If a company’s values are supposed to be more than just cheerful posters around the office, then how exactly are they meant to be used? And to what end?
This is the thought going through every executive’s mind when we talk about a ‘values-led’ organization or a ‘purpose-driven’ company.
HR colleagues know that purpose and values are critical to understanding their company’s ‘why,’ but sometimes struggle with how to connect employees to values as a ‘how.’
Certainly, purpose and values can be woven into many aspects of the Talent and Organizational Design functions including performance management, rewards and recognition and job design. But there’s still a critical component missing – how to unlock and unleash ‘values as behaviors’ within a company.
How do we help employees to use these core elements of our organization’s ‘social contract’ to guide the way they perform their roles and relate to each other every day?
How do we use purpose and values to connect employees to the big picture and then empower them to effectively contribute to achieving the businesses’ goals?
Making values 'real' requires consistent communication.
Often I hear leaders say that they need to ‘communicate better,’ when what they mean is ‘broadcast more’ information to employees. Unless one of your values is ‘Command and Control,’ this kind of behavior modeling is unlikely to yield the desired results.
Companies powered by ‘knowledge workers’ require a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to connecting employees to purpose and values so that they can apply those principles to their roles and relationships in a meaningful way.
And the truth is, every company is powered by ‘knowledge workers.’ Not everyone is an engineer, programmer, or analyst, but employees in every business require context to make good decisions every day at work. Anyone working in construction or forestry knows that an employee’s ability to understand a situation and make very smart decisions quickly can mean the difference between life and death.
Purpose and values provide an excellent framework for creating this understanding, but how do we communicate effectively with so many different kinds of employees, in different industries, geographies, generations, tenures, capabilities and performing different functions and roles?
The power of strategic storytelling
Fortunately, there is a ‘silver bullet’ that comes in as many different shapes, sizes, colors and formats as there are contexts in need of a communication solution. It’s not an app or a new technology, in fact it’s been tried and tested since the dawn of civilization.
Storytelling is deeply ingrained in our human psyche as a means of understanding the world and then making decisions about how to navigate it – we’ve only fairly recently begun to understand the neuroscience that explains how organizations can truly harness this tool to translate values into behaviors that enable employees to powerfully contribute to achieving business goals.
When people listen to well-crafted stories scientists have discovered that their brains ‘light up’ as they follow the narrative. In fact, all subjects brains ‘light up’ in very consistent patterns. As they listen, hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine, cortisol and oxytocin are produced – each has a specific role to play in connecting the listener to the story’s dramatic arc.
The story’s ability to stimulate the connection between empathy and oxytocin in the listener produces a particularly notable effect –at the end of hearing a story people with higher levels of oxytocin in the body are consistently more likely to take ‘pro-social’ actions, like donating money to charity.
The building blocks of behavior change
Think of these pro-social actions as the building blocks of behavior change. When our storytelling weaves in our company’s purpose and values, we can extrapolate that our employees will, over time, learn to demonstrate those values as behaviors.
The age-old leadership and management mystery of ‘how to get our employees to do what we want them to do’ has, in large part, been solved. And, the answer is the exact opposite of the top-heavy, hierarchical, command-and-control approach that has long been the norm. The research on creating a culture of purpose and psychological safety where leaders are vulnerable and human has been well documented.
Strategic storytelling actually changes brain chemistry – this is a powerful system of eliciting consistent desired behaviors from employees that is also respectful, empowering and gives your people an opportunity to innovate and co-create more effective solutions for your business.
Developing and implementing this strategic storytelling system – what I call Values IRL – creates a consistent, immersive, dynamic experience for employees that can help crack the code of core people challenges like recruitment, retention, productivity, performance, engagement and safety.
Values IRL is not a one-and-done exercise; it has to become like brushing your teeth. Fortunately, it’s an ideal complement to all the regular people processes, programs and campaigns that already exist within your company, including rewards and recognition, performance management, change programs, learning and development, and leadership communication.
This makes the opportunities for strategic storytelling nearly universal. No matter the size of your business, industry, or country, if you’re depending on your people to profit and grow then bringing your purpose and values to life – real life, every day, will be critical to your success.
Have questions about how you can bring Values IRL and strategic storytelling to your organization? Get in touch.
