Over the past decade, you couldn’t step into a boardroom, job interview or onboarding session without hearing about “Company Culture.” You’ve probably asked or been asked one of these familiar questions:
►How do you define your company’s culture?
►Do you think he/she is a cultural fit?
►What is the ideal company culture for you?
Matching the right employees with your company’s culture can be a challenging but rewarding process. Many executives and talent acquisition teams will tell you, with conviction, that they’ve defined their company values—but have they really? When it comes to the hiring process, are you focused more on screening for technical skills or experience than behaviors and how employees work with others? Let’s not forget about onboarding. When you welcome new employees, are you missing out on additional opportunities to connect them with mentors and help them find a place for themselves in your culture? It’s time to take an honest look at how you’ve defined your company culture and figure out how to not only properly match employees to your culture, but also support them throughout their journey within your organization.
Step 1: Explicitly define your values
Candidates want to know what your company stands for and what behaviors are expected and rewarded. Your values are the most effective way to articulate those ideas, as they serve as the foundation of your culture. In order to properly define your company’s values, you have to take an honest look at the shared beliefs, behaviors and practices that make up the personality of your business right now—not what you want them to be. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially if your stakeholders aren’t all on the same page about how things get done and what defines success at your company. And there’s not much worse than selling a candidate on a culture that isn’t reflected in their experience once they join the organization.
If you haven’t defined your values already, take the time to speak with employees at all levels of the organization to better understand their view of the behaviors that are rewarded. This gathered intel should point you to the words or phrase that serve as your values. At a minimum, it’s critical that employees see themselves and their current behaviors in the values you select, as well as that your values allow room to translate as your strategy and organization change over time.
As the foundation of your culture, you won’t want to change your values often, if ever.
Step 2: Interview for behaviors, not just technical skills and experiences
Now that you’ve defined your values, how do you integrate them into your hiring process? While you can screen for technical expertise fairly well from a resume, your best bet for determining whether a candidate will thrive in your company’s culture is the in-person interview. Interviews, if executed properly, help organizations find great fits among candidates. However, if executed improperly, they can set up new employees for the bad kind of surprise once they’re hired, which can then lead to decreased engagement and/or increased attrition.
To avoid that, you’ll want to sit down and take another honest look at the questions you ask during your interview process. Let’s say you’re hiring for a highly technical role where a specific skillset is non-negotiable. While it’s important to verify that skillset during the interview, you should also take care to ask questions that will allow you to gauge– and the candidate to get a view of—how well they’ll fit into your culture. That skillset may be important, but if they can’t apply it effectively because of a mismatch between their working style and your values and culture, both parties are probably best off looking elsewhere.
On the flipside, let’s say you’re hiring for a role where specific technical experience is not key to success or can be learned on the job. Screening resumes for evidence of the behaviors that reflect your values and culture, rather than specific expertise can open up a wider—and probably more diverse—candidate pool. Continuing that focus on behaviors during the interview process will lead you to employees that feel comfortable and aligned with your organization on Day 1.
Either way, ask tangible questions around how they would respond in certain situations. Provide real life scenarios to see how they’d react and determine if that lines up with how you’ve defined your company’s values. Many times, we get in our own way, because we’ve already created an image of who the “perfect” candidate is, and we assume we know what that person should look like on paper and in person. Check your preconceived notions at the door and zero in on how they work. This will allow you more opportunities to find candidates that may be able to help shape and grow alongside your business by providing fresh ideas, finding and creating efficiencies and creating new processes that aid in the overall advancement of the organization. We’ve all scoured the internet for the perfect interview questions, but for a values-based interview, here are some of our favorites:
►Describe a time you messed up. Who else was impacted and what did you do to resolve the issue?
►Give an example of a goal you didn't meet and how you handled it.
►Did you ever make a risky decision? Why? How did you handle it?
Step 3: Support new employees through effective onboarding, affinity groups
Traditional onboarding typically comes in one form: The all-day (or majority of the day) blitz. On your first day, you sit in a room with the other new employees, likely learning about the company’s history and products, how to select and set up benefits, create your new email account and gain access to the company’s network. You might hear from some of the leadership team, live or via video, and take a tour of the building. While this is all vital information for your success as an employee, why not try something different? Instead of focusing on your company’s past and information they (hopefully) already researched for the interview process, try reallocating that time to showing how your culture and values are exhibited throughout the organization on a daily basis. Share stories, include teambuilding activities, give your new team members a feel for the experience, rather than just a view, of working at your company as soon as they arrive. You’re putting your company’s values front-and-center immediately and what type of message does that send? One that aligns with and reinforces where your organization stands, where it’s going and what it represents.
If you have affinity groups, talk them up! Share what they’re doing in the workplace and the community, as well as how their efforts are reinforcing inclusivity and equity in the workplace. Even if you’ve already made a good match through your values-based interview process, pointing new employees to groups of people that share their same life experiences or background can add an extra layer of support as they join the organization. They may even find a mentor to guide them through those crucial first few months. While formal mentorship programs are a great way to guarantee that new employees have a “buddy” in their first days, some of the greatest mentor relationships have been born out of the common interests and backgrounds that lead to strong interpersonal connections and real investment in the success of others over time.
A match made
If you want to match your employees with your company’s culture, invest the time it takes to put these steps into practice. Define your values and make sure they’re reflected throughout the organization. When you’re hiring, don’t only focus on technical skills, but also interview for behaviors that align with your values. Bring those values into your onboarding process—and then live your values by really focusing on supporting your new team members throughout their journey into your organization. This not only engages employees, but also breeds loyalty, hard work and dedication to the success of your business. It’s not always easy, but it will always be worth it.
This article was co-authored by Susan Sullivan, senior vice president of human resources for Genworth U.S. Mortgage Insurance, responsible for all HR accountabilities across Genworth’s USMI organization, which includes driving the overarching people strategy for USMI, and leading Employee Relations, Internal Communications, Learning & Development, and Facilities teams.