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Candidates Choose Jobs Because of Company Culture

Talent leaders predict flexibility will be next top priority

A group of people sitting around a table in an office.

Job seekers are most likely to choose one job over another because of the chosen employer's culture, according to talent acquisition professionals surveyed by the Korn Ferry Institute. The survey results are a significant departure from earlier studies that found job seekers valued benefits most highly.

The institute, the research and analytics arm of HR advisory firm Korn Ferry, based in Los Angeles, asked 1,100 industry practitioners in the fall of 2016 about candidates' expectations.

The survey revealed that candidates are increasingly considering a prospective employer's organizational culture in determining where they want to work.

The No. 1 reason candidates choose one job over another today is company culture (23 percent of respondents selected this option), followed closely by career progression (22 percent) and benefits (19 percent).

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Millennials especially are looking for culture and fit, said Jeanne MacDonald, global operating executive and president of talent acquisition solutions at Korn Ferry Futurestep, the firm's recruitment process outsourcing business. "They want to feel good about where they're working and require a shared sense of purpose."

Five years ago, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, 39 percent of respondents chose a prospective employer's benefits package as the top reason to choose one job opportunity over another, according to the study, followed by company reputation (19 percent) and job stability (16 percent).

"It only makes sense that candidates felt the need for a stable paycheck plus health care and retirement benefits," said William Sebra, global operating executive at Futurestep. "Today, workers are generally moving beyond basic needs to different priorities."

Five Years from Now: Flexibility

When asked to predict what job seekers will value most from a prospective employer five years from now, 26 percent of respondents chose flexible working situations, followed by company culture (23 percent) and company mission (16 percent).

A recent report from FlexJobs, a job search site for flexible work, shows sustained growth for flexible work opportunities, especially in communications, engineering, project management, and travel and hospitality.

FlexJobs analyzed over 100,000 job listings from 2016 to determine where the number of telecommuting jobs is increasing and found that mortgage and real estate, HR and recruiting, accounting and finance, pharmaceuticals, and education and training were five of the fastest growing sectors. 

"We don't see any signs that candidates will have less interest in flexible work in the future," said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, based in Boulder, Colo. "If anything, we're seeing steady year-over-year growth in the number of people actively looking for flexible work options. As the technology needed to perform work whenever and wherever becomes less expensive, faster and more ubiquitous, it helps fuel people's ability to work in more flexible ways. High-speed Internet access also plays a big role in allowing people to change the nature of when, where and how they work." 

According to MacDonald, the concept of flexibility no longer only describes the hours on the job and the location of the worker. It has expanded to encompass the very nature of the employee-employer relationship. "We're seeing a growing trend to what many are calling the gig economy," she noted. "Instead of looking for full-time employment, talented, high-demand people will take contingent assignments where they can showcase their unique skills and talents, then complete the project and move to the next gig."

Seventy-three percent of survey respondents reported that their organizations currently use contingent workers on either a regular or an as-needed basis.

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