It was amazing to offer the closing keynote speech at the IABC Minnesota Convergence Summit last month. So, I wanted to share some of the ideas I discussed in a series of blog posts. Here’s the first! Hope you find them helpful.
Every company battles the talent war to hire employees who are smart, innovative, strategic, driven, curious, creative, resourceful, and build context quickly.
And so, I’m left wondering why so often in corporate America, we then go on to treat those employees like robots?
Companies act is if these people don’t have personal lives, hobbies, babies, dreams of their own, or parents who need care. It's as though employees aren't supposed to have fears and vulnerabilities, friendships and relationships, bodies that get sick or need exercise, trauma and grief, or brains that just need to unplug and recharge for a while.
These are well, just really human experiences; the cost of doing business while inhabiting a human form. And yet, we act as though they have nothing to do with business.
However, one day, in the not too distant future, any job that can be done better, faster, cheaper by a robot/machine/algorithm will be. And then what will we need all these pesky humans for?
As it turns out, some pretty cool stuff.
Plenty has been written on the subject, and a recent Forbes article outlines some of the very human qualities that will be most in demand in the workplace of the future, including:
And since we’ve got some pretty big opportunities and challenges ahead of us in the business world of planet Earth, it looks like we’ll be needing all those smart, driven, curious, resourceful, passionate, creative, strategic and critical thinking, innovative knowledge workers to be firing on all cylinders.
The jobs we’ll need humans to do will require employees who are 100% Human. We will need to draw on the very best within our people in order to grow our businesses. That means that our workplaces will also have to, not just adapt, but transform into human-friendly ecosystems.
We won’t be working harder or smarter, we’ll be working in a way that enables humans to thrive, and do their very best work.
Communications professionals have a critical role to play in this transformation.
We can be the change we want to see in business.
What change do you want to see?
In the last post, we talked about asking ‘why’ what you’re communicating is important, and how whatever it is you’re communicating will help your colleagues contribute to your company’s phenomenal growth and success. Now we’re going to learn an amazingly simple trick for making your communications less spammy and annoying, and more interesting to your colleagues.
Remember: Know, Feel, Do
Every time you are communicating something, ask yourself what you want the intended recipient to Know, Feel and Do as a result of your message.
Here’s an easy example: it’s time to let people know about the upcoming company barbeque.
Obviously, as we’ve learned, you’re asking yourself why it’s important for people to know about the upcoming BBQ and that they should attend. The answer is that there are a lot of new people who’ve joined the company recently, and there hasn’t really been a good opportunity for them to get to know their colleagues. If people know each other, they can work together more effectively, and therefore really hit the ground running in their new roles.
Great. Good reason.
So, you’re going to send an email to everyone to tell them about the event. Thinking just about the veteran employees for a moment, ask yourself, what do you want them to:
Know: We are having a BBQ on July 23rd at the park to welcome our newer colleagues, and you should come.
Feel: A BBQ, cool! That sounds like fun, and it will be a great opportunity to get to know some of the new people who work here.
Do: Excitedly attend the BBQ and spend time getting to know their new colleagues, share their experience, and build relationships that will help those new people hit the ground running.
Once you know what you want people to Know, Feel and Do, you will craft your message differently than if you hadn’t asked Why, and you hadn’t thought about what the desired outcome of the message was for you and your company. Make sense?
Who cares what people Feel?
At the time of this article’s publication, let’s assume that most of your colleagues are humans, and not robots. Taking a human employee’s emotional world into account when you communicate is helpful because you are likely to get a better result for Do.
Some companies haven’t quite figured this out yet, but in the 21st century, the smart, talented colleagues you’re trying to communicate with probably don’t respond super well to a ‘Command and Control’ approach, and don’t really like being ordered around for no good reason. Accounting for, and appealing to, their feelings is going to be a far more effective strategy.
It also goes back to ‘Why.’ You want them to go to the BBQ to spend time getting to know their colleagues. If they show up at the park ‘feeling’ excited to be there, you’re going to get a better result on your ‘Why’ (know each other, collaborate better, be more productive quickly, make us more money) than if you tried something like ‘Thou shalt go to the park, eat hot dogs, and talk to your colleagues for a specified duration on Saturday.’
But wait, there’s more...
