How to create a culture that attracts talent

July 10, 2019


How to create a culture that attracts talent

  1. Roland’s journey with culture and employer brand
  2. 3 big questions
  3. The company culture dilemma
  4. How to showcase your company culture
  5. Several simultaneous cultures: what’s the effect?
  6. Culture & employer brand: interaction
  7. Who does the company culture actually belong to?
  8. Culture in onboarding (and beyond)
  9. To group interview or not to group interview?
  10. How to combat negative culture
  11. Culture fit assessments
  12. Personality tests: yes or no?
  13. Balancing quantity and quality
  14. Employee participation
  15. Biggest mistakes
  16. Companies nailing their culture
  17. The ultimate culture lesson

Adrie: Hi everyone, welcome to another edition of the Recruitee webinar. Today we’re going to be approaching building a company culture that actually attracts talent. I’m here with Roland, who is an HR expert and former Blendle HR lead, and hopefully, he’s going to tell us a little bit about this in a second.

Adrie: And a quick introduction to myself, my name is Adrie Smith. If you don’t know me already, I’m the Head of Content here at Recruitee, and I’m also the founder of the TA Innovators. I host a podcast as well, and I’m responsible for the Recruitee blog. I’ll show you all of those links at the very end if you’re interested.

Adrie: But first, if you don’t know us already, Recruitee is an ATS that’s designed to attract talent, automate your manual processes and your recruitment process, and help you predict your hiring successes. You can check us out at recruitee.com.

Adrie: But first, more about the session ahead. So I’m going to give you guys a … I’ve said already that this is going to be an interactive session in the description of the webinar. It’s a little bit of a new thing for us, but we’re going to be fielding questions throughout the session. So, if you see the questions tab, you’re more than welcome to leave a question at any time there, and we’ll be answering it throughout. We’re going to try to keep things on-topic, so I have a couple questions already prepared for Roland, but if they’re on-topic we’re more than happy to approach them. But if not, we’ll answer them at the end and Roland can take the discussion on from there.

Adrie: I think that’s all of the, I guess, formalities that I need to cover right now, but I want to welcome Roland. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Roland: Yeah, thanks, Adrie, for the invite. Really looked forward to it. One of my favorite topics. So good that it’s a new format, I think. Let’s experiment, see if it works.

Adrie: Yeah. And maybe it’s actually interesting if you can give everyone a quick introduction to you and how you got really into, well, building company culture and employer branding.

Roland’s employer branding journey

Roland: Yeah. So, well, you can check out my resume on LinkedIn, let’s link and connect, I’d love to. So, a quick intro of me: I’m a self-claimed HR expert, I spent three years at a really cool startup in Holland called Blendle. I was responsible for all the HR or people-related issues, so I built everything from the ground up, which started off with a lot of hiring of course, but it ended up also to more strategic stuff and we just noticed at Blendle that culture also, in relation to attracting talent, was really, really key to our success.

Roland: So this is a topic that really [has] our heart throughout these three years. It was really important to keep in mind. So that’s why I think I gained my most and my best experience yet.

Roland: And also, I did some freelancing also during my time at Blendle. I talked to a lot of cool, kind of smaller companies who were really looking to crack that knot, really were full going into the war on talent, as you like to call it, our recruiters. But it was really hard for them to get to the core of this question, so I also tried to freelance [inaudible 00:03:53] of those companies out.

Roland: So from more sides, I have a feeling about this topic, so I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts. I’m also interested in hearing your thoughts from your end.

Adrie: Yeah. So as I said, please drop your questions at any point in our discussion in the questions tab. You might also be able to see that there’s a small triangle next to every question I’ve asked. You’re more than welcome to upvote it, and that makes us know that, yeah, it’s an important question and we definitely need to get to it.

Adrie: So to kick off the general discussion, I wanted to ask you, Roland, to you, what is employer branding, what goes into it, and how really does your company culture impact their employer brand?

What is employer branding, what goes into it, and how does your company culture impact the employer brand?

Roland: Whoa. Those are three really important questions to start out with, so I’m glad we’re starting with this.

Roland: When I talk about employer branding with either founders or HR people, recruiters, I think what we tend to look at is at the pictures, the Instagram feeds, the nice, well-done videos of what a company looks like, ping pong tables all around. And I think when we think about employer branding, we often tend to think about stuff like that, like the picture, the front of the company, where I honestly believe that, if you think about employer branding a bit longer, it’s in the core about when your people go home on a Friday night and drink beers with their friends, it’s, in the end, what they tell about their work at your company to their friends, where you’re not in the room having a beer, relaxed, honest, that’s where the core of your employer brand is.

Roland: And that’s also immediately why I believe that employer branding can be really hard if you skip the part where you buy a ping pong table, make a picture of it, put it on Instagram. Everybody can do that. Everybody can have a cool Instagram feed. That’s not the challenge. I think the real challenge is who do we get, at first, a grasp of what those people are saying on a Friday night, laughing, having beers or an iced tea with their friends. And when we find it out, how do we influence it? And afterwards, how do we use that to attract talent, because that’s what we’re here for today, to keep it also on the hiring topic.

Roland: So I think that’s a really important shift of thinking I’d like us to have, also us when being responsible for hiring. When someone asks you work on employer branding, I don’t think the first thing is that we should jump into getting a camera, buying cool stuff, desk bikes, or shining up our vacancies with a new extra we thought of, a gym membership, or anything, a cool outing we can make a picture of.

