by Yenni Benze-Mantwill

Recently, top recruiter and executive coach Yenni Benze-Mantwill joined Think Beyond as an Impact Partner. In one of our first talks, we asked her: Yenni, from your vast experience: What is it that makes company culture so important, so special? What makes a good company culture? And how is all that linked with the much-quoted war for talents out there?
This is her answer. Enjoy!

people's hands on top of one another as a symbol of working together as a unit

What to offer top talents today?

The war for talent is getting tougher, which makes retaining and winning qualified employees more challenging than ever before. Obviously, well established, positive company culture, will more likely retain employees and attract new people. When headhunting one of those talents, it is not enough to offer them just a more attractive salary.  

So, what can you offer them in addition?   

In my experience, the answer is very often about possibilities to take decisions and make an impact. They are interested in how they can grow personally and professionally. Is there a fit between the company’s culture and its value system? What does the company stand for?   

We noticed that people who are in a company culture with rigid structures and processes with less freedom to decide and act – are open to alternatives where they can make a difference. Nowadays a paycheck is not enough, but perspectives to develop and grow are an important selection criterion for potential new employees. 

“Good company culture” is not universal

Company culture, as I perceived it in companies I’m working for, is the way a specific value system is lived by its employees. It acts as an orientation for decision-making and acting, but also for rewarding specific behaviour.

Having that said, good company culture is not the same for everyone. I think this is the challenging part for the companies as well as candidates trying to find a perfect cultural match.

There are cultures which focus more on power play and status rather than results and authenticity, where there is no need to “sell or promote” your achievements. If your personality corresponds to that, you will likely fit in there. But are other kinds of a culture where communication is based on fact and honesty, employees are seen as the key drivers of the company´s success.

It depends on what you are looking for. I always describe it this way: If you are like an orchid, you will need a particular ground to thrive on. And if you are a rose, you will need a totally different ground.

Company culture in public mirrors

I believe that by presenting the positive and unique company cultures of our clients to potential candidates, we often succeed in creating curiosity and interest.

Companies have a reputation on the market. So, I think culture is something that is lived every day by each single team member and the leadership team, especially. There are some clues, like a low fluctuation rate or a high Net Promoter Score. Happy employees also share their positive stories and recommend their employer. This way, they act as ambassadors for their companies. HR can use this as part of the employer’s branding to attract new employees.

The characteristics of good company culture have certainly changed. 20 years ago, a company was seen as good when it offered an attractive salary and job security. Today, it is not enough to have food on your table. It is much more what people seek, like “Am I in the right place? Do I feel appreciated? Do I fit in?”

Company culture as selection criterion

When talking to candidates I always act as an ambassador representing my clients and their mission. An important message is the description of the culture of this company. And the culture is always shaped by its leaders.

For me personally, a culture of power play and hierarchies is contrary to the company I would love to work for. When I, however, talk about a company whose values I share I am authentic. This is what candidates feel and hear. They say, “You sound enthusiastic. Oh, you really believe in what you are saying”, because that makes a big difference. People would notice, if you are only a storyteller or if you really believe in your messages.

What I also learned is that the value system is always defined by the leadership team. It is something that happens top-down actually. Some clients put a strong focus on their value system and the fit with potential candidates. So, they even asked us to tell candidates exactly what their value system is because “this is important to us. We live by that.” For this company, the cultural fit is a crucial selection criterion.

So, how to shape your culture for top talent attraction?

How can we influence our culture? How can we shape it the way we think is beneficial for us? Questions like these occupy leaders and boards everywhere.

One of my answers is: Reflect! If you want to change your company culture in a way that is even more beneficial for you, I would first encourage you to think about your most important values. About the way, you act within your own family, with your friends. And to start from there. How can we support the values we want in daily work? How can we encourage specific behaviours? Furthermore, the leaders – and especially the CEO of a company – will always define what kind of performance will be rewarded. HR then enhances those values throughout the whole company by selecting the right employees.

Another answer is communication. What always influences company culture is the way people communicate. The way you and your people communicate is always a good start to put your spotlight on. For top talent attraction – and overall.

What do you think? Which experience have you made with company culture? Share a comment below or get in touch with Yenni for a virtual coffee talk.

For more than 25 years, Yenni has been a passionate consultant in executive search and strategy consultancy. In her roles, she has worked with leaders as trusted advisor and coach in finding success, satisfaction, and meaning in their professional and personal development.

Dealing with challenges? Working towards sustainable results? Longing for a new direction? With her solution-focused coaching approach, she supports leaders and teams in finding the best solutions in the shortest time: To make use of their resources, adapt to constant changes flexibly, and achieve results with lightness and power. Her passion is to bring out the greatness of others in a surprisingly refreshing way, with superior ease and sustainable impact.

Born in Vietnam, and growing up in Austria she deeply understands Western and Asian culture. She is based in Vienna, Singapore, and Ho-Chi-Minh City.

Yenni Benze-Mantwill, YBM Partners