Know, Feel, Do also works on boring stuff too, which is handy. For example, IT changes:
Know: There’s going to be a system outage on Thursday while we upgrade some important applications
Feel: That’s cool that they’re upgrading those applications, I’m glad we’re getting that done this week.
Do: Make a plan to arrange work around announced system outage times to stay busy and productive, even when I can’t be working in those applications.
See? It almost makes it sound exciting! Almost...
Want to catch up on previous posts in this series? Check out why employee communications matters to your business, and why it's important to ask Why you're communicating at all.
Still need help communicating with your employees? Relax, we're here to help.
On April 24, join us for a LIVE Q&A Call and get all your employee communications questions answered.
Every purpose-driven company knows that its ‘Why’ is important, but too many startups and small businesses miss the opportunity to accelerate their own growth by articulating not only the ‘Why,’ but the ‘How.’
For a young, or rapidly growing company, the need to articulate their Mission, Vision and Values is even more urgent. Taking a beat to think about your culture and values may seem like a luxury, but the most successful companies know that there are some very real reasons why this matters to their business.
In fact, those reasons are pretty compelling – like, for example, making more money, hiring (and keeping!) the best talent, etc.
But beneath that, there are actually two ‘best-kept-secret’ reasons why a CEO/Founder/Business Leader will want to get on this pronto.
1) Your life will be so much easier Your job as a leader becomes is simplified once you know, and can clearly explain to your growing team:
This, in essence, is what your Mission, Vision and Values are all about.
Once this is defined, it’s much easier to hire the right people, and let the wrong ones go. It’s also easier to manage your team because they understand the ‘big picture’ and your values serve as a sort of ‘social contract.’
With clear Mission, Vision and Values statements, everyone (including you!) has a built in decision-making framework. “Should I do it this task way, or that way? Hmmmm...we’ve got a value called ‘Customer First,’ so I think I’ll prioritize that piece of client work...” (See? Easier to manage!)
You will also make better decisions when it comes to designing and delivering your products and services. You, and everyone who works for you, will have a much clearer, more intuitive understanding of every aspect of your brand.
2) Articulating your Mission, Vision & Values is easier than you think
The truth is, almost every leader I’ve ever met actually already knows what their company is about, they know why they want people to come work every day, and they know what they want it to be like to work together.
It’s why they built the company in the first place, or why they felt compelled to take the helm. Leaders just don’t always have the language or bandwidth to be able to articulate them.
The good news, I’ve found, is that it doesn’t actually take much prompting to get a leadership team talking excitedly about why they’re passionate about their work, and how they envision the future of their company. It’s actually why they’re called, well, leaders.
Voila! Before and After
The difference between a company that has thought through, and articulated their Mission, Vision and Values, is a night and day from one that hasn’t.
Companies without this essential building block of culture suffer from an unmistakable sense of chaos, overwhelm and panic that inevitably seeps into their customer experience, hiring, work quality, and leadership. It’s a little like spinach in your teeth at a cocktail party; everyone can see it but you...
On the other hand, there is a sense of lightness, focus, confidence, and above all, clarity that shines through in leaders – and employees – who understand their ‘Why’ and their ‘How.’ It’s infectious, and helps a company attract and retain the best talent, innovate ahead of the competition, and build a business that’s truly set up for long-term success.
Where would you rather work?
Still feeling overwhelmed? Get in touch with us. Honestly, we help companies like yours with this all the time. Raring to go on your own? We love that about you! Grab our free Kick Start Guide to Creating your Mission, Vision & Values.
It’s easy to understand why business leaders get excited about creating a great culture – the benefits are huge!
Strong culture leads to great employee engagement. It's well documented that companies with better employee engagement enjoy oh-so-many dividends, including better productivity, innovation, customer experience, employee retention, profitability, safety and work quality.
Not to mention that it’s a lot easier to recruit top talent in a tight labor market when your team is shouting from the rooftops about how amazing it is to work for you.
However, culture isn’t a ‘once in a while’ thing, and it’s not like an adorable puppy you get for Christmas. Culture isn’t ‘cute when it’s new,’ and then just kind of a pain in the neck the rest of the year.
Why not? Ummmm, please see above list of upsides – those are 365-days-a-year kinds of benefits! And, like that cute puppy, if your feed and water it properly, your culture will grow big and strong over time. Give it some love, and your culture will become your very best friend as a leader.
