As unemployment rates in our region continue to be incredibly low, the pinch for qualified talent at all levels persists as a plague on West Michigan businesses. The smart companies have turned toward aggressive recruitment strategies to expose more area workers to their employment brand, and the smartest companies are aggressively fixing the employment experience as a whole – and that’s the difference.

As a brand and storytelling firm, we’ve had the unique opportunity to closely examine the corporate culture of dozens of businesses from our region, which reveals an unsurprising insight. The companies that are doing the best to attract and retain talent are working on their employment experience and telling the story, not just telling the story of an aspirational experience.

As far as messages go, most companies are saying the same exact things:

  • “Oh, we have the best culture”
  • “You can grow here personally and professionally”
  • “You’ll just love the people here. Our people are great.”
  • “This place provides an exciting and challenging career.”
  • And the classic “We have great pay and unbeatable benefits.”

Sound familiar? The problem is that most of these things, save culture, are true about most of the companies in our region. We live in an awesome town with largely ethical employers who care about people and care about the community! That used to be enough, but it isn’t anymore. The best talent across all generations (millennials aren’t special, so you can forget that cliche) are looking for something more. And lookout! They’re finding it.

A new kind of culture wars

If you’re not familiar with the leading innovators from Holland/Zeeland on the culture scene, it’s time to look them up, because these businesses will soon be eating your lunch. And by eating your lunch, I mean beating you every time in competing for the best talent. To name a few, we’ve seen revolutionary approaches from companies like Disher Design, Elzinga & Volkers, and Worksighted. Businesses like these have figured out the secret sauce that an employee-centric management style actually yields happier customers and explosive growth.

And what’s great is that all three of those companies are evangelists for sharing exactly how they’re doing it! For these businesses, their internal culture has become an external marketing message, which is having a tremendous impact on both sales and continued recruitment.

Well what about manufacturers?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in looking at all these West Michigan businesses, it’s that you don’t need a ping pong table for people to love working with you. What’s most important is authenticity. Does the experience on the inside match the marketing hype on the outside? Here are a few of the hard questions any business should be able to answer for employees at any level:

  • Do you really want to help me grow? Do all your line supervisors share that sentiment?
  • Will you take care of me and my family if one of us gets sick?
  • Will you value my deepest internal longings to contribute to the world in a meaningful way?
  • Will you see past my weaknesses and capitalize on my strengths?
  • Will you weed out the obviously toxic people in your company even if they’re important to meeting your profit goals?

The businesses that can honestly answer yes to all the above are the ones who will win the corporate culture wars.

About the Author

Vince Boileau

Vince joined Boileau Communications in 2012 after working three years as an editor for a Holland-based Christian media producer. Since then he’s grown as a visual storyteller and also as a strategic communications specialist. Vince’s thoughtful approach to planning and boundless curiosity for new stories have made him an important asset to our team. A member of the millennial generation with a reverence to old school wisdom, he bridges an important gap, adapting language to suit multiple audiences with effectiveness and authenticity. Vince earned his bachelors in communications from Grand Valley State University in 2008. In his free time, he enjoys strumming any instrument with strings, playing nerdy board games and doubling as a jungle gym for his three kids.

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