How Do We Build Culture?

By Staff Report

Feb. 24, 2015

Dear Nervous Newbie:

The timing of your question is perfect given that Merriam-Webster chose “culture” as its Word of the Year for 2014. Remember the phrase coined by management expert Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Cultural Fit

Determining cultural fit in the interview process can be extremely challenging. When organizations are very large, it can be especially difficult to define what qualities make candidates mesh with a culture of thousands of people who are, essentially, quite different.

When Google started growing at an exponential rate, it specifically decided to define what it means to be “Googley.” By articulating this concept, it became much easier to assess whether candidates would thrive in Google’s environment.

The definition of being “Googley” included: thinking big, having a bias for action, being a good communicator and having the ability to work at a face pace on small teams. 

By specifically defining what type of employees they were looking for, Google was able to attract the right candidates and build a strong corporate culture.  

Revisit your definition of the perfect person you are trying to hire and carefully interview for these characteristics. Broadcast this definition to your managers and have them closely adhere to it. 

Character vs. Skill

Of course, a candidate having both excellent character and skills is ideal, but sometimes people fall a little short on one end. Which aspect is a better compromise? Do you hire the person who has years of experience executing the job duties but who seems slightly off in regards to cultural fit?  Or do you hire the person whom everyone on the team loves but will need some additional training to improve his or her skill set?

I would take the person with the right character any day of the week. Character is ingrained into the core being of who a person is and dictates how he or she will behave. It encompasses one’s ethics, values, dedication, motivation and outlook. It is nearly impossible to alter a person’s character, for better or for worse. Skills are things that are learned.  

In summary and your call to action: Skills can be taught, character cannot. Evaluate your recruiting process for valuing character and attitude over technical skills and aptitude. Teach this to your managers and recruiters. Online retail giant Zappos made this famous, by actually having two separate interview teams, one for attitude and the other for aptitude. 

Your other call to action is to ensure you and your managers are using the right behavioral questions to assess each candidate’s cultural fit organization.

SOURCE: Kevin Sheridan, chief engagement officer, Kevin Sheridan LLC, Winnetka, Illinois, Jan.18, 2015.

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