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Defining Your Culture and Hiring Strategically

By Patty Crabtree

Picture in your mind a race car speeding toward that waving checkered flag as it prepares to cross the finish line. If you think of a company like a high-performance car, culture is the oil that allows everything to run smoothly to help achieve your goals.

Culture reflects what is greatest, genuine, and noble about the company. It is the key behaviors an organization expects as the team works together and with its clients and vendors.

Culture establishes the foundation of the company and defines the qualities to be successful and help achieve its mission.

Overcoming A Culture Challenge

The culture journey for Bill’s company started with identifying the key attributes that they felt exemplified how they wanted to work together. Bill communicated it to staff and shared it with his clients. He posted it on the breakroom wall as a reminder. The company even branded it in their email signature blocks.

But the challenge was their behaviors did not reflect those defined values. It was not the heart of the organization. The words chosen were what they seen other successful companies using to define their values. It just was not who they were, how they were making their decisions and how leadership was supporting staff.

This misalignment led to a high turnover rate. A turnover rate that cost not only the hard dollars and time to recruit new candidates, but the soft dollar costs of repeated onboarding and staff scrambling to cover all the work. The situation had an adverse impact on company morale. Overall, the company had stalled in its growth.

Bill and his leadership team were puzzled. They felt they had a good work environment and didn’t understand what was holding them back. They were committed to creating an environment for growth and decided to take a step back to reassess their approach.

Bill’s team went through an exercise to help them identify the genuine culture for their firm. What were the core values that would drive their business, their team? Through this effort, they uncovered their own unique style and reflected it in their values.

Then, they took it one step further. Each value was clearly defined to communicate what it meant to the organization. Definition statements were created for each value to describe its intent. These enhanced values were shared with staff and communicated on a regular basis. Leadership reinforced them in their daily interactions.

The updated values were also more deeply embedded into their recruiting process. Behavioral interview questions were developed that focused on cultural fit which helped pinpoint the best candidates.

Over time, Bill’s company’s turnover was reduced by more than 50%. The recruitment process brought the right people to the team. Bill and his leadership team were successfully enhancing their infrastructure and teamwork which drove the growth.

Nurturing the culture and creating a stronger recruiting strategy took a focused effort to produce the desired results. In the long run, it paid dividends for them. Year after year they exceeded their goals and built a well-oiled machine.

Strong Culture Creates The Power of Alignment

One of the most powerful tools is alignment. Alignment brings a shared vision with everyone moving in the same direction.

Every company has culture whether it is by accident or by design. Some may be in that early growth stage and have been chasing the business opportunities, so culture has not been formally developed. Others may have determined their values but the day to day takes over and it isn’t nurtured.

If your company is being outperformed in the marketplace, you experience high turnover in key positions, financial performance is declining, or just want to move from good to great, often these issues are a result of an unhealthy culture.

Alignment empowers your staff with the knowledge of what to do, how to do it and why it is being done. It gives an emotional stability to their work world that encourages high performance.

Be Purposeful With Your Culture

Developing that path toward alignment is one part of the process. Being purposeful with it is another aspect. Leadership must walk the walk. If this does not happen, then your culture will struggle.

Once you have defined your culture and it has been effectively communicated to staff, a critical part of the process comes into play. To walk the walk. It starts with your leadership team embodying your culture in all their actions.

Clearly define how you want to lead, what is your purpose, something that rings true to the heart of the organization. Then, live by it consistently even though the hardest decisions.

Integrate Culture With Your Hiring Strategy And Beyond

At times, hiring can feel like a shot in the dark. You meet with the candidate, assess that they have the technical skills needed, you like them. So, you hire them and then 30-90 days you realize they aren’t fitting in and thriving in your organization. The situation can be confusing because on paper everything looked good though in execution it doesn’t meet your expectations

The missing piece here is understanding that person’s values and how it fits into your organization. Developing a recruiting process that supports your culture will help make it a more effective practice and lead to a stronger team environment. Hire people who believe in and display the values important to your organization. When someone comes onboard and does not embody your values, it can slow progress, disrupt teamwork, and cause morale issues.

Adopt Behavioral Interviewing

Once the core qualifications are met, the best interview questions are behavioral based. Questions around the candidate’s approach to certain situations or experiences.

In an interview, you want the candidate to speak more than you do. You want to know about their experiences and how they approach different situations. This does not come from asking the basic “tell me about yourself” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years.” This comes from “give me an example” or “tell me about a time.”

