CMO Impact
Achieving Personal & Career Success

Show Me the Culture!

June 02, 2015


What do we value most in a job today? Title, money, benefits? Yes, of course.

However, we are all living in a new economic reality where companies once thought to be untouchable are faltering, while new concepts take their place. Where secure jobs are disappearing while new jobs are being created. Where people are starting to take advantage of the sharing economy (UBER, AirBNB, Etsy) in order to have multiple income streams. Where company loyalty to their associates can diminish as strategies shift. And where having the largest house, the fastest car, and the most fashionable clothes matters less than having a balanced life, authentic experiences, and a sense of purpose.

Millennials may have reached this point sooner, out of economic necessity, and their exposure to advanced technology and communication tools from birth. But every day I see and hear of more X’ers and Boomers who are making life changing decisions – “right sizing” their homes to what they need, moving to locations not based on where they can make the most money, but where they can get the most enjoyment, and opting to step out of the “rat race” to take a chance with a new business venture, or to challenge themselves with a new opportunity.

So other than title, money, and benefits, what is increasingly important?


I remember reading an article a few years back that stated “If your company is trying to change the culture by posting its mission statement by the elevator, get out.” Of course that was right after we had designed the posters to place by the elevators. While the statement and our particular actions made me pause, I don’t think that placing signage where people can see it is necessarily a bad thing. I think the author was trying to emphasize that if your culture boils down to sound bites that sound good but are ultimately meaningless through the actions of leadership, don’t bother.

I took a business course a few years back with a member of the Ritz Carlton leadership team who spoke about having their credo, “Remember, we are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”, placed in key back of house areas to serve as a constant reminder. Stay at a Ritz Carlton and you most likely won’t see the sign, but you will appreciate the culture.  Words on a wall but backed up by actions, by everyone, every day.

The thought of a work/life balance being some sort of separation between your work and your life, and keeping them in a constant state of balance, is a fleeting thought for more and more. The idea of “sacrifice”, or taking a job that you might dislike in the short term, because you get paid well and can save for future enjoyment is something fewer people are willing to live with.   Instead, many search for work/life HARMONY, where companies hold and exhibit the values that we hold true. Where we can come into work happy, and leave satisfied, knowing that we have made a difference. Where we truly enjoy and support those that we work with and that is returned. That is the type of culture that more and more are seeking.


Show me the money.” Whether salary, stock options or equity, money has always been the most important aspect of any compensation package for most. I remember being told by a high-end luxury brand that low-balled an offer to me that “we don’t have to pay as much because it is an honor to work here.” Seems the local grocery stores didn’t give any discounts for working for “blah blah brand.” Yeah, money is important.

But the idea of “learning in your 30’s, earning in your 40’s, and impacting in your 50’s” is quickly becoming an outdated concept. More and more people want to do all three at once, willing to give up some financial compensation in exchange for the opportunity to learn and impact now. Flexible hours, time off, working conditions and even location (shared office space, working from home or coffee shops) are now increasingly important considerations. Titles are giving way to the ability for associates to work cross functionally and be exposed to different areas of the company, honing and building their skills. At any age.


The tenure of an average job has increased from 3.5 years in 2002 to 4.7 years in 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), but this trend is in large part being driven by the older generation that is still being offered pension benefits, or the many who feel “stuck” for one reason or another. The new reality is that strategies shift, functions and skills become obsolete while other jobs are so new that companies have to hire for aptitude and adaptability, not for experience.

This reality causes potential associates to openly question a company’s commitment to the department, the project, or function that they are being hired to do. It is often what makes freelance and juggling multiple projects attractive to certain individuals; ultimately they have a degree of protection should a company shift its priorities. Many no longer expect to retire with a company, but don’t want to be obsolete within the first few months.

Commitment is also crucially important when it comes to the investment that an organization is willing to make in an individual. I’ve seen those that I have advised/mentored take jobs for less money when they have felt that the company is personally vested in their growth.


What does a company give back, what is it’s PURPOSE. This isn’t simply a social responsibility report, a contribution to a charity at the end of the year, or a blurb in the mission statement that states “people matter.” It is how a company, its leadership, its stakeholders, and frankly everyone involved treat people, contribute to each other, and to the community at large.

Years ago, it may have been good enough to “do no harm” in the process of conducting a profitable business. Today, associates are demanding more and can immediately validate it through social media.

There is a very simple measure for this, beyond all of the social media, philanthropy, reports, and other metrics. Are associates proud to say who they work for? Are they proud of the work that they do and of the impact that their organization has. This is increasingly important than having “just a job.”

Millennials may have led the way, but all generations are shifting their priorities. Salary, title and benefits are still important, but are now being balanced with a desire to grow, to have a measurable impact, to be part of something special, and to be as happy and satisfied at work as you are at home. This trend challenges will challenge employers to step up their game in order to attract the best talent. And that is a powerful trend.

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