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Three Tips for Ensuring Culture Really Is Your Competitive Advantage

It’s often said that corporate culture is the one thing about an organization that cannot be copied – the special something that, all else being equal, makes your company truly unique. It’s your competitive advantage.  But how do you know when your culture is working hard to drive performance (organizationally and with your team members), and when it’s starting to fall down on the job?

Here are three tips for how you can ensure you’re leveraging your culture to its full advantage.

  1. Really understand your current culture (assess)
    The best way to get a handle on your culture – your real culture, not the culture you think you have or the culture you hope you have – is through a culture and/or engagement survey. A good cultural assessment will include both qualitative and quantitative questions, allowing you to understand the behaviours that are key to your culture as well as how people feel about the organization, the leaders, etc. If you’re not already doing annual surveys, backed up by regular pulse surveys to determine your progress against key goals, you’re missing a big opportunity.
  2. Have a clear picture of what your culture would need to look like in order to achieve your goals (craft)
    Once you know where your culture is at, you need to ask yourself: is this what and where we want to be, or do we want to be something different? Visioning – or curating culture – isn’t about the “how”. It’s about dreaming big; sitting down and seriously considering what the best version of your culture would be. How do you want the organization to look? How do you want people to feel about your organization? Will the values be any different in the future? What words would you use to define your culture? What are the key behaviours of your top performers? If you can’t see where you want to be, you can’t make a plan to get there.
  3. Have a roadmap for getting from “now” to “when” (plan)
    Sometimes your reality and your vision will match up perfectly; sometimes you’ll have some work to do to get you from Point A to Point B. But clearly understanding where you want to go means you can map out a plan to get there.

Assessing your current culture, crafting a vision for your ideal culture, and planning your route from Point A to Point B are three key steps to ensuring your culture is really your competitive advantage. They’re also the first three hubs in Waterstone’s Culturepreneur Operating System  – a facilitated process that walks leaders through a simple, proven, and measured process to drive performance through culture transformation.

Whichever process you choose, assessing, crafting and planning your culture are three key ingredients for making sure culture truly is your competitive advantage.

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Why Organizations Today Need Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords. They’re part of a more meaningful approach to talent management that is rooted in social awareness and responsibility. According to Forbes, today’s organizations should understand that diversity is more than just ticking a box or meeting a target, it is the norm, and it will stay that way.

Diversity and inclusion provide significant benefits to any workplace. This article will take a deep dive into diversity and inclusion, their benefits, and a few key pointers for any organization looking to become more diverse and inclusive in the future.

Diversity Explained

What exactly is diversity in the workplace? While it may have started with only race and ethnicity, the term has evolved into a more all-encompassing concept. Now, if organizations want to be diverse, it means looking to build teams that include a range of:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical abilities
  • Mental abilities
  • Religious beliefs
  • Education
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Language spoken
  • Geographical orientation
  • Culture
  • And more!

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are sometimes used interchangeably – but that is incorrect. In creating diverse workplaces, inclusion is equally important, but it’s not just about bringing in diverse groups of people.

Inclusion is best described as the feeling of belongingness. Without the right support and initiatives from the organization, people with different backgrounds may not be able to fit in well. This is why diversity and inclusion should always go hand-in-hand.

In the workplace, inclusion can be achieved by intentionally creating a culture of understanding and respect where team members are encouraged to bring their full, true selves to work every day – put another way, a culture of psychological safety, which is a hallmark for culturepreneurial organizations!. This mindset should also be reflected in the organization’s values, programs, and strategies.

What Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bring to the Table

Creating Unique Solutions

A workforce made up of people with different backgrounds, experiences, skills, perspectives, and insights can find diverse or unique solutions and build creative strategies. Employees can draw from their differences to cover a wider scope of knowledge. From here, they can generate novel and original ways of tackling problems.

When done right, an organization can leverage its diversity, help meld the differences together for a singular goal, and spark innovative ideas that together can help drive performance and success for individuals, teams and the company as a whole. According to Harvard Business Review, the leadership in an organization needs to promote a culture of sharing knowledge to make the most of the creativity diversity brings.

