This shift in the employment landscape over my ten years in the recruitment industry has been a fascinating thing to watch. Banks, financial institutions, and, to a lesser degree, insurance companies are no longer the employers of choice; employees are shunning Project management in favour of Product management; Art degrees are suddenly credible provided they come with the addition of UX and UI. By far the biggest change though, is the meteoric rise of ‘culture’ in the employee/employer priority lists.
When Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg asserted that the Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility deck produced by CEO Reed Hastings ‘may well be the most important document ever to come out of the Valley’ she cemented cultural integrity as a ‘before-all-else’ as opposed to simply a ‘nice-to-have’.
When hiring great talent, it’s good to have some guidelines, whether you are a business or a charity, a global player or a determinedly small operation. There’s a variety of online sources you can turn to for help defining the broader term ‘culture’ for your charity. However when it comes to the challenge of hiring the best people whilst maintaining your cultural integrity, there are surprisingly few guidelines. So let’s fix that with some simple checks you can have in place to keep yourselves honest:
- Agree whether cultural fit is really a priority for everyone in your organisation. Don’t be ashamed if culture isn’t currently your organisations number one priority. Be honest with yourselves and your employees that this is the case. Honesty and self-reflection go hand-in-hand with integrity. If your IT Director is happy to hire the world’s biggest jackass just because they come from *insert aspirational, globally-renowned technology company here* then an exercise in consistency must take place. As Hastings asserts, there is no space for ‘brilliant jerks’.
- Write down what defines your culture – whether it’s a comprehensive set of shared values, a publically displayed mission statement or a minimalist catchy raison d’etre by-line, it must be available to all employees, at all times.
- Invite employees from an unconnected team – who have no vested interest in a candidate’s proficiency – to assess their cultural suitability for your organisation.
- Trust your instincts, go with your gut and be unwilling to compromise. If there are red flags when it comes to cultural fit, err on the side of caution.
- As the Ancient Greeks said, ‘Know thyself’. Be unashamed of who the organisation is and what your employees stand for.
- Finally, throughout all interactions, demonstrate the qualities that you wish to hire in others.
There is no magic formula – it takes trial and error balanced with constant self-reflection to find employees that represent the cultural aspects of your organisation, while also excelling in their own area of expertise. However if you understand who you are, you must stand by your cultural aspirations, and you can draw some comfort in the fact that the most aspirational of organisations are all facing the same challenge!