Roland: That’s also not what the people that we’re looking for, which are always good people, are probably not the things they are really looking for. Some of the things that they really care about, it’s just details, just the little things that don’t matter. I think the stuff they talk about on a Friday night is also stuff they actually really care about, so much that they want to tell it to their friends.

Roland: And this can be either positive or negative. So I think that’s a real important thing that we have to understand about employer branding if we really want to do it well.

Adrie: Yeah. I think a really, really valuable point. I’ve actually just popped in a poll here. Is employer branding a priority for your team at the moment? I think that will give us a nice litmus test to see, yeah, are people focusing on it or is it not really a priority at the moment? Recruitment generally is maybe a bit more of a, I guess, pressing concern, but interesting to have a look at it in a sec.

Roland: Yeah, definitely.

Adrie: So I wanted to ask you, Roland, what companies do you think … Well, why do you think companies find it so difficult to nail down this company culture dilemma?

Why do companies find it so difficult to nail down this company culture dilemma?

Roland: Yeah. And that’s where we really get into the HR terrain. I think why a lot of people don’t touch this part of the employer branding topic. It’s all because it’s really hard, and it’s hard because, when talking about culture, people a lot of times think about a static thing, something you can pin down, you can grasp, you can put it in a bowl, put it on the wall, or do something with it like that.

Roland: It’s not how culture works. That’s not how people work. I think we all know the definition of a culture, like a set of things we care about, norms, values, stuff like that, shared by the same group. And the fun thing is, when working in a company, this group constantly changes. The people in it change. There are new people joining and there are people that go.

Roland: So when we think about nailing down this culture, I think we should first realize it’s not a static thing. It’s something that’s constantly evolving, and that’s actually a good thing. So you will always have people saying, “Back in the days, it was really cool. We had beers every night. Blah, blah, blah.”

Roland: It’s not culture. That was just something that was fun. Then, that was not what your culture is about. That was just something that happened with that group of people that everybody at that point liked. Maybe you’re now with a group of people who actually like to go home on a Friday afternoon instead of having beers together. That’s okay.

Roland: So to really answer your question, why is it hard to pin down this culture and also make a step to how to do it and how to get back to your first question, how to use it for your employer branding.

Roland: I think what we did with Blendle was a very nice experience where we picked a random group of people, put them in an office, and said, “Okay, when you think about Blendle,” and everybody got a stack of Post-its, “When you think about, just write down words that pop into your mind. And this could be product related. This could be process related. This could be the people, the colors, this could be anything. Just brainstorm as freely as you like.”

Roland: And what was really cool was there was a cloud of Post-its. Everybody had their own color, and every time someone put up their Post-it, they could say, “I think about Blendle in this way because X, Y, Zed.”

Roland: And what we immediately did was really asked each other, “Hey, is this true? Is this true for you? Where do you get that? Is this something we share, so that’s where the culture part comes in? Is this really something that defines us or is this just something you feel?”

Roland: So we immediately tried to make the translation to our culture, and I think what really stood out is then when we started grouping words or we started grouping ideas, we really noticed like five, six, to ten topics or words that really popped out.

Roland: And that’s where we started with, and immediately started what I’d like to call debugging our DNA and culture. And this is really important for employer branding, again, because you can say you are a really cool company, but if your colleagues on the Friday night drinks, to their friends, say you’re a shitty employer, then that ping pong table and the nice photos don’t matter at all.

Roland: So I think the core of your trying to pin down your culture by brainstorming with a group of people, put it on Post-its, try to group it, and immediately question what’s up there. Because it can be that we want to be very … It’s good to be diverse and inclusive, but maybe we aren’t.

Adrie: Yeah.

Roland: It’s good to immediately debunk that because if we put that, if we try to take pictures in a way that makes our team looks more diverse than it actually is or it looks more inclusive than it actually is, or try to play with our vacancies, which makes it look like that but we actually aren’t, still without judgment, it’s good to discover that, but don’t put it in your vacancy ad because people will find out and it will hurt your employer brand in the long run.

Adrie: So I think we have a little relevant question from Sarah Beth. I think you mentioned that, in Blendle, you collected some of the information from your employees by Post-it notes. Let me just put this up. She asked what are your favorite platforms for getting information about your company culture out to potential candidates, and do you have a way to get it to the right type of candidates?

Adrie: So if you’ve collected all the information and developed that, how do you get it out to your candidates?

How to showcase your company culture to potential (and the right) candidates

Roland: Yeah. I think this is where our job as recruiters comes in. I think most of our … We are the face of the company, and what I noticed when talking to a lot of people when hiring a recruiter, I don’t think they value enough how important it is that the recruiter reflects the culture.

Roland: So I think hiring on fit is really important, but we’ll get to that in a later stage. Especially when hiring a recruiter, you really want the recruiter to understand the company, to understand what the company is going through, and not just be someone who’s only on LinkedIn searching for people, calling them, and then putting them through to the next candidate. You really want them to advance what your company stands for.

Roland: So if you want this in the front line to work, because these are also the people looking at your vacancies. These are also the people looking at your job web site. And also already the people that, the way you have the first phone call, so if you have a large number of candidates and you feel the need to screen on salary, for example, there are a lot of ways you can do that. There are a lot of ways you can also get it wrong. I believe that there are also a lot of ways you can do it in a right way that it reflects your culture.

Roland: And you can even … You want a recruiter to think, if it’s not a scale thing, so it’s not needed to screen candidates quickly, is it within our company culture to ask for, for example, salary indications in this early stage, or is it better to wait and why?

Roland: So that’s where I strongly, strongly believe that it all comes down to a really good, good team of recruiters that understand, and that’s honestly also where I don’t believe in bureaus and in-between persons. They cannot vet what your company actually stands for.

