The Culture Conundrum


Lauren Druce candidate, news & events, blog...

What is a ‘good’ company culture?

Never before has culture been such a prevalent push and pull factor in the recruitment market.  A recent survey conducted by global job board,, interviewed 1,700 finance professionals from newly qualified accountants through to CFOs, highlighting that just over a third of accountants (34%) admitted they are actively looking for a new job.  Alarmingly, this figure is expected to rise to nearly two thirds (63%) within the next six months to a year.  Aside from the more obvious drivers of increased salary and international relocation; dislike for a company’s culture, including striving for a better work life balance and clearer progression opportunities feature highly on the list.


Simon Wright, Operations Director at, suggests “bosses can’t be complacent and need to look at ways to create the best working environment” for their employees.  In the context of the workplace, ‘culture’ is a powerfully emotive word that conjures up a multitude of differing interpretations.  The range is vast and varied, to include the team with whom you work and the atmosphere across the division; flexibility of working hours; the opportunity to work from home; employer commitment to supporting career development; supplementary perks and rewards; while for others it is the social element of weekly drinks at the pub.


There is no quick fix to creating a best in class culture.  Furthermore a culture that works for one business will not necessarily translate well into another.  Exploring the different facets of culture is certainly a useful place to start when looking to understand the conundrum that is ‘good’ company culture.


The Working Environment

Aside from salary, when we ask candidates about their next role, for the most part the message is consistent: they want to add value, see the impact of their efforts and work in an environment that has a ‘good’ culture fit.  When we delve deeper to explore what ‘good’ actually means, time and time again the words collaborative, collegiate, supportive, open, honest and non-bureaucratic are bandied around.  These characteristics represent the working environments that our candidates believe will help them to thrive and consequently deliver the best results.  There seems to be a commonplace desire for many of the senior finance and procurement professionals we represent to feel as though they are part of a team going on a journey together.  The rigid hierarchical barriers of management are perceived as increasingly unpopular.  Instead, environments where ideas and positive challenge are actively encouraged are now deemed as a key component to a ‘good’ culture.


It would be easy to assume that the ethos of an organisation stems from the top and filters down but every employee can and should play a part in helping a culture to evolve, irrespective of the level of seniority.  Bringing ideas to the table, taking ownership and going that extra mile can all help to transition a culture to be more inclusive and collaborative.  However, this behaviour cannot be forced and can only happen when likeminded individuals with shared goals, work together.  It is the responsibility of the board and senior management to encourage the development of their teams by regularly assessing and understanding their motivations and drivers.  During a recruitment process, it is vital to ensure the successful candidate shares the company’s objectives and values.


Work-Life Balance

Trust and flexibility go hand in hand in the workplace.  When we work hard and put in the hours we expect a bit of give and take from our employers.  This show of good faith is increasingly important for candidates when they are thinking about their next career move.  Missing a school play or a medical appointment can result in feelings of resentment and disenfranchisement, especially if there are inconsistencies between how management behaves and how the team is treated.  A negative experience with a manager who is neither flexible nor accommodating can act as a real push factor.


The company that can address this crucial work-life balance places itself in the best position to get the optimal results from its employees.  Flexible working hours; dedicated time off to pursue charitable or personal endeavours or perhaps the option to buy days to supplement a holiday allowance can contribute to overcoming this obstacle.

Learning & Development

Some senior finance and procurement professionals depict a ‘good’ culture as an organisation that takes a keen interest in the continual development of its employees.  Visibly investing time and resource in employees can help with retention rates and can serve as a big pull factor for ambitious and hungry talent, motivated by a transparent career trajectory.


Larger international blue-chip organisations might offer fast-track-to-management schemes or facilitate internal transfers and secondments.  Other businesses might provide executive coaching or mentoring programmes. Another option is to provide sponsorship and study support for further qualifications.


Additional Work Benefits

According to the Office for National Statistics, full-time workers in the UK average around 39.1 paid hours per week.  The CIPD’s Absence Management 2015 Survey Report identified nearly half of employers expect to work longer hours than the UK average as the norm.  When assessing whether a company has a ‘good’ culture, some senior finance and procurement candidates look to the additional benefits provided to employees.  They want to know what a company can offer to help enhance their work experience.


Office perks are now much more than just staff discounts.  They can come in the form of fruit baskets, table-tennis tables, manicures, free lunches, gym memberships and dress-down days.  Other incentives might include performance oriented rewards for hitting or exceeding targets.  In today’s competitive market, offering supplementary benefits can help to differentiate one company from another thus providing an edge over its competitors.



A ‘good’ culture can be attributed to extra-curricular activities that take place, typically outside of the work environs.  This could include social events such as weekly drinks at the pub or regular team outings on a quarterly basis.  Spending time together in this context can help teams to bond in a more relaxed environment with the pressures of work.  Similarly thoughtful gestures such as a card or cake for a birthday can go a long way in creating a sense of value.


In conclusion ‘good’ culture has no definitive meaning and there is certainly no universal culture that fits all, yet the quest to find a ‘good’ culture fit remains constant.  A recent study by Economists at the University of Warwick directly linked employees’ happiness at work to increased productivity.  In concurrence with these findings, many of the senior finance and procurement professionals we represent are at their happiest and most effective in an organisation where there is a ‘good’ culture fit.


The strongest cultures are based on shared goals and motivations, trust, flexibility and collaboration.  Businesses need to think creatively about the incentives used to attract and retain senior finance and procurement top talent.  Working with the right recruitment partner who truly understands your business and its goals can help to perpetuate a company’s culture or and help make the path of defining the culture a more seamless journey.  A ‘good’ culture will continue to evolve and develop over time.


If company culture is top of the agenda for your organisation and you would like confidential and consultative advice contact Lauren Druce on 0203 002 8049 or email