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Hiring for Culture First

Everybody’s heard a story about an office whose breakroom is stuffed with pool tables, where the sushi lunch every Friday is company supplied, where staffers set their own hours and bring their schnauzers to work. Such is the lore of company culture, the buzziest of buzz terms scorching the current corporate landscape — and managers ignore its siren call at their considerable peril.

According to a recent study by management consultancy Deloitte, today’s employees believe that company culture — or those values and practices to which an organization commits in demonstration of its identified priorities — is almost as important to business success as strategy is.

Adopt it as a critical tenet of your organizational existence and enjoy the fruits in hiring, retention, motivation, loyalty, productivity, creativity and, yes, profitability.

But how, we ask (above the cries to “Hire for cultural fit! Forget professional competencies! Skills can be learned!”) to measure for such a thing in a potential employee?

Some advice:

Ask candidates not just what they’re trained to do, but what they like to do. Matching the latter with the work at hand can only bring joy to both sides of the equation. Reams of research confirm that employees who get to utilize their talents everyday are the most productive.

Communicate the company’s mission, and the importance of each role in seeing it through, at first encounter. When an individual feels he’s working with others toward a bigger goal, he’ll blossom.

Ask candidates to describe their ideal corporate culture. Nothing, after all, reveals people’s true character like an inventory of their cultural preferences.

Introduce practices that reflect the stuff. Online clothing retailer ModCloth, keen to employ folks whose personal values embody the fun-loving stylishness of the brand, operate themed apparel days and a dog-friendly office — and regularly post photographed evidence of same to social media sites.

• Assign a cultural ambassador to your ranks and include her in the hiring. The move will not only signal how much importance you place on the subject, but will invite meaningful input from that side of the desk.

• Ask lots of questions. Your genuine interest in this person will be revealed this way, as will the emphasis your organization puts on employee input.

Remember (and convey) that culture is about give and take. Employees enjoy a great culture in exchange for hard work. Full stop. Most people won’t leave a company they enjoy going to for 40+ hours a week.

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