How Global Mobility Specialists Can Help Employers Build an Authentic Organizational Culture

In today’s increasingly competitive market for top talent, companies are obsessed with cultivating the aura of the quintessential “cool workplace.” They plaster their websites, offices and recruiting pitches with buzzwords like “innovative,” “disruptive” and “entrepreneurial” in hopes of attracting the brightest stars. Quirky perks, open workspaces, and ambitious talk of shattering conventions have become marketing currency. 

However, research shows that gimmicky elements like beanbags, ball pits, and game rooms do little to boost morale or build an organizational work culture.  

But behind this relentless hype, a sobering reality is taking hold: employees aren’t buying the shiny veneer. They can sense when the vibe portrayed to the outside world clashes with the actual staff experience and corporate identity. This glaring disconnect between aspiration and authenticity is damaging engagement, eroding trust, and fomenting skepticism among savvy workers. 

“Everyone thinks they want to build this freewheeling, edgy culture, but employees can always spot the misalignment between how things are advertised and how they truly operate,” says Alice Zhou of PwC’s Katzenbach Center for Culture and Leadership. “It comes across as inauthentic, and that’s incredibly corrosive.”

A glaring cultural dissonance that breeds mistrust, cynicism and disengagement as workforces see through the empty sloganeering. Abundant data illustrates the costs of this disconnect:

  • In PwC’s 2023 Global Workforce Hopes & Fears survey, 39% of employees said their company’s rhetoric around innovation and cultural values was misaligned with reality on the ground. Only 15% of CEOs acknowledged this gap
  • Those experiencing cultural authenticity were far more likely to be satisfied at work, to advocate for their employer’s brand, and to foresee remaining with the company long-term
  • They also tended to be more optimistic about organizational resilience and the integrity of leadership
  • Conversely, those enduring hypocrisy were more prone to distance themselves emotionally, reducing advocacy while becoming more cynical about the company’s direction and values.

“Culture and the employee experience are directly tied to attracting and keeping top people,” affirms Zhou’s colleague Christopher Hannegan. “When the aspirational branding promotes one thing but the actuality provides something completely different, you’ll inevitably have higher turnover as disillusioned employees jump ship.”

An intermediary with a global mindset

In the initial phase of attracting people for jobs, it’s imperative for companies to learn as much as they can from their assignees through an intermediary, those who are in the business of managing and attracting global talents — global mobility professionals. They can help bridge the gap in understanding between employers and assignees, because in general, the latter may not see what others can see. 

However, global mobility specialists can only go so far, too, especially when companies don’t have an inherent open authentic culture of openness. 

“You have to be honest about your strategic priorities and constraints, and design an experience consistent with that identity,” advises Zhou. “For example, any company operating in a high-stakes, zero-defect environment like a nuclear facility or an air traffic control system can’t indulge some Silicon Valley mythology of constant rule-breaking and experimentation. Reliability has to take precedence over disruptive innovation.”

Building an authentic culture begins with this unflinching self-awareness. Leaders must grapple with their specific operational context, regulatory landscape, and strategic imperatives — then craft an experience that both aligns with those realities and resonates as transparently true to current and prospective employees.

This doesn’t mean staid work environments are inherently bad or that employees won’t embrace more traditional hierarchies or processes. Done authentically, with clear rationales and invested leadership modeling, even conventionally “uncool” cultures can thrive. Zhou points to a financial services IT department that successfully fused innovation with buttoned-up rigor by actively engaging staff to shape how they’d ideate while adhering to necessary governance.

“They brought employees into the process of figuring out how to enable more creativity while still following required protocols,” Zhou explains. “It married the cultural aspiration with the operational reality in a way that felt genuine to everyone.”

At its core, prioritizing cultural authenticity is about respect — for the workforce, for the organization’s mission, and for the basic expectation of transparency in an increasingly cynical era. Companies that fail to live their cultural truth don’t just face higher attrition and disengagement risks, they open themselves to ethical scrutiny and potential reputation damage.

“Promoting a on your website while subjecting employees to continuous crunch hours, unrealistic deadlines, and undercutting behaviors creates compliance exposures,” warns Hannegan. “Misrepresenting the cultural experience violates the organization’s duty of trust.”

Ultimately, companies have a choice — they can continue chasing an airbrushed, mass-marketed delusion of what they wish their culture embodied. Or they can do the more difficult introspective work of building an authentic culture. True workplace happiness stems from more fundamental aspects like fair compensation, opportunities for growth, feeling respected, and having trust in leadership.