VoiceOver users please use the tab key when navigating expanded menus

Building an organisation people want to join

At its core, a company is a group of people who come together to provide a product or service to a customer who's willing to pay for it. Companies do business with individual customers (B2C), they do business with other companies (B2B) and sometimes they must do business with other companies (channels) to reach their end customers.


Although that sounds pretty simple, it turns out not to be quite so simple in practice. In fact, it's quite astonishing how many different ways people, products and customers can be combined and vary - by size, location, industry, channel and culture.


There's both an art and a science to bringing the right people together, then determining which products or services to offer, at what price, to which customers. It’s an endlessly challenging game - as exciting as any game I’ve ever played! But it's essential to understand what’s required to win because losing can be very expensive.


Some CEOs think the way to win is to develop a “killer product/service” and it’s true – you do need something to sell. But success in business depends on building an organisation which develops products and services marketed and sold to the most appropriate customers, at a price they are willing to pay.


And since organisations are comprised of people, the challenge is to attract, select and retain the people who can enable your company to grow and be successful.


Many CEOs complain they can’t find the employees they need for growth. However, one of our alumni companies is receiving more unsolicited applications from prospective employees than they can deal with. Are they just lucky or is there something we can learn from such a company? 


Setting the vision


The company was started with a mission, a big vision and set of values which defined their culture. They understood culture is central to an organisation, is based on a company’s values and is reflected in two things.


The first is how people talk about the work they do. For example, they say it is fun, challenging, customer focused, creative, involves problem solving and calculated risk taking. The second is how people do their work. For example, using communication, collaboration, innovation, respect and learning from mistakes, failures and successes.


The co-founders of this “lucky company” defined a set of values early on and described how it could be demonstrated staff were “living the values”.


They selected people who were mission-driven, matched their values and were self-motivated, curious, creative and excited by the goal. They looked for people with appropriate domain or functional knowledge, as well as the ability to collaborate with other people.


They understood the people they wanted would be looking for alignment between their personal values and the mission of the company. They would seek out managers and leaders who were respected and who “walked the values talk”. These managers would look out for them, encourage them, give them opportunities to grow as a person and as a professional, delegate and communicate the good, bad and the ugly.


The applicants also wanted co-workers who shared their values, were high performers and enjoyed fun, challenging work. They wanted fair compensation for the results they achieved – as individuals and as a team.


After working with more than 1000 companies, it’s very clear that awesome people want to join companies whose purpose and values match theirs. They want to work for managers who provide opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills, be promoted and rewarded.


Shaping the future


They want managers who communicate, delegate and hold people accountable, who will deal decisively with misfits, malcontents and the non-performers. Finally, they want to participate in planning and shaping the future of a dynamic, exciting company - and be recognised for their contribution to the company’s success.


Our “lucky company” is growing rapidly and opening offices in other countries. Retention has not been an issue because the CEO has built an organisation people want to join – and where they want to stay.


They understand, at the end of the day, every employee makes a choice: come back to work tomorrow, go somewhere else to work or do something else with their life. The employees are voting with their feet and coming back to work every morning.

There’s magic in building an awesome organisation. It enables them to attract and retain people who believe in your mission, match your values and want to help achieve the company’s vision. It keeps everyone focused on the customers and the products or services they need, want and value.


Well-designed systems, processes and procedures enable your employees to operate efficiently and effectively. This directly improves their ability to perform, remain engaged and help boost company profitability.


Dr Jana Matthews is Founding Director of the Australian Centre for Business Growth, UniSA Business and ANZ Chair of the Business Growth Program.

related articles:

It’s not the ‘Big Quit’. It’s the ‘Big Life Assessment’!

Key takeaways for businesses to retain employees and meet expectations resulting from ‘The great Australian Life Assessment’.

Marketing and sales…in that order!

Many businesses jump straight to sales to generate revenue - missing the crucial step of a marketing strategy. Dr Jana Matthews explains why market research and a solid plan ensures the best chance of success.

The talent challenge: how to win them, how to keep them

Back to basics: The step by step of attracting and retaining talent