get them insanely focused on taking great care of your customers… that is not something your competition can easily copy.

So, what attracts top talent to work in a company? I was interested to know this so I did a survey of more than 10,000 high potential employees at top companies around the world and they told me there were six things they look for from an ideal employer.

  • Fair Pay – which they defined as 10% above or below what they would make to do the same job at a different company.
  • Challenging Work – work that was engaging, meaningful, and matched their skill set.
  • Cool Colleagues – A-players only want to play on a team with other A-players.
  • Winning Culture – a place where people smile just as much when they come to work as when they leave.
  • Personal/Professional Growth – the chance to learn and improve every day, as well as seeing a place for themselves in the company 5 to 7 years in the future.
  • A Boss I Respect And Admire – which was actually one of the most important things they wanted!

If you think about it, all six of these factors are actually elements of a winning culture. If you want to bring top people in your company you’ve got to do these six things exceedingly well. On the flip side, the vast majority of people that leave a company exit because they hate their boss and are disengaged by the culture. I just listened to an interview with David Burkus talk about his new book Under New Management   (which I highly recommend) where he mentioned that only two employees out of 10 are fully engaged in their work. Think of the wasted time, money, resources, and opportunity. However, if you could engage another two or three people, you would likely create a company that would dominate the marketplace.

In both a positive and negative sense: CULTURE = CASH

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  1. Hi John,
    as usual great post. My favorite is Winning Culture. I prefer to work with people who are not waiting to finish.

  2. Great post John.
    #4 I’ll never forget the comments of an employee who left a competitor. When asked why he left his response was, “Every day after leaving work, I just felt like I needed a shower”. He was referring to their slimy business practices.
    Add #7, “Purpose” – This is a real differentiator for some people. Knowing that going into work each day they can make the world a better place. With IBM it’s “Smarter Planet”, with GE it’s Imagination, with Google it’s “Do no Evil”, etc. There’s a huge difference between selling for a chemical company producing chemicals that cause cancer, or selling for a pharma which produced drugs which cure cancer. Which one wants to make you hit the snooze button in the morning.

  3. A few suggestions to accomplish #4 is a) don’t micro-manage: you carefully selected the best person you could find when you hired them, let them loose and they’ll do a great job. Micro-management is a de-motivator. b) use people in their strengths: they will be happier, produce better results and last longer.

  4. A thought to underscore your point that Culture=Cash.. even small companies can build market share in a competitive space by proving an exceptional customer experience. That experience is built with exceptional players on your team.

    Just look at some of the iconic small businesses in our own community that launched long after bigger brands and are now packed day in and day out. This might be a local coffee shop, a pizzeria or pub. When we understand how to solve our customers pain points and build a culture centered around our customers, growth will follow.

    Thanks for highlighting the importance of great people. A great culture doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it takes great leaders willing to support that A team.

    1. Thanks for the great comments Kathleen, very happy you found value in the blog article. And you’re 100% on target – without top-quality people who are highly engaged is impossible to have happy customers.

  5. Totally on point John. I try to be that type of boss, whether work life or volunteer and create that type of culture! Thanks for the reminder.

  6. John, I love the fact that you did the survey. Your findings are invaluable – thank you for sharing them for free! Reminds me of a modern version of Jim Collins’ Good to Great. I can’t wait to share this.

    I have seen firsthand companies do great things because great culture and leadership. As someone in charge of hiring I have always seen the company culture has something sacred.

    On #6, I believe leaders are the pillars of corporate culture. I have heard it said that people do not leave companies, and leave managers. It seems as though leaders and managers are not always the same thing.

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