Fortunately, there are lots of not-so-hard ways to nurture your culture. An easy place to start is with your Mission, Vision and Values statements – they’re kind of like your road map.
Tell the truth: Do your Mission, Vision and Values statements live in a drawer somewhere, and yet your wonder why they’re not ‘working?’ It’s ok. These things happen. It’s easy to get back on track.
Here are three top, easy and painless tips for using your Mission, Vision and Values to help you build and maintain an amazing culture.
Spoiler alert! None of them include ping pong tables and beer:
Over time, your people will understand that ‘this is the way we do things around here,’ which is a strong starting point for building the culture you want – and need – to grow.
There’s another big plus to consistently communicating your values; it actually makes your job as a leader easier. Just like the decision-making criteria described for employees, the same is true for you.
Just like your puppy doesn’t turn into a giant dog overnight, your values-driven culture also takes time to mature. The good news is, just like those daily trips to the dog park, the journey can be a whole lot of fun.
Interested in diving deeper into your company's Mission, Vision and Values with someone who knows the ropes? Drop us a line! Want to get started right away? Click here to receive a free Kick Start Guide to creating your own Mission, Vision and Values statements!
Imagine you’re an employee. OK, not hard. And imagine that you’re getting a million emails about things that don’t really seem to matter, or pings on your collaboration platform about random, useless stuff you don’t really care about. Also, not hard because that’s mostly what people think of when they think of employee communications.
Spamming colleagues is not the same thing as communicating
Shoving information that you (or your boss, or HR, or IT, and so on) down people’s throats is not employee communications. I mean, it is, technically speaking, and that sure is the way most companies go about it, but it’s not really very helpful to anyone.
It’s kind of a waste of your time, because no one’s going to read or listen to what you’re saying, and you’ll probably just annoy them, and then they’ll be less likely to listen to you ever, ever, ever.
Why is this important?
Still people need to know stuff, right? Probably, so it will be really helpful to start by asking ‘why.’ In subsequent articles, we’ll explore how asking ‘why’ will affect what, how, and when you communicate, but for now, let’s keep it high-level…
Let’s say your CEO, or another senior leader in your company, has decided that people need to know about some changes to the business model. She’s preparing a long boring email, or thinking of doing an all-hands meeting to tell everyone.
Ask yourself ‘Why’ do people need to know about this change? At first, it might seem pretty obvious, because the CEO said so. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll be able to help her get the message out in a much more powerful way. One that cuts to the chase, and helps people understand why this change is important.
You are creating a ‘line of sight’
There is one really important reason why we communicate with employees -- we want and need them to understand how what they do every day at work helps the company achieve its big picture goals.
We want employees to have a clear line of sight from me, here in my role, doing my thing, to the phenomenal growth and success of the company as a whole. When people ‘get that,’ they are better, happier, more productive, innovative employees who can actually contribute to that phenomenal growth in a meaningful way. Cool, huh?
‘Why’ applies to everything in communications
It’s actually the same principle with all those (potentially) boring emails from HR or IT -- why are they important? Because usually they include some action that employees are supposed to take to help the company run better. ‘Do this, don’t do this, do more of this, go here, just so you know…’ Good communications should always have a ‘Call to Action.’
If you get in the habit of asking yourself why something is important? How does it fit into the big picture of our company’s success, it will shape your thinking about how to approach actually communicating whatever it is.
Think first, then communicate
Weird that there’s all this thinking about communications that has to happen way before you ever communicate anything, huh? Yup. That’s the really important part.
As your company grows, and as you grow in your role, you’ll want to create strategies and plans for what and how to communicate, but for the moment, it’s helpful to just start thinking strategically. It’s an easy way to start organizing and prioritizing employee communications in your brain.
It’s good for you to ask yourself ‘Why’ it’s important to communicate something, but be careful about asking your CEO ‘Why’ a lot of times. Sometimes it can be perceived as challenging or combative, two qualities CEOs generally aren’t crazy about. Over time, you will learn how to extract this information from them in a subtle, ninja-like way. Promise.
If you missed the first article in this series, you can check it out here!
This is an ongoing series, so stay tuned for the next installment.
Hmmm… You actually already have a job that keeps you pretty busy, and now, as your company has grown, someone (who shall remain nameless) has asked you to also pick up employee communication. They may also have called it employee engagement, or internal communications, or something that sort of sounds like that.
