Nevena Stanisavljević, Founder HR World & Serbian HR Community

Culture – a benefit which makes the difference

The labor market is hectic. Like the collision of molecules, the companies have been „colliding” with the candidates as part of the constant talent hunting processes, hoping to achieve a conjunction, i.e., a covalent bond where both sides are sharing the equal values and have a common goal. In order for that to happen, the companies are supposed to be attractive. What does being an attractive company exactly mean? Even though ten people may provide ten different answers to this question, it is noticeable that the companies mainly focus on the „employee experience” as an important attractiveness indicator. The key of success of every company is having happy and satisfied employees. Hence the need to introduce company benefits.  

Benefits are not an „if” any more – benefits are a  „must have”

The potential candidates and employees expect them. When researching and making inquiries about the companies, benefits are among the first aspects considered by the candidates. According to the Mercer Mash Benefit research (2021), 69% of the companies had considerably increased its investments in benefits during the pandemic. In the world of collision between the companies and ideal candidates, the former are battling to offer more diverse and better benefit packages. It is important to gain the „competitive advantage”, isn’t it? They conduct research, explore the habits of employees, invest in their health, development, productivity, satisfaction… The benefits are being added to the list, from the most frequent ones, such as health and life insurance, through to paid annual leaves, to membership fees for gyms, spa centers, flexible working hours, paid subscriptions for various applications etc. Even without any statistical data, a correlation between the satisfied employee and success is very much clear. However, here is one: a satisfied employee is 12% more productive compared to an average employee (Happiness&Productivity Report). The poor productivity and dissatisfaction of employees are causing great financial losses to the companies, therefore it is not odd that, trying to avoid this scenario, they are stepping up the benefits.

And what if we have one important benefit which defines everything else?

We are talking about a benefit that could „accelerate or undermine success”. The companies are striving to gain advantage over other companies, to ensure better and faster talent acquisition, and the benefit that companies (those being aware of its importance) have been wisely investing in, in terms of defining, functioning and form, is culture.

A company culture is everything that is happening at a workplace. It represents „the sum of all formal and informal systems, behaviors and values, which altogether forms experience for the clients and the employees themselves“. Much of the statistics are causally relating culture with the employee fluctuation. Among others, a study of the Columbia University shows that the probability of turnover in a company with strong culture is 13.9%, whereas, on the other hand, in companies where the culture is poorly developed, the probability may amount to even 48.4%.

The reason is pretty much obvious and simple: a satisfied employee shall always tend to achieve goals, take initiative and provide their maximum, whereas whereas others shall struggle to achieve a required minimum, without any desire and motivation to perform or contribute more.

No one wants to work in a palce that does not feel good.

In a blog published on the Harvard Business Review website, the American author Rob Markey emphasizes that the loyal and passionate employees contribute to a company as much as the passionate clients. They remain longer in the company, have a more creative approach to work and are willing to find the ways how to go a step further, to achieve something more. Such employees are paving the way for the new, great talents, attracting them to join the company! It is culture that creates a successful retention rate and contributes to the overall employee satisfaction.

Happiness and satisfaction are shared among the employees, and companies should find a way to achieve that.

Would someone rather be (for example) a marketing manager in a company where they feel appreciated, respected, where they have time for personal development or in a company where it is expected of such employee to provide high results without any intention by that company to invest in their education or rewarding of the employee?

Unfortunately, the awareness of importance of culture within a company is not yet present to a significant degree. Many companies do not have culture at all. They do not invest in it, nor do they nurture it. Those who are, define the culture and practice thereof in various ways. So, it is often the case that job advertisements are stating what kind of culture is present in the company. For some companies, part of the culture is a mutual breakfast on Fridays at nine, in an informal atmosphere. For some of them, it’s feedback time on Wednesdays at the beginning of working hours, when the employees are providing to one anothersincere feedback on the work performance, whereas for others it is Tuesdays at four o ‘clock, when the employees during the last working hour go through education. Some companies are investing efforts, means and resources to build a culture, whereas some of them do not find it important. The employees care about purpose, freedom, empathy, creativity, agility. Gym, grocery discount etc. are the concrete benefits which satisfy the current employee needs and are certainly very important, but without the values and nurturing culture, such benefits do not have a significant value.

Culture is a benefit that is often invisible, yet it defines everything.

In what way? Let us think about what falls within the culture of a company, which is often not credited as a benefit or it is being implied as such:

In the area of education/development:

◾ Courses, trainings run by the company

◾ Sending the employees abroad on an exchange of knowledge and skills

◾ Exchange of knowledge between the employees (#educo channels on Slack, Trello or some other platform), recommendations of some good documentaries, movies from their industry  

◾ Company library where the employees are bringing and borrowing books

◾ Company newsletter about the trends in their industry

◾ Possibility for the employees to spend a day in some other sector and to acquire new knowledge and skills.

