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Why vision and culture are vital in attracting the strongest candidates

Why vision and culture are vital in attracting the strongest candidates

The number of job vacancies in the UK recently rose to more than one million – for the first time since records began in 2001. In many sectors, it is a job seekers’ market, and companies face significant challenges in recruiting and retaining the best talent.

One simple strategy is to offer higher wages. We have heard recently about haulage firms dramatically increasing salaries and introducing signing-on bonuses as they try to grapple with the shortage of drivers. There have also been examples of city law firms paying trainees six figure sums from day one.

However, these are exceptional circumstances. It is not viable nor sustainable for most companies to compete purely based on wages. And money isn’t the key battleground it once was.

Salary is, of course, an important part of being valued. But, more and more, we’re seeing that what attracts candidates to a particular employer or role is a deeper, more meaningful connection.

Organisations with a bold, crystalised mission are frequently attracting the strongest applicants. People are increasingly selecting employment based on whether they share, and can connect with, an employer’s vision. Put simply, people want to make a difference.

My employer, Philip Morris Limited (the UK affiliate of Philp Morris International – PMI), has embarked on a bold corporate transformation.

The business started as a single shop on London’s Bond Street in 1847 and has sold tobacco and cigarettes for over 170 years. In 2016 we announced a new mission to go smoke-free, and a commitment to stop selling cigarettes completely.

PMI remains the only major tobacco company that has committed to phasing out cigarettes.

The company is aiming for more than half its global revenue to come from smoke free products by 2025 and we believe that with the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society, cigarette sales can end within 10 to 15 years in many countries, including the UK.

Clear mission

Any company, no matter how big or small, will benefit from having a clear mission and set of corporate values.

On the one hand, this will form the basis for decision making. But more than that, it also allows you to stand out from your rivals in a crowded market.

These days, T&Cs are frequently indistinguishable from one employer to the next, and candidates are looking for something more meaningful than duvet days or an office bar. The message “Join us and make a difference,” is vital and compelling. When someone really buys-into what the company stands for, they form a bond.

Having such a vision at the heart of everything we do has had a huge impact on our people and our culture.

Philip Morris was traditionally a company that built its talent from within. However, to achieve our smoke-free vision, we needed to bring in new skills and hire people from outside our traditional functions of ‘make, move and sell’.

Initially, many of our new hires were in science and engineering – working on new product development – which was then beyond our core skillset. More recently, we’ve been concentrating on digital, as we build direct relationships with our customers and focus on the consumer experience.

Talent pipeline

Another significant area – particularly in the UK – has been building our own talent pipeline through our successful graduate scheme, and we also have an apprenticeship programme launching shortly.

Those changes have produced other benefits. Hiring so much new talent has proved an opportunity to build an increasingly inclusive and diverse culture, which better-reflects our consumers. It also spurred the creation of our Employee Resource Groups covering LGBTQ+ and race and ethnicity.

The response from across the business has been phenomenal – both domestically, but also globally, with these groups since being replicated in our other markets.

As is the case for many workplaces, the last 18 months further accelerated positive changes that were already under consideration.

At PMI we have now switched to ‘smart work’. The office will be open five days a week, but our people are only required to attend a minimum of two days, depending on operational requirements, which are agreed with line managers.

This offers a high degree of flexibility, which our people value. We need to maintain those personal connections, to support teamwork and for our development. But we also recognise that there is no single working model anymore. The more we can balance the needs of the organisation with those of individuals, the better it is for our business – and our people.

Employee wellbeing

We have also emerged from this challenging period with a greater emphasis on employee wellbeing and retention.

Like many other organisations, the stresses and strains of the past couple of years have taken their toll. Some people were cut off from their social groups and families, others felt overwhelmed trying to balance parental or carer responsibilities with work.

We supported our staff, giving them the skills and tools to self-manage their workload. We also supported mindfulness and mental health – with open forums for those who felt comfortable sharing their experiences proving a particularly powerful tool.

This has been met by a positive response internally, but we’re mindful that this is an area where continual appraisal and improvement is critical.

It has never been more important to have a clear focus on what your company values are. Every single one of us wants to get up in the morning and feel good about going to work. I do not believe that can be satisfied by salary alone.

We all benefit when there is a deeper connection to our jobs and our organisation. Understanding that is the key to successful recruitment.

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