The only problem is...you’re not quite sure where to start, and you’re not entirely sure you’ll know if you’ve been successful, and sometimes it all seems a little overwhelming, if you’re being honest…
Employee Communications is a thing
Fear not. The truth is that in larger companies, employee communications is actually a whole job unto itself. In fact, there are whole teams that do nothing but oversee employee communications. This is because how employees understand their role in a company — how what they do every day affects the bottom line — has a big impact on that bottom line itself.
Think about when you’ve been new in a job, and haven’t really been entirely clear on what’s going on, how things work, or even what it is exactly that you’re supposed to be doing. When you don’t have that bigger picture, that broader context, you can’t perform at your best — it’s a frustrating feeling!
Once you understand how all the pieces fit together, you can, to use a technical term, crush it. You do your job better, faster, smarter and with more energy and enthusiasm than you did when you were, well, kind of clueless.
Employee Communication plays a big role in helping people crush it at work
So, now you can start to see that employee communication is kind of a big deal. And that means that you have a big opportunity to be a total rock star at work.
But wait, there’s more.
Want to know specifically how employee communications affects your company’s bottom line? It has to do with the connection between employee communication and, what is often called employee engagement. Employee engagement is a much larger topic that we’ll address is future articles, but basically, it’s a way of measuring how much better and harder someone is willing to work.
That may sound kind of transactional at first, but here’s the thing -- employee engagement is linked to some big ways that companies either make or lose money when it comes to their people, including:
So you can see why companies take employee communication (and engagement) seriously as they grow. However, for smaller businesses, it’s not usually feasible to have a dedicated person doing this role, which is where you come in. See? Total rock star opportunity.
There’s something else though — it’s not just about the productivity and the profit. We spend a lot of our lives at work, and employee communication and engagement just makes that time better. Helping people thrive at work, and contributing to a great company culture is a very important role, and one that hopefully, by now seems more like fun, and less like just. More. work.
In this series of articles, we’ll demystify the basics of employee communication, and share some ‘tricks of the trade’ so that you can feel confident and enthusiastic in helping your company to be a better, stronger, happier place to work.
Have questions? Concerns? A persistent, prickly feeling of panic that keeps you up at night? Fear not; this is a safe space. You can either ask them in the comments, or just email us directly. We’re here to help.
We’ve been so pleased to see our clients getting such value from working with Dewpoint Communications -- and in some cases, even just working with us to articulate their Mission, Vision and Values statements has helped their business to leapfrog ahead.
Recently, we sat down with Tish Hicks, (pictured below) CEO of the V.O Dojo, to talk about how working with Dewpoint Communications has changed the way she talks about her voice over training offering, and the impact it’s had on her business.
The V.O Dojo, based in Burbank, CA, has been training actors pursuing a career in the voice over industry to since 2011. Tish’s own extensive career as a voice over artist has made her a highly sought-after instructor, and the Dojo has been steadily growing.
Last year, it was time for Tish to think about where she wanted to take the company next. She was building her team, exploring partnerships with other artists, and looking for clarity around what the V.O Dojo stands for to help guide these relationships.
As with each Dewpoint Communications Mission, Vision and Values development engagement, Tish and Victoria began by exploring the company’s purpose in the world -- why does it exist in the first place? Tish’s vision for the Dojo turned out to be the answer to the questions she was asking about the future of her business -- and even some she hadn’t thought of yet.
“Remembering that the true heart of the Dojo is ‘aligning people with the power of their own voice’ helped me realize that the value of our programs is much deeper than learning the nuts and bolts of doing voiceover,” recalls Tish.
“I think the most eye opening part of this work was taking full responsibility for articulating the vision clearly. I had a stumbly year of hiring, and wanted go back to the basics so I could learn how to support my team.”
“When we first started unpacking the Mission, Vision and Values, honestly, part of me was like, oh yeah, I’ve got this -- while it was happening, I didn’t quite understand how impactful it would be. And as we went deeper, the vision got stronger and clearer.”
And as Tish got clearer on her vision, and more confident articulating it in her marketing efforts, an interesting thing began to happen.
“The next time we ran one of our intro workshops, I was approached by several young women who were feeling extremely disempowered in their own lives --and especially, politically. The idea of learning how to access the power of their own voice, and bring that into the world, was magnetic to them.”
