It’s just around midday and I’ve finished eating my fat-free/everything-free salad and had the requisite 1L of water by 12pm. Out of nowhere the smell of fried chicken permeates, and just like that I am hungry for greasy chicken I wouldn’t normally eat.

I’m sure the name of the fast food chain lit up in your mind in big red neon font. I’ll even bet you did some mental finger-licking. I don’t know what it is about it, but I always joke to my friends that this company has a Johannesburg-sized fan that lives underground and gets switched on around lunch time to tempt even the toughest health-nut. Does your company have that irresistible smell about it?

“Vibe” is the latest buzzword in the corporate culture context and I constantly try my best to bring this home for myself and the companies I work with. The “vibe” of a place is simply an enabler for people to form an emotional connection, which decides on factors like productivity, retention and ultimately, the reputation of a company. People aren’t mere tools for performance, they are human beings with emotions that influence performance: a great smelling, emotion-tugging corporate soup is what tips over potential into consistent performance territory. Where do you even begin?!

I had a look at the most recent Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For and found three ingredients that I feel are exciting and steadily defining the corporate culture landscape. Today, companies that aren’t excelling in at least one of these will find themselves off the menu in a few years.

1. Experiential Employment

Beyond inspirational quotes on walls and hot chocolate on-tap, employees want more from the place which owns up to 80% of their day. Impressively on this one, Google continues to top the list

2. The company as the student and champion of learning and development

For a Fortune 100 company it’s probably hard to think that you could learn something life-changing from an employee. Companies are often prouder to say how much they learn from customers and consumers. The challenge is to achieve the same learning attitude with the “first customer”, the employee. My best example is Marriot: I love that their programme focusses on the whole person in addition to formal training.

3. Engaging and attracting tomorrow’s workforce

Let’s be honest, millennials rule the world. After honesty, let’s keep calm and audit our readiness to attract and engage an even more demanding Generation Z who is at the cusp of entering the workforce. Will they even want to work? If not, what happens to industry as we know it?

According to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For audit, companies that prioritise culture as a strategic tool for growth deliver three times more of a return than companies that don’t. Vibe as a concept seems frivolous, but beyond the fuzzy feeling of a great “smell”. The proof is in the profit.

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