In the area of transparency:

◾ Time dedicated to the feedback week

◾ Freedom of speech

◾ Information is available to everyone – either orally or in writing

◾ Enabled employee access to a shared drive with documents

◾ Transparency about the amount of employee salaries and benefits

◾ There is no “confidential” meetings that only the „privileged” employees may attend (this does not imply the board or top management meetings).


Yes, the gym passes and coupons which enable the shopping discounts are great benefits, but, isn’t it formidable to feel appreciated as an employee, knowing that you have freedom to express your own thoughts and suggestions without any fear of judgement, criticism or losing your job? Or knowing that there isn’t information that you mustn’t be given, because you are not considered authorized for it? Doesn’t it feel motivating for the employees knowing that they do not need to hide from one another the amounts of bonuses, salary and alike? Freedom is thought differently in every company, perhaps even for every person. However, where there is freedom – the culture is stronger, according to the article of Neil Patel, one of the authors of a New York Times bestseller and founder of one of the 100 most brilliant companies – Neil Patel Digital.

There are immeasurable parts of culture that contribute markedly to a company.

Here are some examples and what they can bring:

◾ Encouraging informal chats among employees in the hallways, and team buildings – forming bonds among the employees, better communication, cooperation, flow of information.

◾ Sense of accomplishment – the employees are feeling secure, motivated to achieve a greater success because the company believes in them and sees their effort and result.

◾ Empathy – the employees are not robots. In a culture where such philosophy is respected and promoted, the employees feel better compared to the culture which lacks empathy. No grocery discount coupon or visits to a spa center can replace you feeling appreciated by colleagues and management and when they understand your needs and your time.

◾ Spirit – each company has its spirit. Some companies are more entrepreneurial and innovation-oriented whereas others are sticking to the old fashioned principles. It is important that company spirit is in accordance with the time and industry where it operates. For example, an IT professional would hardly survive in a classical, corporate culture with 08am-04pm working hours where the employees are afraid to express their opinions or innovative ideas.

◾ Freedom – are the employees allowed to use private phones at work? To make a private call? To check Instagram during break? To share from time to time the funny photos or clips with their colleagues in order to form closer relationships and to make their working day more interesting? Use of a private phone at work for some positions is not acceptable, but for some it should be a matter of the employee’s choice, instead of a strict prohibition. The same applies for the break. Does it need to be strictly at 10:30, unless the employees are working with customers?

◾ Whether the employees are feeling free to suggest something new for the company or its product? A prohibition or freedom with regard to said things affects the culture, and that influences the way the employees will feel at their workplace.

One could say that the culture is an invisible benefit, but that would not be true. The culture is visible from that moment when you walk into a company – when you hear how the employees are talking to one another, the way you are welcomed, in what way the employees are describing to you what it’s like to work in the company.

The article The New Analytics of Culture, published on the Harvard Business Review website, says that even the way the recruitment is performed in a company represents a part of the culture. For example, many recruiters focus on finding a candidate who is a cultural fit. Furthermore, a study has shown that the employees who were not the cultural fit at the beginning, but who had as strong ability of adapting to the existing culture, were much more successful compared to those who were the cultural fit from the beginning. Therefore, culture is also the way the company opens its doors to talent that fits in immediately with its „candidate persona” and the method which recognizes those who do not fit immediately, but who have a potential that should be nurtured and developed.

There has been lot of mention of diversity in the last year. The above mentioned study shows that there is too much focus on the ideal, culturally fit candidate, and that it is not necessarily the best option. There are bunch of candidates on the market with a potential, who perceive the world from a perspective different from the one the company has. Diversity is good. It helps us to broaden our views, and it helps companies create some new directions, and to replenish their culture.

Finally, all the benefits which companies offer have the same goals, that their employees are healthy, satisfied and motivated. It is hard to measure a culture, but there are some metrics that can do so: employee referrals, employee productivity, turnover and similar. There are correlations between the achieved profits and employee satisfaction. Companies with a strong culture, whose employees are satisfied, earn 1.2–1.7% more, compared to companies of similar activity or their competition. (Alex Edmans analysis)

According to Raine Digital, satisfied employees are 12% more productive compared to those who are not.” The same study states the fact that „90% of employees in a company with strong culture strongly believe in their management.”

What separates a company from others is achieved through culture. We may, but we do not have to consider it a benefit. However, culture makes the difference between the percentage of effort that an employee shall invest, results that are achieved and the overall satisfaction and motivation in the company. Seemingly invisible, in the end it delivers measurable results. In a covalent relationship that the companies tend to achieve with their employees, culture takes a central part and has a task to make the company more attractive for the existing and future employees, as well as to keep the employees satisfied and motivated.