Ask the candidate to describe the culture at their last firm. Tell me about what worked well? What could have been improved? What are the elements of a company’s culture that they feel creates an excellent work environment? Have them share a story about how culture helped resolve an issue and what was their role in that resolution? Have them share a story about how culture inhibited a project they were working on and what happened.

Another approach is to interview your ‘A’ players about the qualities they feel makes them successful or someone successful in the position. Listen to their perspective on successful outcomes and teamwork. Use this information to build the behavioral based questions.

Open-ended questions are the best way to learn about people and determine their fit into your culture. Ask questions that tie into those success qualities for the position and have candidates share stories about their execution of the values most important to your organization.

Improve Onboarding Because Hiring Doesn’t End With An Offer Letter

Culture appears in every aspect of your organization. It flows through recruiting to onboarding and long-term retention.

The opportunity to instill your culture with a new team member is through a detailed onboarding process that reinforces your culture and expectations along with training on the systems and job specific tasks.

Many times, a company will bring someone in, have them complete the necessary paperwork, give them a quick tour, show them their desk, give them a quick overview and set them loose. This approach is a lost opportunity.

Developing a mapped-out onboarding process that includes learning about the organization, its culture, the different departments, and developing relationships along with the necessary job specific training can set a great foundation for success.

It helps create connection and enhance engagement. A well thought out onboarding process connects new hires to every aspect of the organization along with developing relationships throughout the firm. Many new hires express gratitude for this investment in their success.

Here Is The Bottom Line

Culture takes regular nurturing. Commit to creating an environment where staff will thrive, clients will receive excellent service and your external partners will feel valued and you will reap the benefits. Keep steering everyone in the same direction, toward the same goals and vision course correcting when needed.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, has a team of inter-disciplinary specialists ready to help raise the effectiveness of critical functions within the organization, such as Sales, Customer Service, Operations, and IT. From team building to implementing cybersecurity technology, LCS consultants are uniquely suited to advise small, mid-sized and global companies. We can assist with in-depth workstyle and personality assessments along with skills testing for new hire candidates at all levels within an organization. Each is a former business executive with extensive strategic and tactical skills. Our consultants are poised to provide, on short notice, highly personalized and cost-effective guidance and tools to boost the performance of a department or organization. For additional information please email danab@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2021

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience along with building a successful remote workforce. She has extensive experience in successfully leading and growing teams. She was instrumental in the development of an operations infrastructure that resulted in consistent increased profits and employee engagement. Patty has also effectively navigated the challenges of change management in the ever-changing business world.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress and time management, leadership training as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Time to Develop a Remote Workforce Strategy

By Patty Crabtree & Dana Borowka

Our work environment is evolving. Despite concerns about employee productivity, data on the American workforce indicates that the remote worker trend is picking up steam. Is it time for your business to embrace a remote workforce?

U.S. businesses are doing the math, and the math says the remote-worker option is a great opportunity for workers and employers.

Allowing employees to work from remote locations means a company can expand its talent pool from beyond its local geography. According to university/industry research viewed by Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, if the right person is selected his or her work production has the potential to increase by 30% to 300%. Obviously, hiring better workers that work remotely can result in increased productivity and client satisfaction.

For example, a Chinese travel agency saw productivity increase by 13%, and the US Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) reported that output increased by 4.4% when it transitioned to a remote worker program.

Sure, there are some who still are skeptical. In an August 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review (“Is it time to let employees work from anywhere?”), three professors raised the following concerns despite the remote worker movement growing in popularity:
In our experience…managers often worry about remote employees working less, or multitasking, mixing personal responsibilities with work. There are also concerns that allowing employees to work from anywhere could decrease communication and collaboration among coworkers and might constrain the informal learning that typically happens in the office.

However, the professors’ research demonstrated the advantages of a work from anywhere (WFA) program. “A key takeaway from our research is that if a work setting is ripe for remote work – that is, if the employee knows how to collaborate remotely and still do their job well – implementing WFA can benefit both the company and the employee.”

With effective productivity measurements in place, it does not matter if the employee is in front of you or not. Success comes down to ensuring effective communication, training and focusing on evolving your tools to support the remote workforce.

“Data indicates that the remote-work trend in the U.S. labor force is inexorable, aided by ever-better tools for getting work done anywhere,” according to Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal.

“Surveys done by Gallup indicate that in 2016, the proportion of Americans who did some or all of their work from home was 43%, up from 39% in 2012,” cites Mims in his June 2017 article titled “Why Remote Work Can’t Be Stopped.”