Adrie: So your favorite way of getting the information out to your candidates is through great recruiters.

Roland: Yeah.

Adrie: We have another question here about employer brand and having several cultures existing next to one another and how that affects your employer brand. Do you want to answer that or should we leave it a bit?

Several simultaneous cultures: what’s the effect?

Roland: That’s a hard question, so I’d like to try. I’ll answer it like I know everything. I’m just gonna share my thoughts on this. Because I think this depends, of course, on your scale, scale meaning size. I think if you have a larger company, especially with different silos. For example, compare salespeople to more tech-minded people. There will be a different culture within those units, and I think that’s fine because, in the sales team, you want to attract salespeople who probably do well within a sales culture.

Roland: And you don’t have to … I mean, there are always overarching values you don’t want to end discussion about. So if, for example, fair game is one of your values, something you really stand for, then I think it’s fine that fair game is applied differently by sales team than it is by tech or product. I think that’s totally fine.

Roland: And again, also the different … If you have a misunderstanding about what fair play actually means, for example, how do we treat people or how do we treat people with money? I think that’s where you do have a problem. If you mean how do I deal with different cultures within one company, I think a lot of cultures always live next to each other. Even in smaller teams, that’s the case, and that’s totally fine. I think just even nourish that, because different cultures can make your company more diverse. I think that’s even a good thing.

Roland: But if it’s on the overarching things, if they butt heads on the really core values of your company, then that’s definitely something the leadership should think about, because they should then set out a line. And yeah, if it’s, for example, again, about fair play, and salespeople don’t give a shit about that and they only want to make a lot of money, then it’s up to the leadership team to change that or not.

Roland: I hope that kind of answers the question. These are my thoughts.

Adrie: So I think we’ve already kind of skirted around the issue quite a lot now, where we talk about employer brand and we also talk about company culture. Can you explain exactly how they interact? What does it actually mean when you … Both of these side by side?

Culture & employer brand interaction

Roland: Yeah. So I think when you pin down what you believe in, what you stand for, what you are as a company, and again, this could go, when you’re talking about culture and trying to pin it down, you should definitely look on a more abstract level than “Blue is our color, and this is what we like.” I mean, it’s fine in a brainstorm session, but you would eliminate that in the first stage.

Roland: So, for example, we had “speed as a habit” as one of our defining, something that really defined a lot of … How you call it? Like words you use for the same thing. So “speed as habit” became kind of a theme throughout how we make decisions. So it’s really helped in when working with colleagues, when you disagree, you can fall back on, but how do we, again, how do we make decisions? How do we come to a certain point? How do we get from A to B? Well, speed is our habit, so we’d rather know it for 80% and then take a guess then know the full 100% and spend two months more on that.

Roland: So I think when you know, for example, speed as a habit is really working for you as a company, because we were a, really started experimenting with a lot of stuff, so we don’t want the dead weight of too much research, and we just want to try.

Roland: So when you know that, it’s also something you can use in your hiring process. So I think that’s where your first step and the first responsibility for the recruiter when thinking about culture in relation to employer branding. You are the bouncer from the club. You are the one at the front door. You are the one deciding who gets in or out. So it’s really, really important that you start hiring people that nurture that culture. And that really adds something to that culture.

Roland: So if “speed as a habit” is an important value, implement it in the way you hire. Implement it in what you say in your vacancy. Implement it in your scorecards. Implement it in the questions you ask your hiring managers when hiring something. Is this someone who abides by “speed as a habit”, for example?

Roland: So I think that’s the first step. You, as a recruiter, should hire very well and really guard that culture, and look for people that match, actually, that culture. And how you can, in the end, if you … I mean, this takes a lot of time. I hope you can … We’re going through this in a really fast pace, but I hope you really get where I’m trying to get at. It’s that if you pinned it down, if you get to a point where you hire people that match that culture and you actually get a debugged culture, which is authentic, which is really, which is something that’s really there, you can start the show and tell.

Roland: So instead of start telling and people find out that it’s not actually that cool as advised, I think it’s way better if you have, first, a really good company and work on that, and after that, simply share, start sharing about what’s happening within your company, and try to diversify what you share. So I believe it’s really strong if you share mistakes, if you share extra work, if you share what you made, because this is way better for your employer brand than posting another selfie with the whole team on a terrace with a beer. Everybody has it. It’s not what people push the Apply button for at the end of your vacancy.

Roland: In the end, I think employer brand starts with culture because if you nurture and debug your cultural DNA, that’s a healthy, authentic and real culture, I think you can simply start to share. All you have to do is share and ask your colleagues to share. You have nothing to be afraid of because it is what it is. And that will, I believe, that will attract people.

Adrie: So I think you’ve already answered it a little bit, but Kimmy asked a question about who does the company culture actually belong to? You can check it out here. I think you’ve already kind of answered it, but maybe you want to add on, want to know how you can actually hand over the responsibility.

Who does the company culture actually belong to?

Roland: Yeah. Yeah. I think I really like this question. This is a really good question. So the easy answer would be it belongs to everyone because what I just explained. It’s not a static thing. It’s something that changes. So when you hire new people, things will change. They will come up with a new idea. They will go to HR and ask to start a library and then suddenly, poof, there’s a library. And they change the culture a little bit.

Roland: So I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to keep a non-toxic work environment. If there’s harassment, discrimination, work overload, any of those topics that, in the end, should be safeguarded by HR, but I think it’s really important to realize, as a team together, that we’re all responsible for keeping this environment healthy and calling out stuff that goes wrong. Because it will go wrong, and you cannot expect HR to be on top of everything. We need each other to guard the culture.

