13/02/2012

Adam Shaw, MD of Assured Recruitment

If you were asked to summarise your company’s culture, how would you define it? Are you aware of your company ‘culture’? Whether you know it or not, your organisation’s culture plays a key part in all aspects of your business, from recruitment right through to sales.

So how do you identify what your business culture is? And how do you determine whether someone ‘fits’ into it? This article shows you why corporate culture is so important, and how you can use it to your business advantage, especially when recruiting new team members.

What is culture?

Corporate culture is best described as a company’s ‘make-up’ - how that company behaves, interacts, and exists. Although difficult to explain, the ‘vibe’ that culture creates becomes instantly apparent when you walk into a company.

The more powerful aspects of corporate culture require greater observation, and are formed by the beliefs, standards, perspectives, attitudes, as well as the internal and private conversations of the company’s employees. These attributes become the foundation for all actions and decisions within a team, department, and the company itself.
Despite not always being an intentional creation, every company has a culture, which evolves from the core values belonging to the business. That’s why it’s not enough to just adopt someone else’s culture - others can inspire you, but ultimately you must make your culture your own.

How do you define your culture?

When someone asks you to describe yourself in three words, it’s difficult, and it’s the same when defining your company’s culture: there are things to consider which will allow you to say, “Our culture is…”

To help you gain an understanding of your culture, there are several questions you can ask yourself to give you a basic understanding. These include:

- What are the business’ core values?

- What are the objectives?

- What needs to be done to achieve them?

- What timeframe are we working to?

- What type of environment will support these objectives?

- How can I get the most from my employees?

The answers will explain why your business works the way it does, and may also help you to identify areas for improvement. Your culture should enable growth and success, not hinder it, so you need to make sure that it’s compatible with your plans, enabling you to focus on employing people who will compliment it and avoid wasting time on those who won’t.

Flexibility is important when looking to improve your culture, and you must be both reasonable and realistic in your approach. It’s perfectly acceptable to expect your team to be creative, but are you enabling creativity? Companies won’t succeed if the culture doesn’t match the corporate objectives.

It’s also worth noting that culture is influenced by the market you’re in; Companies that have a high volume of sales tend to have slim margins and need to function at a quick pace, and are likely to have a more transactional culture, whereas companies with wide margins can operate at a more relaxed pace, resulting in a more laid-back corporate culture.

Cultivating and applying your culture across your organisation

Once your culture has been determined, you can look at refining it to ensure it’s working in harmony with your business. The next step is to apply it across your organisation, and use it as a regular point of reference to support consistency in your business practice.

When you have cultivated your corporate culture, you can begin using it to influence business practice and decision-making, applying it from the initial point of contact with a prospective employee, so that you are both aware of what can be expected. It’s particularly important to get this right before the employee joins the business, as any misalignment post-appointment could prove disruptive and costly.

Determining a ‘cultural fit’

So how exactly do you identify a cultural fit candidate? As previously mentioned, the most obvious thing to look out for is whether a candidate’s make-up suits your workplace. Of course skills and qualifications will already have been taken into account, so it’s time to look at the person, and their likelihood to succeed in the designated role.

Many companies struggle when recruiting, as they have limited time and lots of applicants, therefore using a recruitment partner is a more desirable option when recruiting for senior-level positions. Consultants can dedicate both time and resources to finding the perfect candidate, allowing for plenty of face-time in order to establish whether that person is suited to the company that is looking to appoint them.

Due to the success of the cultural match approach to recruiting, we are seeing more techniques being used to enable recruiters to understand a person’s ambitions and objectives, such as cultural questionnaires, on-site visits and behavioural questions at interview. By using a more targeted approach to recruitment, you’ll not only receive an exceptional candidate, but an exceptional contributor to corporate growth and success.

But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just the candidates’ responsibility to do the impressing; it’s equally as important that they are impressed by you, and that they see a future within your company. That’s why understanding your culture and making it visible to prospective candidates is crucial if you’re expecting them to stay with your business for a substantial period. Be honest, be clear and be consistent.