The Right Culture Means the Right Hire

By John Shufeldt
hiring

There’s an old saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast. I think that’s true. If you build an organization with a great culture, it solves a lot of issues proactively. That’s because culture helps people do the right thing when there are no rules in place to help them. The company’s culture guides them.

I define culture as behavior. It’s a here’s-what-we’re-all-about mindset—what we’re trying to accomplish, how we hope to accomplish it, and the values and priorities imbued in that journey. It’s crucial you get culture right from the very beginning. As you scale over time, you may not be able to hire every single person. You’ll have to rely on the people you hired to promote that culture to newcomers. Once you’re growing, it’s hard to jump back and say, “Let’s talk about our culture now.” It has to be done early and proactively and then fiercely guarded.

With a defined culture, you’re effectively telling everyone in your company that you believe they will do the right thing. Not only does that eliminate the need to micromanage, but it’s also inclusive. You trust them to live by the company culture. They’re grounded in it because you’ve hired the right people and instilled that culture in them.

It’s advantageous to have a written summary of your culture, everything your company stands for. That’s a mission statement. A mission statement is a simple, straightforward declaration of your company’s goals. It summarizes what you do for your customers, employees, and owners. It explains how you do what you do—and, just as important, why you do it. A mission statement should be outward-looking. It’s what you want to do to change the world, what you do to support customers and teammates.

A mission statement can also include less serious issues and goals. Some companies prioritize fun, compassion, energy, or creativity. The overriding goal is to capture your varied priorities in a single statement—one that truly represents what you, your people, and your culture are about.

A culture and a mission statement aren’t standalone entities. They’re central not only to how your company and people behave but also to an effective hiring methodology. By incorporating culture and values into the recruiting and hiring program, you can identify would-be employees who genuinely embrace those values which is the key to hiring and retaining top-flight talent.

An applicant interview is an opportunity to determine how aligned someone is with your company culture. This is a deal maker and deal-breaker—it’s that important. If others buy into it—if they expand on your culture in your conversation, identifying elements that have particular value to them—that’s an attractive applicant. But if they just don’t seem to connect, that’s a hard stop. Disconnection from culture will only cause future problems.

Consider using situational questions to identify an applicant’s mindset and how closely it matches your company culture. The goal is to ask fairly open-ended questions to pinpoint experiences or values that, in the telling, show that the applicant is on board with your culture. In fact, this strategy can be particularly effective since you’re not just overtly raising the question of culture.

Ultimately, connection to culture is more important than credentials. It’s a straightforward strategy. If you set your mission and vision, define your values, and inculcate both in people, you build a company with team members who don’t go astray when there are no specific rules. That establishes the relationship between culture and people. Ultimately, you get the culture right, which ensures you hire right.

You can follow me on LinkedIn and read more about my book, Entrepreneur Rx, on my website.