Roland: And when I use the word “guard,” it immediately becomes something, again, that you can hold or you can … You should let it flow. It’s not something that we can once put down on a piece of paper and then duplicate it for the rest of our times. So I think it’s everybody’s responsibility, but I think it’s up to HR to call it out because they should have a Switzerland-like role in this topic. And I think it’s hard for, for example, team leads, managers, product managers, leadership team. Sometimes hard to step back and get a real objective feel about what’s happening in their teams. I believe we should help with that, but of course, hiring managers, team leads, and especially the leadership team, CEO, the influence they can have on the culture is, of course, bigger than, for example, me, who isn’t in a leadership position.

Roland: But I believe HR should guard it and should start to use… Not to sound legal, but those are just little things you can screw on. Please, CEO, talk about if there’s too much work, could you talk about workload in the next All Hands. That’s our job. You cannot expect your CEO to proactively start with stuff like that.

Roland: I hope this answers the question.

Adrie: So I think we have two questions that I’m gonna loop into one. The first one is what’s a good way to embed the company’s culture into your onboarding process, but then Sarah has also followed up on this asking how can you embed your company culture within your hiring process generally?

Adrie: She shares beyond having recruiters on the front line who need to have a strong grasp of the culture, how does this translate in a practical sense to building it into hiring?

Culture in onboarding (and beyond)

Roland: Yeah. Well, I think onboarding was already mentioned. I think onboarding is crucial, but to take it a step beyond that, I think during hiring, this is where the fancy stuff does come in, and this is where we shouldn’t be afraid to PR stuff we have. But we should PR stuff that’s actually there, because it will be way easier to PR or market it to our candidates.

Roland: So there’s nothing wrong with a really good, solid welcome package with a pen, a t-shirt, a nice laptop sticker. There’s nothing wrong with that. And I think we should definitely be more creative, which is hard because a lot of things are already done.

Roland: But I also think we should not overestimate the stuff that’s the practical stuff, but we should diversify enough. So we should always look for ways that resonate with the stuff we have in our culture. So if, within the company, it’s our… for example, for us, security and privacy were really, really important, then that is something that you can already embed in your hiring process.

Roland: So if you approach someone and it doesn’t work out or someone was not interested, proactively say, “Hey, we value privacy really much. We’re deleting your contact info now. Blah, blah, blah.” I think that’s a whole different way of amplifying what’s already there.

Roland: So if you know what you actually stand for, I think it’s really good to see if every action you make, if that really resonates with what you do. At a practical level, I honestly don’t care that much about it. I just think we should be as creative as we can and shouldn’t be afraid to make it slick. Don’t be afraid to PR the shit out of it. Even hire a marketing or go to your marketing team because your brand, we often see employer branding as something that’s different from our brand, but it’s actually, it really goes together. So if the brand is doing well, the company, the employer brand will also do well. So definitely talk to your marketers to see what we can do.

Roland: And don’t be afraid to advertise the actual cool stuff that’s there. That’s totally fine.

Adrie: Yeah. I think, if I may share an example, myself, from Recruitee: we’re really focusing on our own employer brand, mostly our company culture because we know how important that is here. And one thing that’s actually changed within our hiring process is our candidates always had a last meeting with our CEO to kind of do the stamp of approval. Yeah, this guy is good to go, or this girl is awesome, we want to hire them. But now we’re having them almost screened based on our company values.

Adrie: And I think that’s important on a number of levels because, even though you may have your recruiter screening at various stages, looking for certain values, looking for authenticity, looking for integrity, looking for that go-getter in them. You also want the person who founded the company to really say, “Yes, this person is in line with our values, and I’m going to give them the final check. Yeah.”

Adrie: So I think that’s one way, a small example from Recruitee and how you can actually put that into practice.

Adrie: We have a question from Kevin. Do you recommend recruiting open days or group interview event?

Roland: Pardon me. Before we go to the question, could I add one more thing?

Adrie: Yeah, of course.

Roland: Because I feel like I’ve been a bit abstract in the last question. What we eventually also did is we started embedding culture fit in our scorecard when hiring, and we shared those up front with our candidates. I think that’s also a really transparent and openness and authenticity is something that you really care about, think it’s really cool to just be bold. Send them, for example, the scorecard. This is what we expect from people on the culture level. If you don’t see this working over at your firm, feel free to say it. And I think it was cool because it was already worked the other way around. It already made people fall in love with the way we screened. We made people fall in love with what actually was there because we shared it up front. I think that’s also might be a nice addition.

Adrie: Just to be the devil’s advocate, Roland, do you think that as ever potentially being a risk in that you have people who, they definitely want the job and they’ll do really anything to get the job, and so if you share with them your company values, they’re like, “All right. I need to demonstrate a propensity toward security. I need to seem honest and open.” Do you see that as a danger at all?

Roland: For me, just this recruiter’s life, I think the only difference is that you give them a slight advantage, but I think it’s also the recruiter’s job to, if you really believe in a candidate, give them their best shot. And I think it’s really working to train your hiring managers to surprise your candidates. So at the end of the day, I don’t believe you will make a bet higher because you shared something up front. But I do agree, they do have an advantage. And the possibility of, I believe, the correct answers are even bigger, which they are already a lot.

Roland: But yeah, I think that could be a risk, but not something I would be afraid of. Worth the show.

Adrie: Yeah. So there’s a question from Kevin about recruiting on open days or group interview events. I’m not sure if you want to answer that at the end or answer it now.

Roland: No, let’s go.

