“The person we want to hire will fit our culture.” As a construction recruiter for so many construction companies in Western New York over the last 19 years, I’ve heard this phrase almost daily. So I ask you, what does it actually mean?
Does it mean that you only want to hire people who look like you, sound like you, and act like you? I’d like to challenge the frivolous use of the word culture. If you cannot quantify it—if you cannot define it, then you have no right to use it as a hiring criteria. Not only do you risk getting yourself into trouble, but it sounds like a cop out.
We all know how important it is that the new guy actually does fit the culture. The whole idea of hiring is to improve the current situation. The person who doesn’t share the same values is not going to last long.
Maybe it’s time to define your company’s culture and values.
The most beneficial exercise I have ever done in my life was to define my company’s values. If you’ve ever worked with me, I’ve undoubtedly asked you to read them. By the way I highly recommend Cameron Harold’s book Double Double.
Adam Bryant, New York Times reporter interviewed 525 Executives. He wrote How to Be a C.E.O., From a Decade’s Worth of Them. In it he reports that culture comes from what you do, not what you say.
Most CEOs have at some point gone through the exercise of defining their companies’ values and culture. Bryant calls it “a predictable rite of passage.” The thing is that it doesn’t matter how many retreats you go on, or whether you provide flexible hours, unlimited vacations, ping-pong tables, or catering–there’s only one way to let employees know your company’s culture and values: by whom you discipline and whom you reward.
“No matter what people say about culture, it’s all tied to who gets promoted, who gets raises, and who gets fired,” one CEO told Bryant. Whatever you say about culture, people in your company will see the people who get promoted as role models for the behavior you want.
Defining a company’s culture and values is a necessary and valuable exercise. I know for myself that once I did it, and then took it to my people for their buy in, it became painfully obvious who should be part of the team and who didn’t belong there.