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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.

How to Conduct Remote Job Interviews

By Dana Borowka, MA

Many companies struggle to find the right candidates for their organization. Having a small radius to find the right talent can add to these challenges.

The solution is to open up the geographic area for recruiting because that opens up a whole new talent pool. Now your company can target specific areas in the country where more candidates with certain talents may be found.

However, there is a concern. Remote worker programs mean hiring managers need to get better at remote interviewing through video.

During the COVID crisis with the stay-at-home order, remote interviewing has become a requirement, not a luxury.

“Remote worker programs must be done right if you are to garner productivity gains,” says Patty Crabtree, a senior consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience.

“As someone who has implemented these programs and now helps clients transition to these programs, how you interview remote job candidates is an important new recruiting skill,” says Crabtree.

Author and recruiting expert Barry Deutsch has strong views on remote interviewing.

“Most companies do a terrible job preparing managers and executives to hire effectively, including remotely interviewing candidates,“ says Deutsch, a partner at IMPACT Hiring Solutions and co-author of the book You’re Not The Person I Hired.

“In most companies, hiring is not a process, it’s a random set of arbitrary meetings where each individual manager does interviewing in their own misguided way,” says Deutsch. “The minute you turn hiring into a process, train all your managers, and put some rigor behind it, then hiring accuracy starts becoming more reliable.”

Crabtree concurs.

“Once you have a system set up, you can interview anyone through Zoom or similar solutions regardless of their location,” says Crabtree. “It comes down to your process and how you assess candidates.”

Here are tips from Deutsch and Crabtree on how to maximize the effectiveness of your remote job interviews:

Take Advantage of Video

Zoom, Skype and Go-to-Meeting, just to name a few, have been a boon to remote job interviews. Seeing the candidate is so much better than just interviewing them by phone. But beware. Sometimes the technology goes awry. One company we help had a bad interview session with a candidate because the technology was not working right. They were just going to throw out that candidate. That is a huge mistake. With our assistance, they re-interviewed the candidate when the technology was more cooperative.

“Know how stressful or intimidating panel interviews can be,” says Crabtree. “Make it fun and interactive. The attitude should be: ‘Let’s have a conversation and get to know each other. Let’s see how this dynamic will work and if you have the skills to do the job successfully.’”

Deutsch says the most difficult part of interviewing through video is that the process of conducting testing where you ask them to do something to validate the skill they are claiming, such as welding, electronic soldering, physical use of hands in a manufacturing, construction, or assembly role.

“This is now missing unless you bring them in a for a final test before hiring,” says Deutsch. “For all other roles, especially at the professional and managerial level, written tests, role plays, case studies, and situational examples are still important to validate, verify, and vet the candidate responses.”

For some of the knowledge or experience-based testing, there are online educational applications that can be used to proctor these tools.

Prepare Your Interview Questions

“I actually like video and audio interviewing compared to face-to-face interviewing because it tends to remove the bias and emotions most managers use in interviewing that lead to mistakes and errors,” says Deutsch.

When asking questions, focus on understanding their past experience about working from home as it is a different experience, advises Crabtree.

“Delve into self-motivation, organization, time management and development of work relationships,” says Crabtree. “Similar questions you would normally ask but looking to connect their skills and behaviors with the uniqueness of a work at home experience.”

Make sure they can keep themselves on track in a work at home environment along with making sure they could build relationships with their colleagues. There are many introverts in the world that struggle with the relationship piece. While that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t hire them, it gives the manager insight into the support that needs to be provided to help the individual be successful.

Make Sure Your Process is in Order

“If you need workers, using remote interviewing will help with the social distancing that is needed during this time,” says Crabtree. “You can successfully screen candidates remotely with the right process and tools and limit the in-person interaction.”

When she was a hiring manager, Crabtree remained flexible.
“Timing was no different whether someone was local or living in an out of area location,” says Crabtree. “We worked around schedules and determined the times that worked for everyone involved. Sometimes this was early in the morning, during lunch hours or into the evening. We stayed flexible because finding the right candidate was the most important driver of this process.”

Ask Deep and Penetrating Questions

“The top trait of success is initiative,” says Deutsch. “This is also characterized as proactivity or discretionary effort. Very few candidates consistently show that trait.”

According to Deutsch, the very best performers are constantly going above and beyond the call of duty, doing more than they were asked, anticipating, and always thinking one step ahead.

How do you measure this number one trait of success in the interview?

“A large part of hiring failure can be attributed to asking the traditional, standard, stupid, inane, canned interview questions,” says Deutsch. “If you want to determine if someone can achieve your desired goals, outcomes, deliverables, expectations, key performance indicators, and metrics, then you need a set of interview questions designed to extract that information to predict future performance and fit.”

Of course, don’t just rely on the interview. Also carefully check references.

Use an In-depth Work Style and Personality Assessment

Since you’re not meeting people face to face, the use of assessments becomes even more important.

“Never hire another candidate, especially a remote candidate, until you put them through an in-depth workstyle and personality assessment,” says Deutsch. He advises that it doesn’t matter the level of the position. You should test every final candidate.

“Anything less than five hours of effective interviewing is nothing more than closet psychology,” adds Deutsch. “You’re just guessing what’s behind the curtain.”

Yet, hiring for attitude, behavior, and cultural fit is just as important as measuring whether the candidate can perform to your expectations.

When Crabtree was a hiring manager, she had a solid multi-step process in place before she started hiring remote employees.

“After screening the resumes and a quick online assessment, there would be an initial phone call by the hiring manager,” said Crabtree. “If the basic qualifications were met, the candidate would then take an in-depth workstyle and personality assessment, which would help us understand that person’s workstyle and how they would fit into the team.”

Always Seek Top Talent

Remember, the objective of remote interviews is to find top talent.
Here is what Deutsch has to say about finding top talent: “Top talent is working; it’s rare that they’re unemployed so don’t pin your hopes on the resume database of a job board or rely on a recruiter that doesn’t have access to working candidates.”

The better you understand what makes top talent tick, the better chance you have of attracting them.

Deutsch went on to say: “Top talent is usually already well paid and working on amazing projects so don’t believe that paying more money is going to be enough to shake top talent from their current employers. Top candidates ultimately take new jobs because: the opportunity is terrific, they will be working for a boss they can respect, and the company is one they can respect and admire.”

Remember, remote interviews with candidates are a two-way street. Top talent candidates have many options. You want to assess if the candidate is right, and you want to persuade the candidate that yours is the right company for them. The hiring manager has an important job of communicating that during the remote interview.

Lighthouse can help guide your organization in designing and implementing a remote work force platform with the help of our practice specialist through our full service business consulting division For more information please contact Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com or call 310-453-6556 ext. 403.

A Final Thought: Supervising A Remote Work Force

We just did an outstanding webinar entitled, Supervising A Remote Work Force. You’ll find it to be very helpful and will want to share it with others!

Audio: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/040720/OpenLine040720.mp3
Slides: https://lighthouseconsulting.com/openline/040720/OpenLine040720.pdf

Lighthouse can help guide your organization in designing and implementing a remote work force platform with the help of our practice specialist through our full service business consulting division. For more information please contact Dana@lighthouseconsulting.com or call 310-453-6556 ext. 403.

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

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.