Adrie: Cool. So do you recommend recruiting open days or group interview events? Could it be detrimental to the caliber of talent?

To group interview or not to group interview?

Roland: Yeah, depends on the job, I guess. But in general, I would say, I wouldn’t recommend it. Just from a candidate’s perspective, yeah, for me, it wouldn’t feel like … I wouldn’t look forward to a day like that, I must say, being in a room with a lot of people. So if it doesn’t make sense for the actual job, then, yeah, I would just feel like an animal in a cage being picked and screened. No, I don’t recommend it just for candidate screenings. And I honestly don’t think that’s … I think there are companies that are really experienced with it and have done it a lot of times, and then I think will eventually you get good at it. But I think it’s already really hard to screen something. For example, interviews eliminate all your biases. It’s already hard enough and putting people in a group, they just start acting … You just add more factors. I don’t think that helps.

Adrie: So I think we’ve talked a lot about how, I think you’ve kind of put home the point quite a lot that your company culture is always evolving, multiple people, HR and recruiters, are responsible for safeguarding it, but then ultimately everyone’s kind of participating in this company culture.

Adrie: How can companies actually take control over the company culture? Because inevitably, there will be a time when things are not going as you want it to go. You may have a lot of absenteeism or there might be a kind of toxic work environment on some teams. How can you … Can you share some tactics or some strategies to kind of combat that?

How to combat negative culture

Roland: Yeah. This is a good question because with your culture constantly evolving, also problems and, I think the word toxic is a really good word. This constantly arises and there are constantly, especially in a fast-paced environment, things go wrong, people make mistakes, people get angry, and it’s really easy to get an environment where bad things tend to get normal. I think that’s where, what you want to guard.

Roland: I think there are two topics that I put a lot of work in an event or two to fight this. The first one is feedback and the second one is firing. So to start with the last one, I think it’s really important to let people go in time and I think it’s really important to choose to keep the water flowing in a way, to keep the water fresh. I think it’s really important to keep a constant active discussion on what’s your next step. How would that look like? What would you expect from it? What are you hoping to find that which you can’t find here? What’s bugging you?

Roland: And that’s where the feedback part comes in. So I could already grab that, too. I think this is a job for team leads to be on top of their people and know what’s going on, know what’s in their heads, how they feel, and just know if it’s time to really hit the brakes maybe with someone after a tough conversation, or say goodbye to someone.

Roland: And I think culture is, a lot of times, an undervalued topic in firing discussions because it’s mostly is someone’s work well enough, yes or no, is someone fast enough, is someone smart enough. It’s all true, but if you think if you want to refresh and debug your culture, I think it’s really important to constantly be really open about what your culture is. Also really put in each other’s faces like, “Remember, we’re a company that has speed as a habit. If that doesn’t fit your decision making, then maybe this isn’t a place for you.”

Roland: And this sounds really hard, like here’s your carton box, and let’s go. That’s not the point. It’s people that don’t fit that culture, they’re not dumb. You hired them. They’re probably really smart, and they’ve been a really big value to your company up until then. But if you decide to make a change of direction or pin down to, for example, a way of decision making. I think it’s really important that you’re honest about that. And it’s okay if someone wants to move on to, if you’re a very fast-paced environment, if someone wants to move on to a slow paced environment. That’s totally okay.

Adrie: So I think we have a really good question from Kimmy here.

Roland: Yeah.

Adrie: A lot of times hiring managers will say stuff like “He or she is not a culture fit,” and you really think that the candidate ticks all the boxes or vice versa, how do you handle a culture fit assessment as an HR person?

Culture fit assessments

Roland: That is a really good question. I’ve got a lot of help for this, too. How I pinned … Let’s keep it to myself. How I handle this is by writing down, simply making a scorecard. So, going to try to share a link. So I, for Blendle, made a … I call it the matrix. Really help you with that name.

Adrie: I think you can Submit a Call to Action, which is, you can drop a link.

Roland: Secure media?

Adrie: Yeah. So if you go to Actions, you can click on Send-

Roland: Oh, Send a Call to Action. Right.

Adrie: [crosstalk 00:39:48] a link to matrix.

Roland: It’s so bad. People should explain me this yesterday.

Adrie: No, it’s a really [inaudible 00:40:03]. Sometimes it takes a little bit. There you go.

Roland: Okay. This is bad. The link is also there.

Adrie: If you click it, I think-

Roland: If you just click on click, don’t just … Click and click.

Roland: I see a lot of people joining and the Excel … If you scroll down with me, so in the left column, so the A column, is you can find Word, Drive, and Fit. And Fit is what we eventually came up with to pin down culture. This is far from perfect and honestly, I think stuff like this should be reviewed every quarter or after every performance review because this changes constantly.

Roland: So this is what I did for them. If you look at column B starting from row 34 to 40, 41, I just started writing down what we expect from the people in certain levels. So this gave me a lot of actual stuff to talk about when talking about fit, so I totally get where you’re coming from. A lot of managers and honestly also recruiters, they turn people down on fit and it a lot of times it feels like they either didn’t like someone or they didn’t find the click or stuff like that.

Roland: And I think it’s really important to start pinning that down because it’s so abstract and so soft from time to time. I think it’s really important to put that into words. So that’s why I tried.

Roland: So if you look, for example, if you look at Improve, so Improve is one of the things we felt was really important when talking about fit. If we wanted someone that was really eager to get forward, I also asked hiring managers if they thought someone wasn’t on some certain level, work drive or fit. So fit, for example, okay, so what was someone lacking? And by just writing it down for them, they could say, “Well, I just noticed impact and improve that I wasn’t really impressed with his or her examples.”

