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Misplaced Emphasis on Company Culture

Misplaced Emphasis on Company Culture

A Right Recruiting White Paper On Culture – A Continuing Discussion on How a Misplaced Emphasis on Company Culture Can Hurt Your Business, Team or Organization

I’ve written about company culture and employment before and how an overly broad concern about cultural fit can hurt, not help, your company. Basically, I called it “culture capture.” Existing staff can innocently use cultural concerns when hiring and prevent new skills or ideas from being brought into the organization. The example I used was a company seeking to bring in a leader to revamp an antiquated supply chain operation. Every finalist was eliminated because they were not team oriented enough. That begs the question, can you drive change exclusively by team building? I don’t know the answer to that but, as far as I can tell 3 years later, that function has still not been upgraded.

My last White Paper on culture was actually a video from last year. My concern was a bit different. I suggested that each department within a company really should have its own culture – one that fits that department itself. A careful, patient accounting/finance culture should be different than one that supports a creative/marketing element in a company. A competitive sales culture would be different than a focused operations team. Wrongly, many firms let HR create an overarching corporate culture. They end up with a culture that makes sense for HR but not for everyone else.

As the labor market has continued to tighten things have gotten more complicated. As companies see fewer and fewer candidates with the right skills for their jobs, misplaced cultural concerns can eliminate the few good candidates that an employer sees. By good candidates, I mean the people with the required skills to do the job. If you see 20 good candidates, it can be practical to eliminate 15 due to cultural concerns. It you see 2 candidates and eliminate 2 because of culture, well…you do the math.

My goal here is not to tell you to ignore culture. I want to give you another perspective and viewpoint on how to consider it in candidate evaluation. If your culture becomes a barrier to entry for good, skilled contributors it does you no good.

Here is a template for candidate & cultural evaluation free of charge:

1) Can the person do the job? Do they have the skills and we need?

2) Are they a cultural fit?

Ok, up to this point most companies do this but if the answer to No. 2 is NO, they go no farther. Let me add some steps.

3) In what way are they not a fit? Almost always this is personality – too confrontation, too consensual, etc.

4) How important is that to the job? Some jobs have limited interaction with others, like a field salesperson, so culture would be less important.

5) Is the cultural disconnect a product of the person’s prior environment? Some people create a company personality because it is required where they work. I’ve seen very polite people become confrontational at work because their work culture required it. That’s how things got done. That person might relish a more team-oriented culture.

6) If the cultural disconnect is intrinsic to the person, can it be changed and modified? Most companies have skills training programs or leadership programs. For a good candidate with a cultural disconnect, I would suggest the following course of action:

a) Be up front. Say this, “We want to hire you but are concerned that you may not fit in culturally because you are (too team oriented, not team oriented enough, etc.). Can you accept that you may have to change your approach to work here? If so, we would like to help you with that. Will you work with us on that?”

b) Evaluate the response. Walk away from a defensive response, of course, but give significant credit to anyone who can discuss this maturely. That would be a very positive sign.

c) Basically, look for ways to add talented people. Your default approach should be to find ways to get good people on board rather than ways to eliminate people.

d) Remind yourself and your team that any team needs new ideas and fresh viewpoints. I have never seen a Stepford Wife culture succeed anywhere.

The most success business partnerships that I have seen tend to be complementary, not supplementary. Each partner brings his or her own personality and viewpoint to the team and the aggregate is what creates the successful culture. A culture of different types of people can be very, very successful as long as each participant respects what the others bring to the team. Maybe the best culture is a culture of respect for different thoughts and approaches.

A short White Paper to give you something to consider. Thanks for reading.