Points to Consider

Remote worker programs must be done right if you are to garner productivity gains and increase employee retention. As someone who has implemented these programs and now helps clients at Lighthouse Consulting transition to these programs, here are several points to consider:

Recruiting: Many companies struggle finding the right candidates for their organization. Having a small radius to find the right talent can add to these challenges. Opening up the geographic area for recruiting, creates a whole new talent pool. Recruit across the entire nation or target specific areas in the country where more candidates with certain talents may be found. Keep in mind, some states have tougher labor laws so research on the laws for each state is needed as you find candidates.

Interviewing: Interviewing can be done via video conferencing. If face to face is preferred, bring the final candidate to your office. It is important to have a strong hiring process that helps you identify candidates that fit the needs of the position and culture of your organization. This screening process is critical even if you are not hiring remote staff. Knowing your culture and how an employee will blend into the work environment is an important element of successful hiring.

Onboarding: A successful onboarding process ensures your new employee understands both the culture of the organization and their specific role. It is an opportunity to team build and to begin the process in developing strong working relationships with their new colleagues. Many companies will bring the remote candidate in for a period of time for the initial training and orientation. This gives the individual a chance to “get a feel” for the company’s dynamics in person along with making some face to face connections. Other companies will utilize video conferencing to manage the onboarding process along with activities to connect the new employee and other staff members. While learning their role and being productive are important out the gate, it is also essential to invest time in sharing your culture and building working relationships with colleagues. This helps the employee feel valued by the organization as they start in their new role.

Managing: Managers need training on how to successfully engage a remote workforce along with understanding the nuances of managing both office-based and remote staff in an equal way. It takes practice and discipline to ensure a manager is giving the same attention to remote staff as they would an individual that is 20 feet away from them. Policies such as “How often should the manager reach out to touch base?” “How do managers chair group meetings and engage remote workers in the conversation? “ and “What expectations should a manager set for participation of remote staff?” should be worked out before implementing a remote worker program.

One company required that all meetings be done via video conferencing including 1-to-1 meetings. Some staff members may be resistant to being on the camera though making this mandatory to participating in the remote worker program can help emphasize the importance of this connection. Reminding the employee that you see more of them in person than when they are on camera may help ease any anxiety.

Culture: A strong company culture is needed to ensure everyone is approaching servicing your clients and working together in the same manner. As you roll out a WFA program, one will need to review the organization’s values and consider how working remotely would impact them. Is collaboration important to you? Then, what tools would be needed to ensure successful collaboration continues? Is passion one of your values? If so, how would communication need to evolve to engage that passion when staff are in different locations?

Technology: Data security is the number one concern when it comes to technology. How should our servers be set up? What protocols should we use so remote workers can securely connect to our network? What equipment should a remote worker use? What about encryption? If we allow use of personal home computers, what are the risks? What about printing? How will phone access be handled? There are multiple solutions on the market today to support the technology needs of a remote workforce which makes it easier to implement this type of program.

Team Meetings: Team meetings continue as usual. Using video conferencing helps keep the group connected. The chair will need to keep in mind any delays from the video conferencing system (usually 1-2 seconds) to ensure people have a chance to share. There are a few approaches to support this type of environment. If an interactive process is warranted, the chair can ask each person directly for their feedback giving a “protected” space to speak. If this approach doesn’t work, the chair can pause and ask the remote staff if they have any feedback. The important element is to give the group chance to participate and a safe environment to speak up.

The Benefits of a Remote Workforce

Productivity will increase, staff will have a better work-life balance and they may be less stressed (not upset about being cut off on the way to work, or anxious over traffic making them late). You can reduce the footprint of your office space saving money, reduce the environmental impact of having all those cars on the road, expand your candidate pool of qualified candidates, build a stronger employee focused reputation, and open up employee referrals for potential candidates. Happier employees equal happier clients, retention of key staff members, and the potential for increased profitability.

Here is the Bottom Line

Employees need to be trained on how to transition into a remote worker environment and the expectations of their participation in the program. Managers need to understand the dynamics of supporting remote workers and the organization needs to ensure the proper tools and policies are in place for a successful work from anywhere program. In today’s world, a work from anywhere program is a viable solution for companies.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, has a consulting arm available to help with remote workforce programs. We can assist with recruiting and interviewing ideas, onboarding, managing, culture, technology, and supervision strategies such as team meetings and virtual collaboration. These can be parlayed with the other offerings from Lighthouse Consulting Services such as talent development, in-depth work style & personality assessments, skills testing and team building.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with over 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience as well as successfully leading and growing teams.  She was instrumental in the development of an operations infrastructure that resulted in consistent increased profits and employee engagement. Patty has also effectively navigated the challenges of change management in the ever-changing business world.

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your business”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar, so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.