This article was based on episode 151 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get 15% off on the CultureGene culture development program, plus a free PDF copy of the book Culture Decks Decoded and a PDF of chapter 5 'The Interview Process' from the new book Own Your Culture when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
If you’ve ever hired someone in the past you’ve probably thought about culture fit. The challenge many hiring managers have faced is: how do you interview for a culture-fit? According to Bretton Putter, you don’t.
Brett is the CEO of CultureGen and an expert in company culture development. He believes that while a strong team culture is vital, most organizations don’t understand how culture works. Brett defines culture as a function of the learning that we generate over time. As our team learns about what works and doesn’t, our culture develops. As we grow, the culture shifts. So if we try to hire for culture, we usually just rely on gut instinct and hire people like ourselves which has many unintended negative consequences.
Instead of hiring for a “culture-fit”, Brett believes in hiring for a “values-fit”. Our values stay constant over time and are the best indicator of how someone will contribute to our team. Brett walks us through figuring out your team’s values, interviewing based on those values, and onboarding after you’ve found the “one”.
FIGURING OUT YOUR TEAM’S VALUES
If your organization already has values, you may not need to develop additional values for your team. If your organization doesn’t, or you feel your team has a strong culture of its own that you want to harness, Brett outlines a basic process to develop team values.
Start by gathering your team to identify the current values and aspirational values (what they wish the culture would be like). If you’re leading a company with more than 30 employees through this process, start with a small group of team members, but don’t include the leadership team. The goal is to facilitate a truly bottom-up process. Ask each person to create a list of their to 10 values and their top 10 aspirational values for this team or organization. Encourage people to use words, phrases, or verbs. Then cluster the responses into the top five or six themes that depict ways your business wants to operate.
As you talk through these themes, don’t leave room for interpretation. A single word like “teamwork” has many meanings. For example, one colleague might think the team comes first, while another might think it means to work together with clear communication. To create shared understanding, define what behaviors are represented by each value so that expectations are clear.
INTERVIEWING FOR VALUES-FIT
Now that you have your team’s ideal values and behaviors, turn them into interview questions. For example, if one of your core values is teamwork and the associated behavior is “taking one for the team”, ask your interviewee about the last time they sacrificed for a coworker. Listen closely to the story that they tell. The more vivid and believable it is, the more they demonstrate how integral that value is to them. Ask a lot of follow-up questions to dig deeper. How did they communicate to their team when it happened? How did they deal with their boss in that situation? Why did they step up in that moment?
After you finish questioning the candidate, make sure to explain why you went into such depth on this question, and how it represents a core cultural value for your team. At every level of the process - website, job description, interview process, and onboarding - the candidate should be experiencing your culture and values. When we hire someone, there is both the explicit agreement of the employment contract and the implicit agreement of how we will work together, respect one another, and have fun together. The more you can communicate the implicit agreement during the interview, the better.
FROM INTERVIEW TO PRE-ONBOARDING
Previously, I believed onboarding began on the new hire’s first day of work. Brett teaches that in order to build essential trust and connection, onboarding should start thirty days before. Here’s his timetable for how to effectively pre-onboard:
30 days before: The manager sends the ‘new hire email’ that welcomes her and explains what the team is working on.
20 days before: Every person involved in the interview process sends the new hire an email expressing how excited they are for him to come on, and to offer support if he has any questions.
15 days before: HR manager sends the new hire access to the company manual and basic documents.
10 days before: The team sends a video of each person welcoming the new hire, sharing their position, and something personal about themselves so the new hire begins to get to know them.
Onboarding is the most important time to help the new hire feel confident and build trust while learning about the team culture. These simple pre-onboarding steps generate a rapid sense of psychological safety for the new hire, which then leads to greater productivity as well.
HOW TO VIRTUALLY TEACH ABOUT YOUR TEAM’S CULTURE
During COVID-times, new hires can’t learn about the culture through osmosis of just being around the office. Use virtual opportunities to demonstrate your values in action, by showcasing stories of all the amazing things your team is doing. For example, during your weekly or monthly team meetings, ask someone to share a moment or give a shout-out to a colleague who exemplified one of the team values.
Understanding that culture is a fluctuating environment helps us reprioritize how we go about finding the right new team members. When we choose new hires based on core values rather than who we like, we open the door to greater diversity and stronger candidates.
Values are the foundation of a strong team. Culture is what we create when we take those values and build together.
KEEP UP WITH BRETT
Get 15% off on the CultureGene culture development program, plus a free PDF copy of the book Culture Decks Decoded and a PDF of chapter 5 'The Interview Process' from the new book Own Your Culture when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
Purchase the guide to creating team values and the guide to bringing your team values to life at themodernmanager.com/shop to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.
This article was based on episode 151 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.