Talent-Leadership-Culture (TLC) Ep. 3: Culture Counts

ATC is proud to partner with Cendea to present the series, “Talent-Leadership-Culture (TLC)”. This blog series addresses the questions and gives insight to the art of finding the RIGHT tech leader to hire at the director level and above. Thank you to our experts for sharing their knowledge with the tech community.

Research shows that consciously managing and protecting your company’s culture has a significant impact on their revenue and profits.  Let’s examine this closer and at the same time, let’s listen and lean heavily on what some of the key industry voices have to say.

What is culture?

Culture can be defined many different ways using lots of different words.  I love the simplification of the following description – Culture describes “the way things work around here.1  Peel away everything else and that is the essence of culture – how it works here.  It is not exactly the same at two companies even if they are building the same mousetrap.  The people make it what it is.

That Deloitte research continues with “Specifically, it includes the values, beliefs, behaviors, artifacts, and reward systems that influence people’s behavior on a day-to-day basis.  It is driven by top leadership and becomes deeply embedded in the company through a myriad of processes, reward systems, and behaviors. Culture includes all the behaviors that may or may not improve business performance.  Today, culture is a CEO-level issue and something that can be measured and improved to drive strategy.1

Where does culture fit in?

Culture used to be HR’s issue to make happen and deal with.  The CEO had the “bigger fish to fry” mentality and often lived in their own world.  That no longer works today. As stated above, it is a CEO-level issue and no longer can be ignored.

Harvard Business Review’s article “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture” indicates that “Strategy and culture are among the primary levers at top leaders’ disposal in their never-ending quest to maintain organizational viability and effectiveness.  Strategy offers a formal logic for the company’s goals and orients people around them. Culture expresses goals through values and beliefs and guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms.2

Although there are lots of different strategies leaders can take, strategy itself is more tangible and defined and thus leaders feel more comfortable focusing there.  The HBR article continues with “culture, however, is a more elusive lever, because much of it is anchored in unspoken behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns.2

How does culture affect employees?

The impact, positive or negative, is across the board.  Since we want success, let’s look from the positive vantage point.

A Forbes article “8 Ways Your Company Culture Directly Impacts Your Bottom Line” indicates that these “include Lower Employee Absenteeism, Less Costly Turnover, Less Management Required, Environment and Morale, Commitments to Improvement, and Improved Health.  Each of these obviously increase corporate ROI.3

Furthermore, Barrett Values Centre states that “Values stand at the very core of human decisionmaking.  When we work in an organization whose culture aligns with our personal values, we feel liberated.  We are able to bring our full selves to work. We not only bring our energy, our creativity, and our enthusiasm, we also bring our commitment to the wellbeing of our associates and the success of the organization.  Unleashing this energy is tantamount to liberating the corporate soul.4

Think about it – why do you attend a particular school or church … and why do you stay or leave?  Why do you hang around a particular group of friends?

We want to belong.  We all want to feel comfortable and fit in.  It makes things better and more enjoyable. We thrive there!

What does that have to do with Hiring and Retention?

Hiring processes that don’t adequately look deeply at culture and chemistry can severely hinder the new hire’s ability to fit in and work well with their peer organizations.  This can reduce the overall ROI by creating morale issues, which in turn can cause people to leave. Obviously if the new hire doesn’t feel comfortable and leaves then you made a bad hire – even if it is best that they leave.  However, other key employees (typically peer level and below) that you can’t afford to lose become receptive to opportunities they’ve previously ignored.  They are frustrated with this “misfit” hire and dissatisfaction creeps into your culture.

This is a loss of critical talent and has major financial ramifications.  Mercer has estimated that the overall loss of a single executive to be more than $500K or 2.5 times an executive’s salary.


Culture clearly affects ROI and thus has become a critical business issue that must be addressed, not ignored.  You want to maximize the ROI on every hire, but there is an exponential impact as you go up the ladder – becoming very critical at the Director level and above.  These are the people setting the strategies, plans and direction for teams, departments and the entire company.

Whether you use external or internal recruiters, make sure that you first understand your culture, then make sure that your process looks deeply at the candidate’s fit to your culture and chemistry.  When you’re looking at half a million dollar mistakes at the Director level and above, that’s totally unacceptable and also clearly affects your bottom line as well.

Culture Counts!

Cendea is in its 25th  year of securing great talent for great opportunities.  Please feel free to call us at 512.219.6000. Wade Allen, President & CEO, x101, or Jim Bledsoe, Senior Partner, x121.

1 https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2016/impact-of-culture-on-business-strategy.html

2 https://hbr.org/2018/01/the-culture-factor

3 https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2017/11/21/8-ways-your-company-culture-directly-impacts-your-bottom-line/#5e4a710c67f0

4 https://www.valuescentre.com/wp-content/uploads/PDF_Resources/Additional_Articles/Article_Importance_of_Values.pdf