How You Influence Your Company Culture

I was surprised one day to learn that one of our recruiters told a candidate, “And whatever you do, don’t wear a suit and tie, or even slacks and a nice shirt. If you have cargo shorts and hiking boots, wear those.” Was he misguiding the candidate? No, he was ensuring that the interviewee would fit in with the company culture of the prospective employer–an outdoor supplies and clothing company that celebrates Casual Everyday!

Your company has a unique culture, and shaping and preserving that culture is something you often do without even thinking about it. As a leader, your behavior, personality, and perspective inevitably influence your company’s culture, whether intentionally or not. We’re not just talking about how you dress, although that can affect a company’s culture. Remember that saying, “Do what I say, not what I do?” Seldom does that really work! The real challenge is to intentionally let your best qualities impact the culture positively, and to prevent your flaws from infecting it negatively. Whatever you value and model will define your company’s culture.

For instance, if you tend to avoid conflict and bury problems, it’s likely your employees will develop cliques and contrasting subcultures as people silently choose sides. Your culture may then become known for high turnover and lack of employee engagement. Or if you operate from a need for perfectionism and control, your employees may become fearful and focused on risk avoidance instead of on their actual work. Your culture may come to be defined as passionless with a legalistic 9-to-5 mentality.

On the other hand, you may be really good at mentoring new employees. As you coach and inspire your direct reports, they subsequently feel encouraged to do the same for the next new employee that comes along, and–voila!– your culture becomes characterized by its mutually encouraging interactions. Or if you invite and reward fresh ideas and outside-the-box suggestions, your culture begins to attract people who aren’t afraid to try new methods and express their creativity.

Ben Kirshner is the CEO of Elite SEM, a digital marketing agency that has won awards for being the best place to work. In his article Four Ingredients for a Winning Company Culture, he shares that Elite SEM has consciously chosen to put its core values first. The company goes out of its way to keep employees happy by providing flexible work schedules, great compensation, and free lunches. Kirshner says, “My goal is for every person at Elite to feel they are part of a successful, coordinated and supportive team. I also want them to feel a sense of gratitude and humility at the chance to work with some of the best online brands, but that has to start with leadership at the top. A commitment to happy people is our top priority.”

Once you’ve intentionally established the company’s culture, it takes thought and effort to preserve it. As you hire new employees, it’s important to screen them to ensure they’re a good culture match. Of course, there’s room for individuality in each new employee. But if, for example, your culture values cooperation and teamwork, some of your interview questions had better delve into candidates’ past behavior in regard to how successfully they worked with past teammates. Or if your culture is characterized by independence and self-motivation, your hiring process needs to filter out those candidates whose past performance has required stringent oversight and micromanagement.

In 9 Tips for a Better Company Culture, Lauren Drell quotes Brett Lewis, founder of Skillbridge:

“Hiring is the most important thing you can do at a company at any stage in its lifecycle. Great people versus okay people is the difference between success and mediocrity — and it is something that founders spend far too little time on early on.” He also says that in the startup world, your sixth hire should be a recruiter, who can devote time to finding other fantastic hires.

Each business day, you have the opportunity to influence your company culture. Deciding what you most value and holding a magnifying glass to those qualities by modeling them for your direct reports will help infuse them into your company culture. Then, you must develop your hiring process or team up with a staffing partner to attract and select people who will help you further the culture you’ve worked so hard to create.

At Amtec, we understand the value of recruiting just the right cultural fit for your company. It often begins with knowing how to conduct a successful telephone screen.

Click here or call (714) 993-1900 to request an employee or discuss a workforce management issue.

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