Volume 72: Overcoming Culture to Hire

Every company in the industry has a reputation.

Recruiters hear it all the time: candidates are totally open for new positions, they’ll go anywhere! Except… they won’t work for Company X, because they can’t stomach that owner’s political beliefs. They won’t go to Company Y, because their friend told them they knew someone that worked there once, and were told Company Y treated their people badly.

Within the bigger companies, individual facilities across the country have reputations: some as being friendlier to some roles than others, some for treating their people amazingly, and some as no-fly zones.

These reputations are so engrained in our industry, that occasionally, I’ll submit a candidate just to hear that the client doesn’t want to talk to them, and won’t even consider them, because of the reputation of the facility they’ve been in for a long time.

There are facilities and companies I won’t do work with because of these things too: I tend to stay away from companies that have a reputation for not paying their people, or treating their people especially poorly.

This isn’t good, bad, or otherwise. It’s just reality.

Strong, high-performance facilities shouldn’t, and often don’t, apologize for being what they are. And neither should anyone else.

But, you have to know who you are, and what your reputation is, in order to bring in the right people to help you achieve your goals.

The first series when I started this newsletter years ago was on the topic of company culture, helping companies to identify and own their facilities’ culture. Some of that culture is handed down from corporate, and based on the production expectations they set, and some of it comes from local leadership over time. Eventually, whatever culture is established in a facility permeates all levels of its staff, meaning that when new leadership comes in, change doesn’t happen overnight.

A common discussion that I have with 20-plus-year industry friends is that they are having trouble bringing this type of position on board, or that kind. They just can’t attract the right person for what they’re trying to accomplish.

In this series, I don’t want to talk about company culture as the focal point, but rather how to overcome it to bring different types of talent on board.

The first step is the same, though: identify your facility’s culture, and either own it or figure out what you have to do to change it.

A good way to start this process is through exit interviews. But, not just conducting them to check a box and say you’re done, but to actually learn something. Why are people leaving?

Is your compensation at fair market value, or are people being drawn away by dollar signs elsewhere? Are you presenting opportunity for growth and promotion, or do employees have to leave to achieve their goals? Do people have the work-life balance they’re looking for, or do they have to find another job to spend time with their kids? Exit interviews can be a valuable tool, because at that point, employees aren’t worried about keeping their jobs, they can be totally honest with you, even if they felt like they couldn’t be before. (We’d hope they can be honest all the time, but we know that people aren’t always comfortable with this.)

Once you have your answers, you have to ask yourself if they line up with what you think your culture is. If not, what can you do to fix that?

On the other side, I’ve spoken to a few HR and Hiring Managers in this industry that will tell you that their most common note in exit interview is that lack of work-life balance, but their facility is high performance, and they’re okay with letting those people go. It’s not good or bad, it just is what it is, because that facility has to reach certain goals.

But that facility is going to have to do something to draw people to it to overcome that. They might have to compensate their people well above what “fair market value” would be. They might have to provide lots of opportunity for training and rapid growth.

So, we’re going to spend the next few editions of this newsletter talking about the best way to attract different professional groups, and overcome your own facility’s flaws to attract the best talent.

Buckle up, and stay strong.

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