Once Tish started to align the way she described her offering to the market, she naturally began to attract clients who were not specifically pursuing a voice over career, but definitely did want to learn how to ‘align with the power of their own voice.’ This opened up a market segment for the Dojo that Tish had never previously considered.
“One of these women came to the workshop, having hated the sound of her voice for her entire life, and left with a whole new understanding of what was possible for her. She signed up for the full year of training!"
This clarity of purpose and vision has, in turn, given Tish renewed focus and ease around how to manage her own team, and other partnerships.
“It has really allowed me to remember that the Dojo’s vision is my vision, and that I can trust in what I am creating. Now when I bring people on, in whatever capacity, I know that I am inviting them to participate in Dojo vision for a very specific purpose. This has created a sense of ease and transparency that been really helpful.”
Working with Dewpoint Communications has also helped Tish step into her role as leader in a new way.
“I now better understand that I am responsible for creating and maintaining the gravitational force that will keep someone in orbit, and in full connection with the Dojo, and this has been a game changer. Every interaction I have in developing and maintaining someone as part of the team means that I need to strive to embody what I am asking them to be.”
So what’s next for Tish Hicks and the V.O. Dojo?
“There have definitely been a number of new opportunities that have opened up that I never could have foreseen -- in part because defining our Mission, Vision and Values statements has allowed me to better focus our marketing efforts. I’m more confident now in what differentiates us, and I know that how I want people to feel when they interact with the V.O Dojo.”
“The Mission, Vision and Values work I did with Victoria has reminded me that this is the core of what people are responding to, and it has given the V.O. Dojo a whole new universe of possibilities to explore!”
If you'd like to learn more about how working with us to articulate your company's Mission, Vision and Values statement can benefit your business, feel free to get in touch. Can't wait to get started? We like that about you. Grab your free Kick Start Guide to Creating Your Mission, Vision & Values here.
I've become convinced that isolation is a silent dream killer for solopreneurs. Working alone is like the opposite of ‘groupthink’ -- but no less destructive to a small business.
You know the story, a small, service-based solopreneur works out of their second bedroom, or maybe the occasional Starbucks. They plug away, always on the hunt for clients, ‘doing all the doing,’ reading the right business books, constantly working ‘in’ the business, not ‘on’ the business and just hoping they’re getting it right. They worry about revenue, that they’re working too hard, and ultimately wondering if it’s all worthwhile -- whether they might not be better off working for someone else...
Whenever I hear solopreneurs report this kind of grind, I’m almost certain that the root of their frustration and anxiety is prolonged isolation. Why? Because the number one challenge that all entrepreneurs share is mindset. The laundry list of common issues includes imposter syndrome, burnout, inertia, creative blocks, anxiety and depression.
And it’s no wonder. Building a business brings up everyone’s deepest fears and insecurities -- am I good enough? Will anyone pay me what I think I’m worth? Is there a sustainable market for what I’m offering? Will I have consistent revenue? None of these are helped by sitting at home alone, toiling away in isolation.
Entrepreneurship is a team sport, which doesn’t mean that you have to hire a staff, but it does mean that you need community. Here’s why:
That laundry list of mindset issues? They’re a lot easier to manage when you know you’re not alone. When you have a community of peers, you realize that anyone building a business who doesn’t have imposter syndrome is playing it too safe, and at the expense of their bottom line. When you’re growing, you’re always going to be doing new things that you’ve never done before, so it’s a good idea to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. This is a lot easier to do when you have other entrepreneurs -- people in the same boat -- to talk to.
There are a million ways to build a business, but you only know what you know. Fortunately, there are lots of other entrepreneurs out there trying to solve the same problems, and sharing information and ideas is a great way to break free of creative and productivity blocks. For example, you may be struggling with keeping on top of emails and calendaring, but someone else in your community may have already successfully used an automation platform that could do all this for you. No one can keep on top of everything, so knowledge sharing is vital to success.
When you work alone, you’re also stuck just thinking your own thoughts every day, which creates huge blind spots. It’s hard to solve business problems creatively when you’re stuck in your own head, with not enough external input.
Referrals and Partnerships
You may know your own market, but have no idea how to access adjacent markets, or even that they exist. When you have a community of entrepreneurial peers, you’ve instantly increased your pool of potential customers. Similarly, you’ll also be able to start tapping into vibrant referral networks -- hard to do sitting at home alone at your laptop.