Making Smart Decisions

One study by Cloverpop highlighted the role of diversity and inclusion in improving an organization’s capability for making smarter decisions. According to their data, more inclusive workplaces are inclined to make more sensible decisions up to 87 percent of the time.

Additionally, diversity helps these organizations drive their decision-making up to twice as fast, with only half the time spent on deliberation. The overall results of these decisions have also seen an improvement of 60 percent.

Another study by Gartner found that 75 percent of organizations with a diverse and inclusive decision-making body are bound to exceed their financial targets.

This performance boost is driven by diversity’s ability to widen the knowledge base of an organization.

Boosting Morale

Truly diverse and inclusive workplaces encourage their employees to be the best they can be. Employees feel more at ease and satisfied when they know they are in an environment that respects them and where their efforts are recognized and celebrated. Inclusivity creates safe spaces for everyone to share their issues and suggestions, which can then be dealt with or acted on appropriately.

A workforce with excellent morale brings with it a whole host of other benefits, including:

  • Engagement – When employees are happy, they are more engaged with their work and workplace. They respond well to and even support new initiatives. They participate in engagement activities and find ways to make their jobs better. A survey by Deloitte found that 83 percent of millennials report higher engagement numbers in inclusive organizations.
  • Retention – A workforce that has high morale and is engaged will have lower turnover rates. Employees want to stay in organizations where they know their voices and contributions are valued. A report by The Kapor Center found that culture drives turnover, and affects the retention of underrepresented groups.
  • Productivity – Morale has always been linked to productivity. Employees with higher morale show up more, perform better, and actively find ways to improve their processes. This increase in productivity directly translates to improvements in an organization’s bottom line.

Diversity and Inclusion as Part of Your Employee Value Proposition

People want to work for organizations that take an active approach to diversity and inclusion. And by being genuine about these qualities as part of their culture and employee value proposition (EVP), organizations will reap this benefit in their recruitment and retention efforts. Having diversity and inclusion as genuine tent poles for their EVP can uplift an organization’s employer brand, which, in turn, can support:

  • Recruitment – It’s not all about a better paycheck or important-sounding titles now; according to a survey by Indeed, 55 percent of jobseekers consider it extremely important that the company they work for prioritizes diversity and inclusion.
  • Client conversions – As part of their own endeavors to improve diversity and inclusion within their own operations, many consumers have now become conscious of whether the companies they do business with are making an effort to embrace diversity and inclusion themselves. It can be a significant factor in influencing client conversions.

In fact, a Nielsen report, based on data gathered from 30,000 consumers across 60 countries, found that 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay more money for goods and services from companies that demonstrate social commitment.

Diversity and Inclusion are a Must-Haves in the Workplace

In conclusion, by promoting diverse workplaces, organizations can find more creative solutions, make smarter decisions, boost employee morale, and improve their brand reputation.

Organizations can make the most of their diverse talent pool by creating a culture of inclusion. Initiatives and values that promote understanding, respect, and openness – psychological safety – are the building blocks of such a culture.

If you want to learn more about how to improve your workplace, contact our team.

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As a retained executive search firm that specializes in the non-profit and social enterprise space, we’re often asked by potential clients why they should invest in executive search services. Especially for organizations that already have an in-house people and culture team, looking for outside talent acquisition support can be a big investment.

Doug Trout, Managing Director at DRiWaterstone Human Capital, recently did a Q&A with Hunt Scanlon Media for their 2023 Recruiting Guide on just this topic. Some of his answers are below:

·  What value do executive search services provide? 

People and relationships are at the core of the search business – and they’re the number one reason to work with a retained executive search firm like DRiWaterstone Human Capital. Our recruiters take the time to get to know a client’s business and culture, and to build a relationship with the client. Our goal is to align hiring with every element of the client’s culture and strategic plan – from the way we market the organization in our search materials to the impression we create among candidates (those who get hired and those who don’t), everything we do advances this goal.

