I was at an event recently at a company where several people were invited to just hang out and share a meal together. People intrigue me so I prefer to watch the room unfold at events. I overheard a lot of friendly chit-chat, your usual small talk and obligatory questions, but people seemed to genuinely be having a good time. I found myself smiling and nodding in approval at the company culture until the “what do you do here” question hit the air. It’s a fair question and usually innocent, but the response one woman gave was “Oh, I’m just the janitor.” As if the janitor is some position that isn’t important to the overall organization. Which of course led me to judge the organization and it’s practices. How could an organization make any position feel less valuable than the next? Where does that even start? Does it start at orientation, or just at company events? Does it come from the mission of the organization or the lack of acknowledgement of support staff?
Does it matter? I think it matters. I’ve heard plenty of professionals in our industry say “Oh, I’m just HR” or “I’m just a recruiter.” If you don’t respect/value your position no one else will either. Don’t “just” be something, you are more than that!!!
Everyone is talking about culture, and I do mean everyone. Everywhere I look there is “culture this” and “culture that” from Sunday school to twitter, from twitter to the break room, from the break room to chapter SHRM meetings. What’s in a culture? Why is everyone so obsessed with it now?
Culture doesn’t define what we do or what we want to do as an organization, our mission statement does. Culture doesn’t define how we accomplish our mission statement, standards do.
I’ve jumped aboard the culture train myself and I even drove that train at a previous job, but maybe I just bought the hype? I believe Organizations WANT to define culture because they want to use it as a hiring tool. “You wouldn’t be happy here. You aren’t accustomed to the way we do things here.” Or “Come work for us, you’d be a perfect fit for our culture.” Something to consider here is that most organizations use the wrong thing to define their culture like activities, amenities and such. My question is simply this, was culture “defined” to discriminate in the hiring process? Was culture the idea that developed to weed out employees who would possibly become disgruntled or an excuse to let those disgruntled employees go. Is culture contagious? Before we started making a big deal out of culture did it just happen organically?
Is “culture” hiring keeping us safe from diversity? Should culture be a qualification? At a previous job I can look back now and say I was not a fit for their culture, not even from day one. I didn’t know that before they hired me. Culture isn’t something that was marketed, it was an internal piece of the puzzle. To know that piece of the puzzle you had to be a part of the team; outsiders wouldn’t have been privy to any information that would’ve defined their culture. Without putting my finger on what was different I quickly went against it and because I did I was able to see faster success than anyone else in the organization. So, if the way I did things was so successful why couldn’t the whole organization adopt those ways and expand and improve those ways? A friend suggested “Because it wasn’t the culture or didn’t fit the culture?” BS. It’s BS because each office had its own culture, even though we were all working to fulfill the overall mission and vision statement of the company each location had. their. own. culture. I started out as one and a half in my branch, there wasn’t much of a culture to define. The ways I used that led my branch to success were not adopted because the other managers didn’t believe the extra work would pay off in the long run. I tell you this little story because your HR department and your recruiters can beg you to define a company culture until they are blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. Your leaders within the company set the culture and those leaders will develop a culture based on the needs of their team and tasks. Each team that has a different leader could have a different, so-called, culture.
How about as people develop professionally, do their values change as they learn new things? They can, right? So where does this move them on the culture plot? Do they outgrow the culture they are a part of? Do they disagree with the culture they are currently a part of? etc. etc.
Let’s use a call center for an example: Group A does checking accounts and Group B does auto loans. Group A would define their culture as “working the biggest volume, being the fastest and the most efficient”. Group B is the last line of defense against recovery and would say their culture is “looking for solutions to keep you in your car”. Group A and Group B work for the same company, but tackle two completely different tasks. A one size fits all culture would fail here.
All this to say, can you define a company wide culture and what good does that do you anyway? I don’t think you can control culture from the top down, but what you can control is the mission of the organization. So tell me, does your company have a defined culture? Does your hiring process benefit from this defined culture?
Completely for fun here’s a rumor I had to deal with at the restaurant I told y’all I was waiting tables for: “She’s a spy from corporate”… Corporate sent me, little ol Kristina, into a restaurant in little ol Decatur, AL to spy on them? Whoooooaaaaa. As the new kid I found it humourous. As an employee trying to do a job I found it frustrating. As an HR professional I found it heartbreaking. I immediately wondered what kind of situation I could’ve signed up for. Are things bad enough in your organization that people assume the new kid on the block is a spy? to clean things up? To shut things down? To rat people out? To change things, for the better or even the worse? What kind of culture have you shaped that has people fearing a corporate mole when someone poses a solution to a problem? I can’t face day-to-day situations and turn my “HR” off, no matter where I am. It may be a curse… I don’t know, lol.