Roland: And then you have something to talk about. And that’s also really nice for the hiring manager because then the hiring manager has also stuff he could actually ask about if there’s still doubt on a certain topic. They can actually ask and really point a question in a certain direction, because that’s where it’s also a lot of times lacking. You just walk out the room and have a feeling. And that’s where I don’t see the whole cultural fit happening, so I demanded from them that they point two questions per section, two questions on fit, and if they felt like someone wasn’t doing well on a certain level, then ask more follow up questions.

Roland: And last part, I think one thing is a bit hard because it’s always hard, and that’s if you look at row 36, at Value, DNA, and Culture. Well, this whole fit thing is about value, DNA, and culture, I guess. And this is, in the end, where it gets a bit hard and where you also have to trust your hiring manager, someone, if you talked about what is our DNA and what topics do you think someone doesn’t match. So get away from the feeling and make actual understandable and effective goal because you have to get the feedback probably from the candidates, we want something actionable someone can give that and I would always schedule a follow-up interview. And if that person, that hiring manager, is the only person in the hiring team with those problems, then, well, too bad for him or her, honestly.

Roland: So I think it’s really important to put into words what that feeling is and I’ve just noticed that for a lot of hiring managers, it’s really hard to do that, so I try to help them.

Adrie: Wow. Well, thank you so much for sharing that with us, Roland. Really good resource, I think. Even looking at it personally. Even on a personal level, you could almost self assess yourself on that as well, to say, “Am I hitting all these marks?”

Roland: I agree.

Adrie: I think it’s really helpful.

Roland: Yeah. And if you look at the bottom, there are a lot of different roles in there, so I made them for select support, operations, from editors to tech, designers, and even HR. So this is also something we use in performance reviews, and if you look at the top part, the word part, that’s what we also use in our hiring scorecards.

Roland: And this top part, the word part, is different per role and different per levels. Feel free to use it.

Adrie: So we have another follow up question on the sheet that you just shared. Would you recommend using personality tests in the hiring process?

Personality tests: yes or no?

Roland: I wouldn’t because I think … I wrote a pice on it last week. I think there are just too many studies that question the real validity. Validitite? I don’t know what’s the English word. Validity?

Adrie: You said it right the first time.

Roland: Okay. So it doesn’t measure what it should measure, and so just a quick… Extrovert versus introvert, this was … Oh, here comes my [inaudible 00:46:26] study come in handy. Jung came up with this, which was a big Freud fan. And now, it’s a really popular term used in personality tests. You’re either an extrovert or an introvert, and we now know that’s way too simplistic. There are way more different situations for people sometimes act introvertly or extrovertly. It’s always a skill and a spectrum, and honestly, I think this goes for a lot of personality traits.

Roland: I do think you could use it as a conversation starter, but honestly, if you ask me, again, from a candidate perspective, I would like a different conversation starter than a personality test. Because we always say, “Yeah, it’s a test you can’t fail.” Yeah. So why test it then?

Adrie: Yeah.

Roland: And honestly, I think if you have good experience hiring managers and recruiters, they should be able to score people on, well, for example, on a scorecard to a matrix like this, and you still have your quantitative stuff, and you don’t need an expensive, not validated test.

Adrie: I agree. I also agree on that.

Roland: Oh, good!

Adrie: We have a question from Virginia. In a fast-paced environment where the main metric is time, bill, or hire, and you need to get someone in ASAP, how will you make sure that you keep a balance between quantity and quality?

Balancing quantity and quality

Roland: Yeah. This is where I think high volume will … It’s possible of high quality if your team is big enough. If not, just slow down. It will bite you in the butt. I don’t believe … I’ll save you, if you look at research, for example, teams that at the same production if they are with seven or when they are with ten, for example. I don’t think, just especially in this environment where we have something called the Internet and a lot of technology. I don’t believe that simply rolling on more people will get you there. That’s what I do when I say about this is I’ve also hired like 14 in one month, where we had a team of 40 in total. So more than 25% added to the team, 30% added to the team.

Roland: I think it’s really good to be, to reflect those moments, and I hope that for you that’s a one-off, that if you scale any one month with 30% because it does affect your…

Roland: So I do think it’s good to realize that that does affect your culture. It will take time for them to get in and, honestly, especially if they started together and if they started on the same team, they will probably come up with their own culture, and it’s really hard to inject them with your company culture. But I think there’s no shame in making your program for that. I think there’s no shame in once a month culture clash just to try and inject people with some common values.

Roland: So that’s not … Yeah, you want culture to grow and you want it to be fluid, but sometimes if it goes with a pace like that, I think it’s fine to make a program for it, I guess.

Roland: I don’t think that really answers your question because, A, I think a lot of companies don’t need to hire that quickly, and they still do but they don’t hire … I mean, I would rather hire five really good people for a lot of money than 15 average people because it will bite you in the butt. You will have to fire them and eventually hire other people back. You’ve all been there. I don’t think … If you get the chance, try to advise your MT to slow down on bumping numbers.

Employee participation

Adrie: We have another question here from Mary, but there was a question I really would like to ask myself and I think you touched on it a little bit before. But how can you actually enable employee participation in building your company culture? I know you already said that you can run workshops, like a monthly cultural workshop. It would be like, “All right. Here’s our corporate cultural values,” whatever, but how else can you actually encourage them to participate?

Roland: Yeah. I think your people need to see what’s in it for me. So they need to see value in the participation. And I think this is delicate, because if you force it, then the whole point is gone. So you want people to intrinsically be enthusiastic about what’s happening there, and I think it all starts with actual nice work and actual nice people.

