Why Do Employers Care So Much About Culture?

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Corporate culture isn't just a euphemism; it has real meaning and financial consequences for organizations. According to Mark Feffer's article, "What Makes a Great Employer?: It takes conscious effort to build and maintain a workplace where every employee feels like a star," in SHRM's HR Magazine, "Employers with an engaged workforce turn in a better financial performance.Organizations on Fortune’s list realized annualized stock market returns of 11.8 percent between 1997 and 2003, according to Great Place to Work, compared with 6.04 percent for the S&P 500. Across industries, employers on the list saw lower turnover: 8 percent compared with an industry average of 16.2 percent in IT, for example, or 24.5 percent compared with an average 38 percent in hospitality."

So what are the hallmarks of great culture? It's more than just flashy, headline grabbing perks. Truly great corporate cultures are characterized by trust and engagement, up and down the employee hierarchy. Not only do trust and engagement create a more productive workforce, but they also create a more loyal workforce. 

My mid-level clients, for example, often start looking for other opportunities simply because they're no longer engaged at their firm or corporate legal department. They worry about stagnation and boredom. Or they're micromanaged on matters they where they should have near-autonomy.

Culture isn't just a matter of retaining existing employees, including lawyers. It's a key part of the hiring process that employers take very seriously. According the Feffer's article, "While great employers see their culture as a recruiting asset, they also take exceptional care when deciding which people to hire. They’re not simply looking for the most skilled candidates who’ll accept their salary offers. They want people who understand the company’s mission and values and who will actively contribute to making the culture work."

What does this mean to attorneys in career transition or looking at their career development? Even lawyers need to demonstrate that they're onboard with the prospective employer's mission and culture. That means you should review the legal resume you're submitting to be sure it resonates with each employer. And you should be prepared during interviews to discuss how you've advanced the mission and culture of your current employer, as well as how you might continue to do so with the prospective employer.

Read Mark Feffer's article, "What Makes a Great Employer?: It takes conscious effort to build and maintain a workplace where every employee feels like a star," in SHRM's HR Magazine.