How Search Firms Can Help Implement a Great Company Culture

March 9, 2022 – Prais+Barnette works proactively with diverse executives, leaders, and influencers who are passionate about increasing workplace diversity to help the firm build broad referral networks across functions and industries. Top diverse prospects can be introduced to key company leaders for networking 30 to 60 days in advance of an opportunity posting.

David Barnette is managing partner of Prais+Barnette. He has over 20 years of experience as an operating executive focusing on omnichannel sales and marketing, digital transformation, and product

Laurie Ryan is managing partner and chief marketing officer of Prais+Barnette. She is a marketing veteran with an extensive history creating and managing brands, products, and the businesses they drive.

Sonia Prais is managing partner at Prais+Barnette and has spent more than 20 years in executive search. She works globally with startups, heritage iconic brands, and pure-plays in technology, fashion, and retail.

These three search leaders recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss keys for driving great company culture and how search firms can play a role.

What are some key elements of having a great company culture?
Ryan: Here’s the thing—after two years of unprecedented corporate disruption and social turmoil, today’s workplace is a fundamentally different place than it was pre-pandemic. So, while the basic pillars that have always defined great culture remain intact—things like communication, community, trust, and appreciation—the playbook for how we achieve them has been tossed out the window. The strategies for delivering on these pillars must be re-examined and retooled, with significant consideration given to the impact of virtual environments, more flexible hours, and, frankly, decades of neglect relative to inclusion and equity. Employees are quickly taking stock of their current situation—and making changes accordingly.

Explain how a good company culture translates into better employee performance.
Barnette: There have been several fantastic studies the last few years that have empirically proven performance follows culture, not the other way around. In essence, all of these studies—from entities such as Gallup, the Journal for Organizational Behavior, and others—have debunked the traditional belief that high performing teams are primarily the result of top-down, accountability-centric approaches focused on weeding out those that don’t meet expectations vs. figuring out creative ways to engage, motivate, and support people into exceeding them. And one benefit of the latter approach that can often go unnoticed is that when you layer in more enablement and openness alongside accountability you create an environment where people feel safer and more inspired to think of and introduce new ideas that can evolve into real world value creation.

How can search firms play a role in helping to create a better company culture?
Prais: Valuing diversity is incredibly important to culture these days, and the best way for clients to demonstrate that they do is by putting their money where their mouth is with new executive hires. This is a huge opportunity for search firms to help influence culture but doing so requires being creative and courageous enough to thoughtfully challenge the thinking inside our clients in terms of candidate assessment—because lack of diversity is often driven by a resistance to being sufficiently open minded about transferable experience.

Would you elaborate?
Prais: Think about the oft-used phrase in our industry, “plug and play.” It screams support for the business-as-usual approach to hiring that got us here in the first place! We believe one of the best things we can do in search to help advance culture is to spark our client’s imagination about the value unique perspectives can help unlock – and to help remove apprehension about assessing talent in a way
that is maybe a little different from how it’s been done in the past.

With the Great Resignation upon us, what are some keys for organizations keeping their teams together?
Barnette: First and foremost, you have to stay connected and understand what individual team members want both personally and professionally to see if you can provide a path forward that allows you both to get what you need from each other over time. And employees obviously have to feel safe enough to be open and honest about those things with their supervisors, so culture is of paramount importance in this regard. What employers are experiencing now with the Great Resignation is a reckoning over live-work balance and compensation that’s been decades in the making.

How can organizations weather the storm?
Barnette: There are no quick, easy fixes to it. Just understanding this and being willing to explore creative new paths forward regarding work expectations, reward structures, and career pathing will go a long way towards positive results in terms of holding on to talent. Retention has always been important, but with the state of today’s talent market it’s never been more of an urgent priority. The firms that weather this the best will be the ones that are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones in how they engage, develop, compensate, and manage their people.

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