Roland: So if you have nice colleagues, if you have a good manager, and if you do extra nice work which you’re proud of, you will not have to ask a developer, “Hey, we share this piece of code you wrote because it’s great,” they will share their code. They’re fucking proud of it, so they will share. I think this is the strongest employer branding you can get. It’s intrinsically … There’s no gain in it, so no money, no whatever, no extra points. It’s just plainly sharing what is actually there by them. I think that’s the strongest way of employer branding and it’s also lasting. And the reward is immediately for the person themself because they get to share something about their company and they get the likes, the everything on Twitter and on media, so I think that’s the strongest way to embed it, to make sure people actually do cool, nice work.

Roland: And they want to share it. Because if they don’t want to share it, you have a different problem. And there’s also no … I call it … It’s also not very interesting for you to try and to coin that and twist it into something that is cool because then you get back to the point we made earlier this session, that it doesn’t … If it’s not that, then please, don’t share it. Just …

Adrie: So I’ve actually just started a poll on Mary’s question. What stage would you start assessing cultural fit? You guys can all weigh in. We’ll have Roland weigh in at the very end.

Biggest mistakes

Adrie: I wanted to ask you, Roland, what you thought the biggest mistake you can possibly make while trying to build your company culture out? It’s a massive project. There’s a lot of stuff to do. There are a lot of people to tie in. Where do you see the biggest risk?

Roland: I think there is none.

Adrie: All right.

Roland: I think what people might be afraid of is that you discover stuff that you don’t like, skeletons in the closet. But that’s great, right? It’s there. People talk about it. Again, those Friday night drinks? If there’s harassment in a team going on, they will talk about it. People will know. So better know it up front.

Roland: I’m also a big fan of just using Typeform and just asking questions anonymously, just plainly, about topics that are toxic like this. So, honestly, I don’t see any downsides on together as a company trying to pin down what you are, maybe on the team level, I actually don’t see any downsides. Because it’s already there.

Adrie: Yeah. So what would you do with … How do you handle negative feedback on this? So if you were to receive, through your Typeform stuff that indicates that maybe people are very unhappy, what do you do with that information?

Roland: That’s, especially why we do surveys because you have numbers. You can quantify it. And also the people are protected. There are no names, so if you go to a team lead, it’s not, “Ah, yeah, it’s him again. He’s always whining. Blah, blah, blah.” Because we’ve all been in those discussions, too, right?

Roland: So you want hard numbers, and if 10% of your company is saying that harassment or discrimination is a problem or workload or whatever, I think this is one of the strongest things HR can use and the MT cannot ignore numbers.

Roland: So I do think it’s important to have team specific numbers so we know where the problems are and we know where to look. So I think that’s the start. Quantify it and simply share those numbers. You don’t have to come up with a solution yet. You just want to rise …

Roland: Let’s take workloads. The rise reflected that workload is a problem. So then you sit down with the team lead. “Hey, do you recognize any of this?” And if the answer is no, well, then you have a curious discussion. Usually, the answer with me would be, “Yes. I recognize it. We’re working towards a launch,” and then I would say, “Okay, so how can you make sure the next two sprints after that are nice and breezy?”

Roland: Then I would, for that team, survey it again and ask, “How’s the workload now? From one to ten, score it.” And if it hasn’t gone down, because there are always people that are for longer period under pressure and there are people who are like, “Oh, it’s really busy. Ah, it’s okay.”

Roland: So I would serve a more and make it just a really easy, quick thing to get your numbers in and get a feel for the temperature on topics like this.

Roland: And if it’s an onward problem, well, then you have a project on your hands, right? Yeah. I think it’s real valuable because then you would prevent the burnout. Burnout will cost you at least $100 grand, so yeah, you meet your yearly salary, maybe even twice.

Companies nailing their culture

Adrie: So I wanted to ask another question for you, Roland. What companies do you see currently in the market that are currently nailing, like really doing well in terms of building a company culture? Any examples that you could share with us?

Roland: Yeah. I did some examples right before we… So I want to share two or three. I don’t know where we’re at with time, but I want to share … Actions. And now I know how this goes. Send Call to Action. Text.

Roland: So this is an example from the Dutch Army, so my Dutchies will probably know it and it’s not … The text doesn’t really matter. But I think they did really well on this, just focused on employer branding. They definitely didn’t double down on budget. They went all out, all guns blazing. They spent obviously a lot of money on this.

Roland: And when you look at the movies, and when you look at the copy, sorry, this is Dutch. What I think they did really well is they got to the core of what it is to work in the Army. And for me, the Army is not something that really attracts me, to put it lightly, but they cut to the core of what it is, of why we have an army in the first place, and they made the whole employer branding about that. So they made it about protecting our people and protecting what you love.

Roland: Well, that did resonate with me in a weird way, and I suddenly want to crawl off through the mud, but when you look at the movies, what I really like is that they went to the why, so that’s also, if you look at your … This is why culture is important. They went to the why of why do we even exist? Why are we here? And they put that in their movie to make it the center of what they were advertising with. I think that’s brilliant. Very good job. Good content, nice movies. I think it’s really well.

Roland: The downside of this, because I also want to mention this, is that the Dutch Army isn’t what it looks like in the movies because I have a few friends who worked there. Both in terms of culture but also in terms of cool work. Well, it’s a different picture than you see on this web site.

Roland: So that’s, again, where I believe it’s not money well spent. You should spend it on hiring really good people to change your culture so you don’t need an advertising company this good to make this good of a employer brand for you.

