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The Role of Values-Based Hiring in Talent Attraction and Retention

Today’s employees are more concerned than ever with aligning their work lives and their personal beliefs. This shift has given rise to a trend of values-based hiring, which can help to attract like-minded talent while increasing retention rates.

 

June is home to both Pride Month and Juneteenth, making it a perfect time to consider how your company is presenting its values and how that can help attract and retain a more diverse, loyal, and quality group of candidates. Here’s what today’s HR leaders should keep in mind when it comes to incorporating values into hiring and retention strategies:

 

The Importance of Aligning Values

 It’s not a new phenomenon: people, in general, want to work somewhere that aligns with their values – and they’re willing to make tough choices to achieve that. A LinkedIn survey found that 70% of employees would choose not to work at a leading company if it meant putting up with a bad workplace culture. 65% would take a lower salary over a poor culture, 26% would similarly trade a higher title for a better culture, and 71% say they would take a pay cut in order to work somewhere that shares their mission and values.

 

In addition, the same survey found that 47% of employees say they’re proudest to work for companies that foster a culture where they can be themselves, and 46% say they’re proudest to work for companies that have a positive impact on society. Understanding those positive values is important, but so too is understanding the other side: the negative traits that drive top talent away. Research from MIT Sloan identified what they labeled the “toxic five” traits that define a “bad” culture: disrespectful, non-inclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive.

 

When we think about values in HR and hiring terms, we have to consider two kinds of values: work-centric values and personal/ethical-centric values. Work values revolve around how people prefer to do their work. This means things like valuing collaboration, transparency, the ability to ask questions and take risks, work-life balance, and so on. Personal or ethical values are the ones that people carry between work and non-work contexts, such as valuing diversity and inclusion, supporting rights for marginalized or historically underrepresented communities, and so on.

 

Values-based hiring encompasses all values, not just one or the other type. In all aspects, it’s important for your company to “walk the walk” – if you talk about certain values, then you have to live them out in your hiring practices and your daily work and culture.

 

Generational Values and Priorities

Younger generations (as in, Gen X and younger) tend to put more emphasis on work aligning with their values. Research has found that these generations care more about investing in themselves, rather than achieving certain titles or other traditional markers of success. They value directness, engagement, equity, and collaboration – and they also are more likely to value cultures that encourage work-life balance.

 

These, of course, are the “work” values, but what about the personal values? Here, too, younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, are leading a shift. Researchers from John Hopkins University conclude that “Millennials are a highly progressive, empathetic generation that was the first to integrate moral values into the workplace: striving to only work in environments that aligned with their core socio-political values, even at the cost of a pay-cut.” They seek flexibility, teamwork, the chance to learn new skills, and a diverse, inclusive environment.

 

Gen Z, meanwhile, is “the generation of truth, exploration, and identity (or lack thereof). Gen Z is driven by an insatiable hunger for underlying truths and seeks freedom from any confining labels that limits any exploration of these truths… Gen Z has no problem leaving a company or business that contrasts with their beliefs.” Like their Millennial colleagues, they also seek inclusivity, transparency, and meaningful work, but they’re even more willing than their senior peers to give up tangible benefits like salary in order to align with their values.

 

Younger generations, in other words, are more confident in their own values, and they are more likely to take that into consideration when choosing a job. Companies looking to hire them, then, must also re-evaluate their commitment to their core values and must highlight them in candidate-facing processes.

 

Take Your Values from Words to Actions

 Even when your company has a strong sense of values, it can be challenging to take them from words to actions. Here, HR leaders can take the helm, helping to clarify values and develop ways to live them. Values can range from the deeply-ingrained cultural bedrock of your company to the values that have arisen naturally over time – or even the ones that your company aspires to embody but does not yet. All of them, however, say something fundamental about your organization, and it’s important to have a strategy to communicate that meaning to both current and future employees.

 

Consider: how does your company decide what its values are? How do you avoid making them too bland to be meaningful or too buzzword-focused to last? From there, consider how these values impact your hiring and retention process. Questions you might ask could include:

  • Have you crafted behavioral questions or other methods to determine if candidates align with your values?
  • How do you answer candidate questions to give them a sense of if your company aligns with their values?
  • How does your day-to-day culture reflect those values in order to ensure retention?

Values-based hiring is not about looking for an “echo chamber,” either on the part of employers or employees. Instead, it’s about ensuring that everyone is on the same page so that there’s not a “bad fit” loss of productivity or rapid turnover. When your values are shared, your team is moving in the same direction, and that, itself, is a significant win for companies across the board.

 

About the Author

After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.”  Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.

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