Executive search partners also bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of the industries in which they work. At DRiWaterstone, we have exceptional bench strength in the non-profit and social enterprise markets, giving us one of the largest networks of leaders qualified for non-profit and social enterprise organizations in the country, and a thorough understanding of the needs, challenges and opportunities that are unique to clients who are working in these types of businesses.

Finally, we stand by the work we do. Our team are paid for the quality of work we do, not the quantity of candidates put in front of clients – meaning we take the time to find and nurture relationships with the best possible candidates for each individual client (not just the best available candidates who are available to whichever organization hires them first).

·  Why should all corporate talent teams consider working with search firms?

Retained executive search firms complement internal talent acquisition teams and act as an extension of your company’s wholistic recruitment strategy. At DRiWaterstone Human Capital, we’re not only experts at evaluating candidates and filling tough searches that internal teams often don’t have the time or resources to take on, but we’re also experts the not-for-profit and social enterprise space. We have a strategic understanding of how both not-for-profits and private sector businesses operate, and that makes us a valuable partner for internal teams.

·  How has your company changed since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The biggest change is that we’ve joined with Waterstone Human Capital to form DRiWaterstone Human Capital – a culture-centric executive search, leadership advisory, and human capital firm. We can now offer clients expertise in non-profit and social enterprise executive recruiting, and more than 20 years of experience in building high performance teams and cultures. That expertise allows us to serve mission and purpose-driven organizations in both the non-profit and private sectors with a broad portfolio of services designed to inspire leaders to build high performance teams and cultures.

To learn more about DRiWaterstone’s search services, schedule a meeting with Doug or another one of our team members today.

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By Lyn Currie

There’s a new talent acquisition landscape in place, thanks in large part to the global pandemic that has changed the ways we work – and look at work – over the past two years. So, what can leaders do to attract the best talent to their organizations in today’s market? How do you attract leaders who will help you to ignite your culture and propel your growth?

  • Create a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

In each of our businesses, we only have one time to make a great first impression. Do you know, and can you articulate, your purpose and the values of your organization? Is it crisp and clear? Is it authentic? Do you know how your recruiting team is describing your culture to candidates?

Many organizations do a wonderful job at creating a multi-step recruitment process where candidates meet various people within the organization, but if each touch point isn’t working to help to illuminate your culture for candidates, and if your messaging isn’t clear, consistent and, most importantly true, you’re missing an opportunity. Remember, in today’s market, it’s likely that each of your candidates is also talking to three or four other organizations – a strong, clear and consistent EVP helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors and put your best foot forward!

Candidates are looking for purpose and meaning. They are looking for investment in learning and development. They are looking to make an impact.  Ask yourself if your company’s EVP addresses those priorities.

  • Leverage the power of your Chief People Officer (CPO)

The thinking is this: if people and culture is the foundation of your business, and if they are the fuel to propel your growth, then your people and culture leader is at the right hand of the CEO – at the same level of importance as the CFO.

We know organizations that value culture are making this shift, and they are recognizing that their CPO candidates are as sophisticated in business strategy as they are in people strategy. (We also know that CPO candidates are in the market for CEOs who sees them as a business partner and integral part of the growth strategy of your organization, not as just someone to manage the people side of the business.)

In addition to giving CPOs a seat at the leadership table, organizations today are asking more of their people leaders. Through the Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Award submission process, Waterstone Human Capital has observed that organizations are investing significantly more in learning and development programs. Candidates are asking – often in the first interview – how organizations will invest in their training and career development. Best-in-class organizations are putting the employee in the driver’s seat when it comes to defining their career path – and putting the onus on the people and culture team to create robust programs that inspire continuous learning, and that empower employees to participate in charting their own course. This has also led to an increased emphasis on tools and technology to measure the success of people and culture programs – all driven through the CPO and their teams.

  • Understand the desired key behaviours of your top performers

To attract the best talent to your organization, it’s a worthwhile activity to start with charting the key behaviours of your current top performers, and how you assess for those behaviours in your recruitment process.  When you interview candidates, do you focus on experience, technical skills, and certifications? All these are important, but research suggests that behaviours that align to your values are a far stronger indicator of success.

