Building Your Corporate Culture: One Critical Practice


One of the most overlooked drivers of corporate culture is employee selection.  Think about it.  What if you could identify and hire individuals who fit not only the job requirements, but also the culture requirements?  In other words, people who matched the culture you wanted to create, which in turn would best enable the delivery of your business strategy and objectives.

When employees and executives hold the same core beliefs and values, you need fewer policies to “control” or manage behavior.  Instead, your employees have an innate ability to deliver solutions and customer service that match your desired culture.

ritz-carltonThink it’s difficult to hire for cultural fit?  Not really, and it is definitely worth the effort.  Remember the rise to dominance by the luxury hotel chain, Ritz Carlton?  The only hotel chain to win two Malcolm Baldrige Quality Awards!  CEO Horst Schulze and his executive team decided to create a culture of exquisite service using two key drivers:  focused metrics and focused employee selection.  The key here is focused!

ritz-carlton-qualityThey hired a psychometic research firm, Talent Plus, to develop an employee interview process that focused heavily on cultural fit.  Everyone from senior executives to chamber maids are interviewed this way.  Nobody gets hired at Ritz Carlton without the focused interview process.  Their internal motto was very clear:  Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.  With a clear understanding of the required culture, they hire people who fit.

Ritz Carlton is not the only successful organization to use focused selection to match the culture.  Focused selection has been a way of hiring at Walt Disney theme parks for decades.  And for a more modern example, since its founding in 1999, Zappos has grown to be the largest online shoe store by focusing on superior customer service, driven by a values-based culture and hiring for cultural fit.  The CEO even wrote a book about building his culture.

I will wager that very few businesses use any type of focused employee selection for cultural fit.  Why? At least two reasons; the senior team doesn’t fully understand the importance of culture on business performance, and secondly, if they have any written values, they are just that, written or posted on walls, not really lived nor built into the business policies and work practices. On the wall does not necessarily mean in the heart!

During my speeches and workshops to executives one of the first things I do is ask them to take out a blank sheet of paper and write down their company values, without conferring with anyone.  More often than not I get first blank stares, then uncomfortable coughs and shuffling of chairs.  The fact is, in all the years I have done this exercise the group average has rarely been above 50%!  What if an employee at a shareholder meeting or a town hall meeting asked the senior team to do the same exercise and got a 50% response.  What would be your excuse?  I forgot doesn’t cut the mustard!

But the good news is you can begin to give teeth to your culture and values by beginning to use a process of focused selection. Hiring for fit will begin to build a culture  better aligned with your strategic and business aspirations, and your employees will help you get there.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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2 Responses to Building Your Corporate Culture: One Critical Practice

  1. Pingback: The Right Stuff? | John R Childress . . . rethinking

  2. Pingback: More Leadership = Less Management | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

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