Last week I attended Culture Amp’s second-annual Culture First Conference. I had high expectations based on reviews of last year’s event and was not disappointed! It was a great few days of community, thought-sharing and strong thought leadership from speakers like DeRay McKesson, Josh Bersin and Simon Sinek.
Here are some of my biggest takeaways on how to put culture, well, first!
It starts with hiring
To operationalize culture, attraction and hiring are your starting points. If your organization gets hiring right, the rest is easier - and pieces begin to fit together. This is not to say hire for culture “fit” to make everyone homogenous. Hiring for culture includes sharing your culture externally, discussing it in initial conversations, and asking questions during interviews that are not directly related to job processes. These questions should explore how the individual thinks, what they value and what truly matters to them – and then examine how that adds value to your organization.
It’s important to note questions about culture shouldn’t be treated like a test. There is not a right or wrong answer. People have different priorities, values and are not all seeking the same thing out of their career. That’s okay, because organizations also have different values and priorities as well. Apple is not hiring the same kind of person that Southwest is. The key is clearly articulating and raising awareness of what your organization values, so individuals can self-select and see if they envision themselves being successful and happy at your organization - and your hiring managers should be enabled to do the same.
It’s bigger than you
Culture is defined as the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. Culture is unique to each organization. It’s not something you can copy and paste from another organization or build out of thin air.
Many companies fail to build a strong culture, as they see culture as a check-box, and not a priority. An organic culture is not something you can give a tagline and half-heartedly implement. It’s invisible to the eye, as it exists in the heart and minds of those who live it. When a culture is good, its seamless and hard to pinpoint. Its only when a culture is not working that you can feel it.
So, what are some things that can weaken culture? Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at Vaynermedia identifies secrecy, micro-management, negative bias, cynicism and fear as leading contributors to a weak culture. Many of these negative experiences can be tied back to one thing - a lack of a clear purpose.
People want an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves. As Simon Sinek shared in his inspiring talk, people need a just cause. “A cause so just that not only do people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, but they are willing to sacrifice in order to advance that cause.” The just cause has meaning, Sinek shared. It’s what makes employees work hard, give their best ideas, sacrifice time away from family to travel, and builds trust and meaning amongst teams – a key part of a positive culture. What else promotes a positive culture of belonging? Transparency, communication, possibility and inclusivity are commonly identified traits.
You have to live it
Building a culture of belonging as described above requires leadership to walk the walk. If you say leadership is open, what does that actually look like? To be authentic, organizations must put their values into action, and engineer them into processes and employee’s day to day.
It's easy to say you want a great culture, it's another to actually build it. Leadership is just one piece of the equation. You can have a poster of your values on the walls, but if that’s not the lived reality of your employees, it’s not an authentic culture. Your people are already exhibiting behaviors and engaging with each other in ways that can help you uncover the values of your organization. It’s those experiences and beliefs that become the blueprint for your expression of your company's culture.
That’s where Havas People comes in. We’re passionate about helping organizations build thriving cultures by empowering people. We have resources to help enhance all points of the employee experience to maximize the performance and happiness of your talent, including recruitment, on-boarding and internal engagement.
Business Development Manager