By Steve Carter, co-founder of Candidate.Guru.

Today's competition for talent is stiff, allowing people to be more selective about which company they want to join. Some companies have highly competitive salaries and benefits packages, but they fail to keep good talent over the long term. If they can't keep talent, they are losing their biggest competitive advantage.

If you step back and think about why people might want to work for your company, it most likely involves the organization's reputation as a workplace. Think of your company as an organism that lives and breathes. It's continuously being influenced by all of its employees and it is only as strong as its culture. Someone in an executive position must bring awareness of the company culture to senior leadership and ensure that this remains a top priority.

Taking Action

If you try to improve your company's organizational culture single-handedly, there's only so much you can do. To make any long-lasting changes and positively influence your recruitment efforts, you will need support at every level of the company.

That being said, making the effort to improve the company culture will positively affect your employment brand. Here's what you can do to begin strengthening your culture so candidates will want to join the company:

1. Go back to the drawing board and ensure that you have a shared mission and values.

This is the direction that the company is headed in and the values that will reinforce it on a daily basis. People who work in the company must be positive, proactive and supportive of the mission. They must be committed to upholding the values.

If you have some employees or cliques within the company who work against the mission and do not support the values, the culture is weak. New employees will come aboard and quickly sense any problems within the organizational culture. If there are negative employees in positions of influence, they will not feel supported.

2. Talk to employees through formal and informal conversations.

Ask what's right and what's wrong with the organizational culture. Conduct a survey and give workers a chance to confidentially identify any problems within the culture. This is important because people won't support cultural changes (whether positive or negative) if they don't think that the senior leadership will listen.

For example, you can sit down with executive leadership and make a new mission and values, but employees at all levels won't have any reason to identify with these if they weren't involved in the development process. Employees must be able to give input into what's working and what's not working and to decide which problems to tackle first.

3. Design an initiative to improve your culture.

Once you've listened to the problems, senior leadership should work with representatives from all departments to create a plan for change. Many change management plans fail because they target problems that are too large or that lack widespread support.

For example, an organization might adopt a new performance management system including rewards and consequences, but it might not change how managers treat direct reports or evaluate their work.

4. Give the initiative a chance.

Once you begin to implement this new initiative, you're going to feel people sitting back and waiting to see if their workplace climate improves as a result. This means that people have to feel that management is committed to achieving results. Only when you can change cultural conditions (even by targeting one condition at a time) can you measure if employees are more satisfied with the culture as a result.

As you work to improve the culture through change programs, don't forget to hold employees and managers accountable. They must be expected to behave in ways that fit the new mission and values so that your organization will realize its behavioral outcomes and keep the improved culture in place. Without accountability, it will be too easy for some employees to reinforce the status quo, which would undermine any changes introduced.

When you have people working together to build a better culture, you'll be using your human assets more effectively, which should lead to attracting better talent. People want to work for companies with strong cultures. If your culture delivers, they will stay for longer periods of time.

Steve Carter is the co-founder of Candidate.Guru, an HR tech startup that recently acquired Elevated Careers from prominent dating site eHarmony.

Published on: Oct 25, 2017