It has me thinking about culture and where us HR professionals get it wrong… We tend to be in situations where we wait until everything about our culture goes wrong before we find a solution. We are very much reactive in defining culture and we should take a look at our goals there again and see how effective that is. Now I know we don’t all have an opportunity to build culture from the ground up, but I see a lot of situations where an HR pro comes in and identifies the need to change the culture, but waits for something to blow up to get buy in on the idea. Don’t do that! You take responsibility and start making things happen… pitch it better to the higher-ups, make sure the higher-ups believe it and support it. Be an example. If you know me you know that I’m an advocate for the 5 love languages and the theme in the book is really based around making a difference starting with yourself… If you continue to throw tantrums no one takes you seriously, if you start to implement what you know it is going to take and behave the appropriate way people will see the results. That is taking on a huge role, but the ROI is worth it. I can tell you this though, if you wait until half your staff believes that there is a spy from corporate to clean up the culture… you’re in big trouble.
As someone who is excited about process improvement I’m always questioning the way we do things. Not in a “that’s stupid” kind of way, more like “I want to know more and I want to understand the process” kind of way (probably a skill that could use some fine tuning). Anyway, the last few days I’ve been meeting with a team of people who are involved in some big hiring decisions for a project I’m working on. Some of these people are HR some are not, some are experienced in the interview process some are just helping us out for logistic purposes. Listening to the group give their opinions on our interviews has become extremely interesting to me. I always tell people when they are asking for advice on how to get hired, how to stand out from the crowd and so on to just be themselves because there is no one way that guarantees you will impress your recruiter, or whoever you are interviewing with. As I heard comments like “If you don’t even have at least a Sunday shirt to wear…” or “his answers sounded too rehearsed…” I thought to myself-how often do we focus on the wrong things? Why do we recruit the way we recruit? I used to always tell the recruiters that worked under me that it was NEVER a deal breaker if a machinist didn’t have an A+ resume… (staffing industry tip alert*) the machinist job is to be good at being a machinist not at writing a resume, our job as recruiters for our clients were to let our clients know why he was going to be a good hire… Now that I find myself recruiting for a company on the inside, I still believe this, I need a forklift driver to be good at driving a forklift not writing a resume. I didn’t explain to the candidates coming in for an interview what to wear specifically, so I don’t care that he wasn’t wearing a sunday shirt. [in fact when a candidate did ask what they should wear I told them to wear what they would feel comfortable in for an interview…a panel interview is intimidating enough I wouldn’t want to force them to wear clothes they weren’t comfortable in too!] I did tell the candidate to expect to meet with multiple people as this was a panel interview and to take the time to do some further research about the company before he came on site, I appreciate that he took that advice seriously and was prepared for an interview. For the record one of my biggest pet peeves is when a candidate shows up for an interview and asks “what do yall do here?”… ughhh? Why do you want to apply for a position here and not even know what we do here?
Anyway, I know I’ve said it before, did we change the way we recruit and forget to tell candidates or did candidates change the way we recruit and we are trying to catch up? Chicken? Egg? Here’s my opinion, 2 generations at once was a triumph, the more you add the more difficult decision-making becomes. Your old school opinions are the “sunday shirt” opinions… Your new school opinions are “Are you available for a Skype interview? BTW we wear jeans M-F and we are okay with the occasional telecommute” and so on. Somewhere in the midst of the generational melting pot we’ve decided we will recruit for skill and culture so we can be forward thinking companies and maximize our potential and run lean and create mentorship opportunities, etc. Ok-I’m starting to run all over the place with this, again, hang with me. Are we expecting candidates to know that’s our goal? No. So we tell them that is our goal. And we wait… and wait… to see how they respond, right? Well we know what we mean & just because we say it, doesn’t mean the candidate knows what that means. It’s easy to recruit for skill, no doubt about that, but culture brings a new element to the table. So tell your candidates what kind of culture you are looking to build, tell them what that means to each employee and the goals of the facility and what the expectations are of the candidates as far as meeting/sustaining those goals. Then wait for the reaction. Then see if they are excited. If they understand. If they are on board. Don’t keep it “secret squirrel” and then be bummed when they didn’t exceed your expectations. Create open communication with new hires on how they can contribute to the culture and the company goals and coach them when necessary. Nurture that from the beginning and eventually those people will be the ones teaching your new hires how to react to the expectations of the culture, start at the beginning! And don’t be afraid to define the organizations definition of the culture they are building. I was talking with an HR friend who said that a recent candidate she interviewed had impressed her because he repeatedly mentioned that he was looking for a second family and that meant something to her because she deals with so many people who “could give a shit less about the people they work with” and later I thought “Well, what if that’s what family means to them?” This is a great example in my mind because people say “I want to be treated like family” or things like that, but family may not be the most important thing to that person so they may define family a bit different from how you or I would.
What is the most important thing, in your opinion, that a candidate must do in the interviewing process to get hired?
Kristina Hutto Minyard
I am a former HR practitioner, current HR advocate. Program Manager and Technical Recruiter by day, HR writer and Speaker by all the other hours. Currently the co-host of #DisruptHRHSV. You can find a little bit of everything here at hrpockets: HR Lessons, how HR impacts my Program Management, Parenting woes (and wins), stories of friendship, maybe some shopping and whatever else I decide… I mean, I bring my whole self to work so it’s time to bring my whole self to the blog.
I’m a follower of Christ, Wife, Mom, Blogger, problem solver, certified in HR, touch-me-not, runner, cat person, Netflix and Hulu binger.