The importance of aligning culture with talent

The war for talent is likely to become even more competitive as businesses now have equal access to top talent in each corner of the globe. With this in mind, there are some key considerations for leaders when it comes to aligning culture with talent.


Bill Thomas, CEO of KPMG states ”The crisis has accelerated strategies that were already in place around digital transformation and social responsibility. However, in other areas planning for the future is a lot harder, particularly thinking about future ways of working and problem solving. So it’s perhaps no surprise that CEOs are focused on the importance of talent to sustain and grow any future business” (1).


It is clear with the changes to the candidate landscape and known talent shortages that the focus for leaders needs to be on Talent Attraction, particularly on how to attract emerging talent, alongside existing talent.


Establishing culture as a strategic part of company objectives will be the key to unlocking these challenges, and employers must engage with Millennials and GenZ, taking the time to really understand what is important to them if they are to be successful in both attracting and retaining talent.


GenZ have arguably been impacted the hardest by the pandemic. According to the Pew Research Centre, GenZ were the most likely of any generation to be laid off during the coronavirus shutdowns, as those aged between 18-24 make up a disproportionately high proportion of workers in vulnerable industries like the hospitality and retail sector (2).


Millennials are forecast to comprise 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025. Companies including Ernst & Young and Accenture have already reported that Millennials make up over two thirds of their entire employee base (3). As such, the movement of leaders now will shape and define the culture of businesses in the long-term future.


The unique challenges brought about by the pandemic has seen society reconsider how to better value and protect themselves and the environment. This shift in consideration has given businesses the opportunity to revaluate their culture and purpose, and as such, many leaders will be looking to realign cultural strategy. When doing so, four key considerations should be at the forefront of their minds.

ESG - Environmental, Social, and Governance

For some, Covid-19 has highlighted the parallels between the unforeseen risks of a pandemic and issues such as climate change. The expectation is that emerging talent will make more conscious based decisions, taking into account ESG policies and beliefs when considering whether to join an organisation.

McKinsey’s Research on Sustainability and Resource Productivity also states that businesses with high ESG ratings have a lower cost of debt and equity and that sustainability initiatives can help improve financial performance while fostering public support (4).

As such, ESG has and will continue to be an important component when building your future cultural strategy.


Diversity can often amplify creativity and collaboration, bringing together varying experiences, backgrounds and individual opinions. In The Wall Street Journal’s first corporate ranking that examined diversity and inclusion among S&P 500 companies it was found that “diverse and inclusive cultures are providing companies with a competitive edge over their peers” (5).

Leaders therefore need to set a clear strategy to engage a diverse workforce and actively demonstrate commitment as businesses will not be able to recruit a diverse workforce without having a healthy culture that attracts talent.


CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR often sits within the core of day to day operations of a business. By setting a good example, not only are the activities generated of vast importance to the community, but it also boosts morale and promotes cross-function connectivity. It can essentially help forge a stronger bond between employees and their organisations.

“Millennials, Baby Boomers, retirees, and Gen Xers are increasingly seeking opportunities to pursue social impact work in the corporate sector” (6).


Creating a culture for learning

It has been proven that organisations who adopt active learning as part of their culture experience better growth, transformation, productivity, and profitability.

An independent review commissioned by HM Treasury has reported that the UK’s Financial Services sector will lose the war for talent with rival global centres and sectors if it does not take collective action now to tackle the growing skills and talent crisis (7).

Investment in emerging talent, upskilling and retraining, and lifelong learning are amongst some of the key considerations when redefining cultural strategies.

Businesses who develop an L&D strategy that looks to upskill homegrown talent, invest in schools and colleges, transfer knowledge and incorporate lifelong learning, will future proof themselves for the widening skills gaps of the future.

With these considerations in mind, leaders must respond now if they are to avoid talent becoming one of their weaknesses in the future. Leaders who use this opportunity to lead with culture and create a competitive advantage will be successful in the war for talent.


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(1) KPMG. (2020). KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook: Covid-19 Special Edition Executive Summary. KPMG Insights. Available here. 

(2) Kochhar, R. (2020). Hispanic women, immigrants, young adults, those with less education hit hardest by Covid-19 job losses. Pew Research Center. 9th June, Available here

(3) Albanese, J. (2018). Four Ways Millennials Are Transforming Leadership. Inc. 14th November, Available here

(4) Bonini, S. & Swartz, S. (2014). Profits with purpose. How organizing for sustainability can benefit the bottom line. McKinsey on Sustainability & Resource Productivity. July, Available here

(5) Holger, D. (2019). The Business Case for More Diversity. The Wall Street Journal. 26th October, Available here

(6) Eggers et al. (2015). The purpose-driven professional. Harnessing the power of corporate social impact for talent development. Deloitte Insights. 8th September,  Available here

(7) TheCityUK. (2020). Financial Services Skills TaskForce Final Report. TheCityUK. January, Available here.


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