I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago who told me that he had just turned down a job offer.

“I received an offer that would have added €20,000 to my annual income, but I declined it because the interviewer asked me questions that made me feel like my life as a family man could be a problem in this job,” he said.

€20,000/annum. That’s a steep price to pay for a cultural match, but it’s becoming increasingly important to employees to work at a place where they feel that they fit in with the culture.

I’m not advocating using your culture as a replacement for paying your employees a fair wage – far from it, I just want to show that even in an economy in which everyone is feeling a financial pinch, people still choose with their hearts over their wallets.

And if an employee will choose to lose €20,000/annum of his own money to work at a company that’s a better cultural fit, how do you think he’ll react when he’s making business decisions?

Chances are that they’ll react in a pretty similar fashion. They’ll choose to work with clients and suppliers who match their values and their vision of what a culture should be like.

So, how can we take this knowledge and turn it into a competitive advantage for our businesses?

First of all we should identify, articulate and permeate an internal culture that matches our personal goals. There’s no right or wrong here. Heck, Amazon has a horrible record of treating employees like garbage and is one of the most valuable companies in the world:

““Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”” (Source: New York Times, behind paywall)

Some people will choose to prioritise earnings over family life, others will not even consider a company that does not offer them the flexibility to work hours that match their kids’ schedules better.

Some companies are all in favour of remote working. Others hated the idea and went back to working from the office as soon as the opportunity arose. Others still chose hybrid models.

So, what should you do?

The only real way that you can go wrong with your culture is to leave it to chance.

As long as you choose your culture deliberately, you can nurture it. And if you nurture the culture that you want for your organisation, you can use it as a competitive advantage.

You can use it to hire and retain better people. You can use it to outperform your competition and to win over new clients that you’d love working with. You can benefit from increased valuation.

Take the bull by the horns. If you don’t have your values and your culture defined explicitly, then you should prioritise this and work on it without delay, no matter whether you do it alone or with professionals in the field.

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