Communicate Corporate Culture Clearly

You can't expect to successfully hire someone who fits with your company culture if you don't communicate it clearly. Check out these 10 steps (with some extra hints) to doing exactly that.

You can’t expect to successfully hire someone who fits with your company culture if you don’t communicate it clearly. Check out these 10 steps (with some extra hints) to doing exactly that.

By Phil Stella

Communicate corporate culture clearly: Without the right plan and tools, it can be as hard to do as it is to say three times real fast.

So, let’s simplify the process for entrepreneurs who need to communicate the culture of their organization to prospective employees. Here I break it down into 10 easy to understand, smaller chunks.

Chunk #1 – Ask yourself. Consider the question: What do you think the culture is now? Be very specific. Be honest. Use conversational language. Then, ask yourself: What would you like it to be and why? So, you’ve just defined the present state and future state of your organizational culture clearly. Onward to chunk two!

Chunk #2 – Ask your people. Take those same two questions you just asked yourself, and ask ALL of your people — not just the leadership team. Ask them to be specific, honest and conversational with responses to both questions.

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Chunk #3 – Review, combine, process. Review the two sets of descriptions and combine them where you can. If there are sharp contrasts between your description and theirs, deal with those differences in separate conversations.

The ultimate goal is to have synchronization among the responses. However, the key to knowing which areas need improvement lie in the discrepancies between the two sets of answers.

Now, time for some hints to help you in the process up to this point.

Hint #1 – You can simplify the above steps by hiring a consultant who specializes in culture issues. Their involvement may be worth the investment if they save you lots of time and produce better results, especially in comparing your current state with similar businesses in your industry or market.

Hint #2 – Hire a grad student in HR to review the data and those comparisons. This would leave you with the analysis and next steps portions of the process.

Hint #3 – Depending on your local area, you could even create a project for a team of students or even the entire class. Plus, they may be close to the demographics of your entry level hire.

Hint #4 – Hire a professor who teaches a course like Organizational Dynamics or Finding New Employees to do same.

Chunk #4 – Share your findings internally. It’s time to share the revised/expanded description with those staff who participated in the basic brainstorming process. Let’s hope each person sees something she or he came up with initially. Ask if anyone has comments or questions.

Hint #5 – Thank them for their help and send each a finished text the next day — to imply that you were interested in their input and hadn’t already assumed it was a done deal before the meeting.

Hint #6 – Based on the size of your organization, it might make sense to share it with your leadership team first to get their input, then share it with everyone.

>> RELATED: The impact of company culture and tips for improving it

Chunk #5Don’t publicly communicate your findings. Once you have a concise and as accurate a description of your culture as you can afford to create, don’t put it on your website and recruiting material ver batim. That’s right … don’t communicate it (can you believe I’m saying this?)!  Instead, include your Mission, Vision and Values Statements and a very general, even vague, reference to your culture. This way, you make it much more difficult for savvy candidates to memorize everything and tell you what you want to hear during the interviews.

Chunk #6Time to interview. Now, you’re ready to interview candidates. Ask lots of open-ended and behavior-based questions. Take good notes.

Hint #7 – Bring up culture first. Ask questions like: What did you like most about working for your last employer/previous employers? What would you change about them? Describe an ideal workplace and indicate why each item is important to you,

Hint #8 – Listen to the answers and compare them to key points in your cultural definition. Ask specific questions about those items that are missing.

Chunk #7Share with your candidates. Now is the point in the process when it’s time to share your collective view of your culture with your perspective hires. Say something like: Let me share what our people consistently say about our culture and what it’s like to work here.

Hint #9 – Watch their reactions and ask drill-down follow-up questions as appropriate.

Chunk #8Use your ideal criteria to evaluate your options. Following your interviews, rate each candidate against your list of ideal criteria for new hires, not against each other. Make sure items about fit and culture are weighted highly. Offer the job to the highest score.

>> RELATED: Strategies for hiring and employee retention

Hint #10 – Review your notes from that ‘How to Be a Manager’ class you took years ago. Review some key learnings like ‘Fit before function’ or ‘You can teach job skills. You can’t teach enthusiasm, integrity, work ethic or motivation.’

Chunk #9Follow up with new hires. After about a month following their start date, schedule a follow-up meeting with each new hire. Ask them to compare their initial expectations about the workplace culture with what they’ve experienced so far. Keep notes for future culture revisions.

Chunk #10Enjoy your results of a good cultural fit. Pat yourself on the back for having created and used an excellent workplace culture tool to help select the best candidates for each open position. And please share this article and your experiences with colleagues in other organizations who might find it interesting and useful.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.


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