Civility: Impact on Talent Attraction and Retention

Workplace attractiveness is an optimistic attitude or a positive emotion an individual has towards an organization (Aiman-Smith et al. 2001).  The attraction process involves a job seeker’s estimate of how well they “feel” their personal needs and values fit the organization’s culture. Gaining an understanding of the factors that can impact the attraction phase of this cycle is critical for workplaces who wish to attract the most qualified applicant pool possible.  Recent research indicates workplaces that are perceived as “civil” not only attract more qualified candidates, these candidates tend to stay with the organization longer and perform higher levels.

A recent study (Diane Catanzaro • Heather Moore • Timothy R. Marshall, 2010) indicates that workplace civility interacts with gender to influence applicant attraction.  Men were more likely than women to pursue a job with the competitive organization; however, the majority of both men and women reported stronger interest in working for the supportive, civil  organizations.

What we know is that the best job candidates are those who not only possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities, but whose personal values and characteristics are compatible with the workplace culture (McGinty and Reitsch 1992).

Workplace civility plays a key role in increasing the probability that applicants, particularly female applicants, will accept a job with the workplace and also influences how long they will remain with the organization once hired (Schneider et al. 1995).

The results of this most recent research are consistent with previous studies that found male and female managers preferred supportive, feminine workplace values over competitive, masculine values (Van Vianen and Fischer 2002).  This study trends well with the current focus on workplace civility, bullying and  psychologically healthy workplaces.   The bottom line is that  workplaces who create and nurture a culture that focuses on collaboration, teamwork, and balancing one’s career and family,  will gain a competitive edge in recruiting, attracting, and retaining a diverse sample of highly-qualified job candidates, even if  the salary may be lower.

What are some of the reasons applicants chose the civil workplace? The most frequently stated reason  by both men and women is the workplace reinforces a balance between work and family and did not require a sacrifice to one’s personal life, and the perception that this company is more civil and supportive of its employees. Overall, the results of this study provide an empirical and rational basis for workplace decision makers, consultants, coaches and leaders on the importance of integrating more supportive, civil values and policies into their leadership programs and mission statements.

To attract “engaged talent”, workplaces need to reinvent, adapt or renew cultural values that demonstrate civility, inspire social and emotional connections, and reinforce life work humanness.  What is your workplace doing to create a culture of civlity?


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