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Company Culture Matters

January 12, 2012

(By Julie Mann, CEO & President of JMann Consulting Group. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)
Have you ever thought, “I could accomplish my goals a lot easier if it wasn’t for the ‘people’ that get in my way!” Or, have you ever thought, “I wish someone would just take care of my ‘people’ and let me run my business!”
If you have had such thoughts…it’s ok! Many others have, too. The real question, however, is: Why do we have such thoughts? The answer is one word – Culture! The image, and therefore the reputation, of a company is its culture. Culture is formed by the people working for the company through their attitudes and attributes. For people to align with the company and not ‘get in the way,’ the culture must be well-communicated and understood. Culture will then naturally drive a company’s ability to evaluate their current people and hire new employees who all share the same attitudes and attributes – which demonstrates that culture does matter!
Look at it this way, if you were going to bake a cake but you didn’t know what kind of cake you wanted to make, how would you ever know what kind of ingredients to put into it? That being said, we are not comparing eggs to people, but you get the point. You would not add blueberries as an ingredient if you wanted a chocolate cake. That is why a clear, well-communicated ‘recipe’ is imperative to finding and keeping the right people. 
High performing companies are succeeding because their people are culturally aligned. They evaluate their current workforce to know they have the right people in place. They also know it’s just as critical to bring new people into the organization that fit their culture. Since we all want our companies to be high performing, we must evaluate our employees to assure they fit our culture, but the true challenge is in finding the right new employees to hire.
It’s simple right? Unemployment rates are high, talent is everywhere, hiring is easy. Well, anyone who has tried to hire recently knows that this is not so simple. In my opinion, we are in an incredibly unique labor market at this time. Job boards are not as productive as they used to be for finding new candidates. Resumes do a great job of communicating skill sets and experiences (still foundational to what a company needs from its employees). But remember, highly successful companies hire for cultural fit now too. The job boards don’t convey the traits you are looking for such as communication style or what kind of conflict management skills the applicant possesses. So, companies are seeking other ways to understand applicants beyond their resume by using networking to learn more.
Networking has become a recruiting tool. If you read almost any tips for the unemployed, you will always see some reference to get out there and network. Another clear sign of the importance of networking is the creation of such sites as LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s entire purpose is to help people network electronically. This connection between people is one approach to trying to understand a person beyond their resume.
Yet with everyone focused on the importance of networking, even this passive approach isn’t effective. Companies still struggle with finding “the best fit.” Why? Sure, networking tells us more about the candidate beyond their skills, but the “fit” gap still exists because this passive process isn’t effective in driving the cultural alignment. Companies need to have a hiring process to bridge this gap and align candidates with their culture – taking the passive information learned and applying it to the internal culture of the company. A good hiring process will determine if the candidate does indeed possess the attitudes and attributes needed. When it does, culturally aligned employees will be hired.
It is true that with today’s unique talent market, the hiring process and finding applicants is now much more complicated. Hiring processes do need to address culture. And this is happening at a time when the lasting effects of the downturn in the economy have departments operating with less staff and HR departments doing more with less. It is the complication of the hiring process coupled with the importance of the fit that drives many organizations to reach out to recruiting firms to take some of the burden off the hiring team. 
So does culture matter? Is it worth the extra time, effort, and money? The answer is clear to see if you look at those companies that develop, communicate, and live a well thought out company culture. They out perform their competitors in all areas; customer satisfaction scores, employee engagement scores, reputation, and yes financially. It is clear that culture does matter; culture makes companies more valuable to their customers.
Let’s be candid: companies do activities for two reasons, one is to increase profits (as the caveman said “profit good”) and the other is to increase reputation. Reputation is the hill that businesses navigate. So if you don’t mind pushing a boulder uphill – go ahead and ruin your reputation by hiring people that don’t fit your culture and don’t increase the value of your product or service. But if you want the momentum of the hill created by your cohesive, focused, highly productive team, then let the rock roll! 
(How do you make culture matter in your company? Please leave a comment below!)
Julie Mann is the CEO & President of JMann Consulting Group, The Rock Star Factory and RockStar Verified and co-author, Patrick Renkes, Vice President. JMann Consulting Group provides on-call HR Manager Services for small & medium sized businesses, while The Rock Star Factory is a professional placement firm. RockStar Verified provides candidate employment/skills verification services for both job seekers and employers. Julie can be reached at or you can connect with Julie on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @JMann_Lansing.
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