Culture Cues

Culture is the character of the organisation. Businesses that cultivate strong, attractive characters understand the values they need to deliver their goals. They know the behaviours their employees must demonstrate in their daily work to deliver the right customer (and colleague) experiences. They measure the commercial value of their culture at customer touchpoints: evaluating how their staff behaviours impact sales, recommendation, repeat purchase, range purchase, and loyalty.

They pay great attention to the effort it takes customers (and suppliers) to do business with their organisation. The best cultures work at reducing that effort (lower customer effort scores) which almost always create an upswing in referrals (higher net promoter scores).

It’s obvious then, that this task becomes easier if you hire for cultural fit. One of my most successful clients has a hiring mantra: ‘fit for culture; fit for attitude; fit for skills’. Note how this inverts the order of requirements mandated by more traditional approaches to recruitment. The companies where bosses tell the HR department:      ‘We need a new accountant: CPA 1 or 2. Here’s my budget (and go to India if they’re cheaper there).’So, if you’d like to try a new approach to recruitment that might bring you fewer people disappointments, consider these three tips when hiring:

  1. Describe your organisational culture accurately and honestly. Better to say we are ‘working towards’ or ‘aspire to having’ a truly collaborative culture rather than saying that’s what you have now.
  2. Use profiling and other forms of psychometric testing, but use them judiciously. Too many companies either do a deep forensic analysis or nothing at all (depending on the level of the position). Much better to look for three behavioural attributes that suggest a good fit. Tests for curiosity, boldness, and judgment, for example, will give you a better fit for a business development person than trying to assess their integrity or responsibility.
  3. Your hiring managers are people too and, if they’ve been in the role for any length of time, will have assimilated the organisation’s norms – good and bad. Train your hiring managers to choose which old ideas to let go of, and what trade-offs they may need to accept to bring in the new behaviours you are seeking.

I firmly believe that hiring managers should not be allowed to devolve the qualitative aspect of hiring new staff to the HR Department. This allows the manager to opt out of the hiring decision at any time (normally one month into the employee’s contract) because HR ‘found a candidate that wasn’t right’. Instead, CEOs should hold managers directly accountable for the talent they recruit, engage, develop and promote.


Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside

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