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.
Think 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!
They 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
John also writes thriller novels!