Roland: Second example. I think a lot of you already know, but I just really want to pick this one out. Click here, please. Click. It was an extra space. Oh, it’s really… www…

Adrie: Or I think it’s really interesting what you were saying, that there’s a disconnect between the employer brand and the actual company. I think that’s the most important take-home that, if you do have a strong employer brand, then your company culture should also reflect that.

Roland: Yeah. And it’s even … Before I go to this, the next example is from Base Camp. When you look at the Dutch Army, it really bites them in the ass because they now also have, for me, this sticker of dishonest because sound and picture don’t match. So they’re untrue. If that starts reflecting on your company, oh that’s a company you advertise really nice but really are a shitty company or I had a really shitty experience there, I think that even backfires to stay in the Army.

Roland: Examples. Okay. Going to the next example, Base Camp. I think most of you already notice, what I really, really love about Base Camp is they share everything. So, yes, the PR is nice, so it’s definitely slick enough. It’s definitely done right, so you don’t have to … To make it authentic, it doesn’t have to look shitty. It can still look really nice and be true.

Roland: What I really like about Base Camp is that what they stand for, they apply to everything they do. So they apply it to the product. So they are real innovative. They say they are the first Ruby on Rails project app ever made, which is of course, really cool. But they also applied it to the way they together found out how to make a cool and happy, healthy work environment, and they even wrote a book about it.

Roland: So I really like this loop of them where they experiment, find something out, and this is embedded in everything they do, which makes it really strong. And I’ve never used their product before. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m still mentioning them as an example because every time I see something from them, I think, “Oh, yeah. Cool.” I don’t know why. These must be cool and smart people. Thought it might be my problem, but I think this is a really cool example.

Roland: And last, but not least, I do want to mention how Google made their rework page, hopefully all know. What I think is really cool is that they try to share all the works around it, the works behind it. They really try to share, okay, hiring, the hiring teams, or hiring with scorecards. How does it work?

Roland: So I think it’s really cool that they, as one of the first, started sharing stuff they actually really use and could even be considered stuff that gives them an advantage or an edge. And I think it’s a really bold move, like a winner’s move to exactly share that so everybody could use it, which for me, implicates that they have their heart in the right place and they really care about taking recruitment, HR, people operations to the next level.

Roland: So that’s what I … If that is what they, I assume that that is in their culture because of what they did, and I think that is really strong employer branding.

Adrie: So I ran a survey on when you would start assessing for cultural fit. I think a lot of you guys felt, the most people felt, in interview stage. Next up closing, and then followed by screening with a couple in assessment and reference check.

Adrie: Over to you, Roland. What do you think? When should you start assessing for cultural fit?

Roland: I think in sourcing and definitely the first three stages, but I think in the first two it’s harder because it is a softer topic, although we can quantify and make score cards for it. I think the interview is definitely the winner for where the actual cultural fit needs to be done. Also because we need time to assess this correctly. If we don’t take enough time for this, I think we can make and fall into a trap where we tend to be a bit biased and maybe make the mistake of going for that click. “I didn’t feel the click” or they maybe just are really bad in making phone calls and they … You are looking for an extrovert, and you happen to have an introvert who don’t like having phone calls.

Roland: So I think the first two stages are harder, or even the second stage, but I do want to mention about the first stage. I do think sourcing which is authentic and real and aligned with your company, is also a way of already selecting candidates. So if I get a really corporate e-mail, I already think, “Okay, I really don’t want to work here.” But if it’s a fit with their company culture, well they done a good job because I didn’t respond because I don’t match.

Roland: But if you are really informal company, make it informal. Make it personal. And maybe some people will respond to that more quickly. So I do think you can use your own message, also as a selection way of selecting.

Adrie: I’m very conscious of time right now. I know many of you guys are recruiters. Probably need to be recruiting people, you’ve got meetings, et cetera. So I want to give the floor one last time to Roland to make sure that if you had to give the ultimate lesson for everyone to take back, what would it be, in a very concise way?

The ultimate culture lesson

Roland: Yeah, I think we practice, right, so we talked about what’s at the core of this, and I think it’s “Practice what you preach.” I think that’s definitely the sentence we both came up with. Like, hey, I think this pins it all down.

Roland: Practice what you preach, and I would start looking inwards, but that’s maybe my HR heart beating, but I think the recruiters have a really important role in shaping the culture of a company. I think we should not underestimate how important the front door is and the people right there.

Roland: So yeah, step it up. Let’s hear it and try to influence your company on this point because it will make our lives a lot easier if you work on this.

Adrie: Well, thank you so much for your insights, Roland. Really appreciate it. Before everyone heads out, I do want to leave you with a couple of resources here. I mentioned before that I host a podcast. It comes out every other week. In fact, today there was an episode that came out so you can check it out there. I’ve also invited you all to the TA Innovators community, so if you like this session with Roland, recording’s going to be uploaded there. And of course, the Recruitee blog. We write about stuff like this all the time there. We try to make sure that it’s insightful and adds value every time, so you can check out all of the resources there.

Adrie: But of course, I see that there’s one question that we haven’t answered. I would really encourage you to reach out to Roland directly. I’m sure he would be happy to answer your questions if you have any last minute things what we didn’t cover here. I hope everyone enjoyed this first interactive session. And a big thank you to Roland for sharing all these things with us. Really appreciate it.

Roland: Thanks. Cheers.

Adrie: Cool. We’ll see you in the next one.

Beth is the former HR Community Manager at Recruitee. Based in Pittsburgh, Beth enjoys spreading the word about recruitment innovation.