Leaders need to take the time to get a clear understanding of what behaviors make a top performer in their organization, then ask: “How am I evaluating for these behaviors when I meet candidates?” It is not only up to the people and culture team to vet this – it’s up to all leaders.

  • Have a strategic focus on diversity, equity and inclusion

Putting a strategic focus on diversity adds to your culture. It speaks to who you are as an organization and the values that define you.

At DRiWaterstone Human Capital, we were early adopters of the idea that candidates should be evaluated through the lens of three components – experience, leadership qualities, and “culture fit”. As we continue to evolve, we no longer focus on culture fit, but rather look to “culture add” – those qualities that can help strengthen your company’s values and culture.

A culture transformation is often a multi-year journey, but a strategic focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is a great first step. Start by asking: “How can this person, with their diversity of experiences add to the culture? How can they contribute to, or even lead, the organization’s culture transformation?”

  • Total Rewards

No discussion around talent acquisition would be complete without looking at the total rewards package being offered. At DRiWaterstone, our research has shown that while money is one of the considerations when candidates are choosing to join a new organization, it is consistently ranking as low as number three on candidates’ lists of priorities (behind culture/purpose and learning and development opportunities).

When candidates consider the total rewards package, they are not only thinking about a base salary plus bonus. Instead, they’re looking for:

  • opportunities for training (both internally and externally);
  • flexibility (e.g., a hybrid work environment, flexibility around the hours of work, unlimited vacation policies);
  • culture, meaning, and connectedness.

Don’t underestimate the value of corporate social responsibility programs, internal committees, education allotments, and more when assessing and promoting your total rewards package.

Attracting talent who will be both high performers and future culture leaders within your organization takes work – but with the right tools and the proper strategic focus, it can be done.

Find out more about attracting talent who add to your culture and help drive success – contact DRiWaterstone’s Executive Search team today and schedule a 30-minute consultation.

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Talent acquisition has been front and centre in conversations about today’s employee-driven labour market. But attracting top talent is only part of the equation. Companies looking to stay ahead in today’s competitive market also need to have a comprehensive retention strategy in place.

The costs of employee turnover can be high (according to one article at, up to 20% of salary for mid-level employees and as high as 213% of salary for C-Suite leaders) making a strong retention strategy vital.

Tools for employee retention

In our retained executive search clients program, we’ve found that regular and transparent communication, pulse surveys, learning and development plans, total rewards packages, and meaningful recognition are now table stakes for any employee retention strategy. Companies looking to stand out from the crowd are adding to their retention toolkits – flexible work schedules, work from anywhere policies, expanded benefits programs and more.

One tactic that has grown in popularity is the stay interview – it’s an important tool that competitive companies today are using to measure employee engagement and improve employee retention.

Stay interviews let leaders:

  1. determine how their team is feeling about the company and its culture,
  2. get a sense for how individuals feel about their role, their impact on the company and its goals, and whether they have the tools they need to be successful,
  3. talk with their team members about road blocks and challenges, and to identify any issues that may cause a high performer to self-select out of their role or out of the company, and
  4. recognize and celebrate successes, and demonstrate to team members that their leaders want to help them excel.

Conducting a successful stay interview

Successful stay interviews start with open communication. Make sure your team members understand the purpose of your conversation in advance, and encourage them to be open and honest in their answers. You’ll also want to make sure they understand how feedback will be used and what next steps will be (if any).

Here are 10 stay interview questions that can help you kick-start your conversation:

  • What do you look forward to at work every day?
  • What makes you feel proud to work here?
  • What do you like least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • What skills and strengths do you have that are not being fully utilized here?
  • What do you think about how employees are recognized and valued here?
  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, team, or company, what would it be?
  • What might tempt you to leave?
  • What can I/we do to make your experience here better?

Stay interviews help leaders put their people – and culture – first. They’re an excellent tool to support employee recognition and, just as importantly, employee retention.

Finding it difficult to recruit and retain top talent in today’s work environment? DRiWaterstone Human Capital can help. Book a meeting with our team to talk about your needs.

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