For you Star Wars fans out there…
Remember the scene in Episode II (Attack of the Clones) with all of the clones lined-up ready to be delivered to the Republic for their war?
Think about how this relates to your hiring. All of the clones came from one source – Jango Fett, a Mandalorian bounty hunter. He may have been the finest bounty hunter in the galaxy, but he was still just one man, with one set of skills and experiences. No matter how genetically perfect the model, the Empire’s army of clones was always destined to lose. His business team, if you will, lacked diversity.
Now consider the highly skilled Jedi Council; made up of a wide variety of members of different backgrounds, different age and race, even different species. Every addition to their ranks was carefully considered, and apprentices were placed with the Jedi most fit to oversee their training.
Both the Jedi Council and the Empire were careful in their hiring choices, and both considered the importance of “cultural fit”. Each “employee” had to have what it takes to fit in with their respective teams: ability, dedication, etc. Assessing cultural fit can be one of the most challenging tasks you will face in your hiring process, yet it is essential for long-term growth and success. Poor cultural fit leads to poorer job performance, higher turnover, and lower job satisfaction; all of which negatively impact your bottom line. Neither the Jedi nor the Galactic Republic could afford to squander their training and development resources on candidates whose values did not mesh well with the rest of their team, and neither can you. You will want to make sure you hire more like a Jedi and less like a Sith Lord, so that your end result will be a powerful and dynamic team, and not an army of clones.
Simply put, you cannot afford to neglect cultural fit in your hiring process, but you also must be careful not to let it surpass every other criteria. An over-emphasis on cultural fit can lead to unintentional discrimination. Not only is this both wrong and illegal, but it’s bad for business. You don’t want an army of clones, after all, you want a team of Jedi—and a team is far more effective when its members come from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Define your Values.
You must be able to articulate your company’s culture clearly if it is to play a role in your hiring process. What are your company’s defining values? If you can’t name them out loud or write them on paper, you can’t use them as hiring criteria.
Having vague or unclear values is one of the biggest ways that discrimination can creep-in under the guise of ‘cultural fit’. If your criteria is “people who will fit in with our current environment”, you will likely end up with “people who are like me,” and then cultural factors that have nothing to do with your business values start to come into play.
Take some time to write out your company’s core values, and make sure those values are specific to your actual business needs, and not in violation of any protected status. If your company is a high-energy, aggressive start-up seeking a driven salesperson, it may be tempting to seek out a younger candidate, particularly if many of your existing staff are under forty. In this situation, you need a driven, highly competitive worker who thrives in a strong entrepreneurial environment. These are qualities often associated with younger workers, at least in many people’s perceptions, but age is ultimately irrelevant. If you can clearly articulate what your company’s core values are, then it will be feasible to screen candidates for fit without risking discrimination or sacrificing diversity in your work force.
Brand your company.
Determining your company’s core values is only the first step. Next you must make sure that these values are truly the driving forces of your organization, and that this direction is visible to others both within and outside your company. Your values should be a part of the daily work life of all employees, from the CEO to the intern. Search for ways to integrate these values into your work environment. Tim Cadogan, CEO of OpenX, has written a fabulous piece outlining what needs to be done to make—and keep—your values meaningful to your entire team.
Establish the culture you want within your company and celebrate it. Make sure that your marketing materials, social media, and corporate website reflect the values that define your company. If you are transparent about your values, you are more likely to attract like-minded candidates who will come to know your company as an environment where they can thrive and succeed. Adherence to company culture should be part of your annual performance review for all employees. This will help you identify weaknesses and find new ways to motivate and inspire your existing staff.
Hire by Committee.
Take another lesson from the Jedi Council and make your recruiting and hiring decisions a committee effort. This has been the standard hiring practice at Google since its inception… Do you think it is possible that they too are Jedi Masters? The lesson here is simple. If one person does all the interviewing and hiring, it is easy for unconscious bias to come into play. This unconscious bias can be found in the actual decision-making process, the choice of interview questions or even in the interviewer’s tone, expression or other body language cues during the interview. A hiring team helps to balance these tendencies, particularly as the members must discuss and defend their choices based on stated criteria, i.e. a well-written job description that is grounded in your company’s core values.
Another way to add objectivity is to utilize recorded video interviews for your first review of candidates. That way, every candidate is asked the exact same questions, with no subtle cues from the interviewer to guide their responses. Even when we think we are being completely objective in our consideration of candidates, our expectations of what we think the ideal candidate will look and act like can shape the way that we respond to them. Standardize the process to remove this possible source of bias, and let the candidates’ abilities speak for themselves.
Remember, cultivating a diverse work force is just as important as cultural fit. Your ultimate goal should be to build a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts, like the Jedi Council, and you won’t get there by cloning Jango Fett, no matter how good he is at his job. Every player should be able to draw on unique training and background to help your company succeed. If you define your company values, make sure all your current employees know them and live by them, and ask targeted questions of your candidates to assess their alignment with these values, then you can develop a true company culture that helps your business—and its people—thrive. Oh, and lest I forget, may the Force be with you!