Does a Strong Corporate Culture Prevent Hiring Top Performers?

Does a Strong Corporate Culture Prevent Hiring Top Performers?

Strong Culture at Hootsuite

A strong corporate culture is an effective weapon companies can employ to drive company performance and achieve lofty business goals. Brands like Zappos provide a consistent and pleasant customer experience with each and every order (or even just a browse) through steadfast determination to "Delivering Happiness" to every customer. Hootsuite "Owls" are passionate and digitally vocal about social media and their cool communications platform, leading them into continuous growth and unmatched success in their space.

These and other companies like them build effective, high-performing cultures by hiring for attitude, fit, and passion. But what happens if certain roles in a company require a different type of employee? What is a company with a strong, people-focused culture to do when the right fit for the company means low performance in specific roles?

Discovering The Problem

Let's first take a look at some key indicators your culture just does't fit certain roles.

You Have a Strong Culture

This may seem like a no-brainer, but for this to be an issue, your company has to have a legitimate and measurably strong corporate culture. If your company was sold today, would a large percentage of the selling price would go towards good will? Do your employees proudly rock your corporate colors when they're off the clock? Are the media borderline obsessed with writing about your company for feel-good, "Great Places to Work" pieces?

If you said "Yes" to any of the above you probably have a strong culture. A more practical measuring stick is to take a close look at your hiring and management practices to see if they follow a strict set of guidelines for both management and employee conduct. If HR has screened-out great candidates because they don't fit with the company's values, you have a strong culture!

Above Average Turnover

Are certain roles continuously going vacant? You know your culture is a hindrance more than an accelerator to performance when the top performers keep quitting and the low performers really "fit-in" with the rest of the company! The truly talented quickly become unhappy in their roles, feeling they lack effective leadership and the tools required to succeed, while at the same time struggling with becoming someone they're not in order to keep their jobs. Alternatively, the low-performers represent the ideal employee from a corporate perspective and their managers are baffled as to why they can't seem to perform.

Illogical Job Descriptions

If HR is using the same boiler plate description for all roles, you might have a problem. Ever attended a party where you end up talking to a sales guy on one side and a software developer on the other? Nine times out of ten, this will be a very interesting, but equally diverse conversation. Why is that? Because these two professions tend to attract significantly different types of people. One favors extroversion and higher-than-average self-confidence, while the other rarely requires more than a basic level of interpersonal communication. So why would their job descriptions include the same promises, reward systems, and expectations for candidates? If this sounds familiar, you may have a problem even attracting the right talent, let alone hiring and keeping them.

Unwavering Commitment to Values

Successful businesses are constantly learning and willing to improve. Many with strong cultures can attribute their commitment to strong corporate culture as the key to their success. But how would corporate executives respond when faced with undeniable proof that the cultural benchmark simply does not fit certain roles? If they are open to new ideas and welcome the chance to strengthen their one-size-fits-all model of the ideal employee, culture is likely not your problem and you should look elsewhere for a solution. But if the C-Suite ignores your data and continues to act as if the "Ideal" employee fits every role equally, then you have a serious problem.

The Solution

This is a problem whose solution is considerably easier in words than it is in implementation. It requires a shift in the way a company thinks about its culture in relation to the following areas.

Cultural Evolution

In short, culture and organizational values must change and evolve over time in order to retain effectiveness in all aspects of a business. As a business evolves, the type of talent required to be successful does too.

Maybe a habitual risk taker was required to dream up creative new ways to break into an established market for a new company, making risk-taking a key corporate value. Later on, if the same company employs thousands of people across the globe, the consequences of a risky decision could negatively affect corporate profits, lives, and even local economies.

Situations like this require an evolution of key corporate values – they should evolve to include new information and new objectives in order to make sound business decisions. The risk-taking company founder may still be a key to the company's success, but adding experienced and decidedly more cautious VP's would provide balance to strategic decision-making.

Exceptions Strengthen the Rule

In the instance of hiring and screening candidates, adapting corporate values to fit the unique requirements of specific roles can serve to strengthen, not harm overall corporate culture.

For example, if collaboration and team-work is a core company value, then a candidate who is known as lone wolf may seem ill-fitted for the company. However, hiring someone for travelling sales into a new and unproven territory could achieve significantly better results if that person is used to working alone.

When hiring new employees, take a look at the types of people that are successful in the role and compare them with the ideal profile established by your company’s core values. Do they match or do they conflict? If they conflict, there's nothing wrong with adapting hiring practices to screen-in top-performers instead of leaving them out of consideration. Although they may not meet the profile of the ideal employee, they may bring something to the organization that was previously not there.

Added Benefits of Diversity

In addition to hiring top performers, hiring outside of an ideal company profile can actually improve overall corporate performance. You may find that injecting a few heterogeneous employees into the mix can make your corporate culture more effective through diversity and enhanced creativity. Great ideas, alternative strategies, and more flow out of unique personalities.

Of course, to present a strong and unified experience to your customers, nothing beats a strong corporate culture. Realistically, it's how flexible you are with applying these strong values to everyday management decisions that makes or breaks effective hiring and talent management processes.