That all sounds helpful, but how do you make the leap from thinking your own thoughts all day every day to breaking into the wellspring of ideas, innovation, empathy and encouragement that you need?
Whenever I talk about ‘hiring for culture fit,’ I get strange looks. I know people are wondering if hiring for culture is really a euphemism for ‘hiring people you’d like to have a beer with,’ or people you might have gone to school with – basically code for hiring people just like you. After all, isn’t this the behavior that perpetuates ‘bro culture’ in Silicon Valley?
On the contrary, this is actually a plea for companies to actively define their ‘culture’ through clearly communicated mission, vision, and values. Too often the term ‘company culture’ is misinterpreted as ping pong tables, kegs, and wearing jeans to work, when in fact, it’s a much deeper, and more powerful concept.
When you have a strong, clear, purpose-driven culture you’re better placed to recruit (well, just in general, but also) for diversity because you’ve already defined an objective ‘shared’ culture that everyone who works for you has understood and agreed to. This can help bridge individual cultures of origin in the workplace. This practice helps to normalize gender quality and diversity and inclusion for companies – the very opposite of perpetuating a ‘bro culture.’
Smaller companies, under intense pressure to make successful hires, may not feel like they can take a chance on someone that they’re not sure will be a team fit. This opens the door to an onslaught of unconscious biases. And yet, we know that workplace diversity encourages different perspectives that yield greater innovation and employee engagement, which in turn help grow stronger businesses.
Please allow a brief digression to make this point more clearly – bear with me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this:
There are some people who are merely fans of the 1990s Aaron Sorkin political drama ‘The West Wing,’ and then there are people who love the show so much that they, even now, in 2017, listen to a podcast called ‘The West Wing Weekly’ in which each and every episode of the seven seasons is dissected in painstaking detail. I, myself, fall into this latter camp.
Very often on the podcast, there are guest interviews themed to the show’s story lines. Recently, on a Canadian-focused episode, the hosts interviewed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For a variety of reasons that will be obvious to any West Wing fan, this was an exciting turn of events. But what was even more exciting to me was something Justin Trudeau said about Canadian culture that makes my point about how to start creating a diverse and inclusive company culture.
West Wing Weekly host, Hrishikesh Hirway, asked the Prime Minister about Canada’s stance on refugees, and whether assimilation was a big part of their policies in this area. The Prime Minister articulated what it means to welcome immigrants to their country.
“Canada was always stuck…and that sort of helped us live in a place that is too cold, too big, too empty for too many months of the year. We learned that surface identity doesn’t define you, and through the waves of immigration… people are proud to keep their heritage, and we celebrate them. Being of every different background makes it difficult to point out what a typical Canadian is.
I mean, just the French versus English meant that we had to accept that someone totally different from us was just as much Canadian. So we went through long stretches of angst of being unable to define what the ‘Canadian Identity’ was, until we sort of figured out that the Canadian Identity is just not shaped around surface attributes like religion or ethnicity or language, it’s shaped around the shared values – shared core values of openness, respect, compassion, a willingness to work hard, a desire to be there for each other, a search for justice, for opportunity.
These kinds of things that most Western countries sort of aspire to, Canadians tend to take as definitional... And what that does is that that means that wherever you’re from, whatever your background, if you come and accept those values, which are positive, inclusive, open values, you get to be Canadian.”
Without dwelling on the nuances of Canadian politics, I do think that Justin Trudeau’s sentiment effectively articulates my point; shared values essentially form a social contract that bind people together, certainly well enough to create a strong, thriving company of diverse talents and perspectives.
When you recruit for a values-driven culture fit, you are saying, ‘this is who we are, this is what we stand for. This is what we celebrate, this is the behavior we expect, and this is what we won’t tolerate. This is what we’re offering you, this is what we need from you. This is how we treat each other, and this is how we engage with our customers. This is why we come to work every day, this is why we keep at it, even when the going gets tough.’
Naturally, there will still be issues around how we effectively manage diversity in our businesses, but I have seen, throughout my career, that creating a strong shared culture yields significant benefits, and expanded access to top talent is just one of them.
Victoria Dew is the Founder and CEO of Dewpoint Communications.