“They’re a good culture fit. I like them,” is a phrase that frustrates me as a Human Resources professional.
Culture fit has little to do with personality (contrary to what we’re told). Culture is not something you can define. It’s not something you dictate. Culture is something you cultivate — it is both the arrival and result of bringing people together, and creating opportunities for coworkers to do so.
To shape a harmonious culture, senior leadership must determine the company’s value system and make hiring decisions around it. At its most basic framework, here are the four pillars needed to define your company culture:
- A value system to drive hiring decisions
- Opportunities for employees to come together and live those values
- A leadership team who emanates company culture
- Rewards for employees who follow suit
These are not about likability. Does a potential hire need to be the life of the party to be a good culture fit? Absolutely not. They just need to align with your value system.
Pillar One: Hire those who align with your value system
Your company value system reflects how you make the most difficult decisions.Culture is the manifestation of team synergy and behavior, centered around those values. To assess the culture fit of a potential hire, ask the question, “Will this person share our values? Will this person want to come together with the rest of the company?”
How can hiring managers implement this in everyday practice? At ZeroCater, our mission is to bring people and ideas together over food. Obviously, food is an easy common denominator. At small and large companies alike, a simple, welcoming gesture is taking someone to lunch. To us, it’s more than lunch — it’s a vehicle to bring people together.
Pillar Two: Create opportunities for culture to grow and develop
Culture will not progress on its own. Opportunities must be set in place for team members to come together. The opportunities can vary depending upon the organization, but should reflect:
1. The culture you’re trying to convey, and
2. How you empower your team to cultivate it
The office snack bar or the palette you chose for the walls may not determine your company culture. How your team interacts with one another, will have a much greater effect. Create opportunities that best reflect your company’s communication. Does your office have a quieter atmosphere? Do coworkers communicate best through one-on-one conversations? If so, try choosing a group hike or game night over a sporting event.
Not everything requires money. An opportunity does not need a high price tag, but it should carry high engagement. Create a soccer league, plan a weekly team dinner, or do an impromptu activity. If you are struggling for ideas, ask your team for suggestions.
Pillar Three: Company culture starts from the top
Many executives say, “I want to have an engaging culture,” and expect employees to arrive there on their own.
Culture starts at the top, with senior leadership. However you choose to shape your company culture, you have to emotionally invest in it. If you don’t invest, it won’t be authentic; if it’s not authentic, it will never stick.
At ZeroCater, we’re a group of foodies, and food can provide an added value. We recently hosted movie night and had pizza and beer prior to the showing. There was nothing special about it, but the entire team — including CEO, directors, VPs, and interns — enjoyed it. The greatest part of the evening was not the movie itself,it was how we came together and enjoyed each other’s company beforehand.
Pillar Four: Reward employees for exemplifying company culture
Do you want something to be important to your employees? Then you better be prepared to show it’s important to you.
Let’s say you want to foster a fun culture. If you’re not willing to take a break and spend time with your employees, you can’t expect that fun camaraderie to trickle down. If, as a leader, your montage is work-work-work, your employees will imitate that culture. Set your expectations for company culture, and reward employees when they follow it.
Create a culture that will scale with your company
Creating a company culture is like learning a new skill-set — it takes practice. Set your intention for where you want your company culture to go, and bring that intent to the hiring process.
The larger you get as an organization, the more organized your company culture needs to be. Start with a blank slate. Hire based on your company values. Create opportunities for your team to come together. As a senior leader, live the values you chose. Empower your employees to do so as well (as discussed earlier).
A value system can be peeled back one layer at a time. Why do we take a midday break to eat together as a team? We could easily take our lunch back to our desks and continue working through the hour. What appears as team lunch on the surface, captures a number of our company values. We operate as a family, and there are no politics or job titles over lunch. We value transparency, and there’s no better channel for communication than the lunch table.
To us, a meal shared together is more than lunch — it’s the epitome of our culture as a company.