Finding new employees to bring into an established organization is tough enough. But finding new employees to bring into an established culture…well, that’s even tougher.
That’s why Will Dean, CEO of Tough Mudder, an adventure/endurance-race company founded in 2010, developed a process for onboarding new hires Dean has dubbed “RITA.” A Harvard Business School graduate, Dean knows a thing or two about how to build a successful company. But who’s RITA?
According to Dean, his method for finding the right employees to fit into Tough Mudder’s culture is divided into four parts:
Dean knows culture is key, which is why he identifies “Induction” as the most complex part of of his hiring process. “It’s easy to put your values on the wall. It means nothing. It’s about behavior. Culture is really just how people behave when they think you’re not looking.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Another way in which Dean communicates his desired culture at Tough Mudder is by actively making himself available to new hires, rather than simply declaring, “My door is always open.” Dean explains, “I also personally sit down with groups of new people for an hour and a half and let them ask me anything they want.”
Between using RITA and employing active leadership, Dean is shaping the Tough Mudder culture — AND making sure its employees will fit right in.
Would you use RITA to find and hire new talent?
Inc. Magazine November 2013
The cover of Entrepreneur magazine’s February 2014 issue states, “Create a culture of excellence.”
Despite the fact that culture is about groups and entrepreneurs are individuals, this statement reminds us that cultures are born, built, and nurtured. They come from somewhere, from someone. From visions, values, and beliefs. This is especially true in newly-formed companies, which take their cultural cues from their founders and top leaders.
The author of Entrepreneur‘s February article, “Good Vibes,” writer and professor Christopher Hann, points out four “common lessons learned” from his interviews with entrepreneurs about creating and sustaining positive cultures:
- The CEO and senior management team must play an active role in defining the culture, then reinforce it through their words and deeds.
- That reinforcement must take place on a regular, if not daily, basis. You can’t live the culture only when the mood strikes.
- All employees, from the boss to the newest hire, must embrace the culture.
- A company must hire people who will be a good cultural fit.
What do you think of these four common themes? Is your organization’s culture in alignment with these positive themes? If not, how can you, whether you’re the CEO or the newest hire, improve and reinforce the culture?
While the company name my be controversial, its bottom line is something everyone can agree on. With annual sales of over $125 million, Big Ass Fans, a fifteen-year-old ceiling fan design and manufacturing business based in Lexington, KY, gets its culture straight from its founder, Carey Smith.
Inc. Magazine’s January issue features an article on BAF’s hiring practices, and points out the influence of culture on the hiring process. Smith encourages a “work hard, play hard” culture, and according to Inc., “He acts as both the company’s CEO and culture czar.” Even BAF’s own Director of Business Development told CNN, “The culture is a little bit off the wall.”
But with BAF revenues more than doubling over the past three years, it sounds like this culture is working! “Smith is particularly interested in employing people who possess two specific personality traits: curiosity and positivity,” writes Inc., which means that Smith actively seeks employees that are genuinely curious rather than simply qualified. Similarly, while it’s clear Smith likes to have a good time, he wants to get the message across that BAF is “a serious place to work and slackers will not be tolerated.” Work hard, play hard indeed.
The company’s YouTube videos (humorously listed under the account name, “Fanny the Donkey”) indicate how far Smith and BAF are willing to go to show its employees AND its customers just what the “play hard” side of their culture is really like. This is best illustrated in the video titled “Big Ass Fans Fan Mail,” which features recordings of consumers who have received BAF advertising materials and called the company to complain about its controversial (and, admittedly not for everyone) name. Love the name or hate it, there is no question that Big Ass Fans and its founder Carey Smith are comfortable with, and confident in, their own corporate culture to the point where they are willing to alienate potential customers in order to live the culture of “work hard, play hard” they believe in. Take a look:
BAF Fan Mail Video
What do you think of the BAF culture? Are they crazy to limit their potential consumer base with an unconventional name and boundary-pushing YouTube videos? Or are they just espousing the culture they believe in? Would you want to work at company with a culture like Big Ass Fans?
Ask Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced SHAY) about the key to his company’s growth and success, and he’ll likely tell you it’s all about the culture. “If we get the culture right, then everything else, including customer service, will fall into place,” Hsieh says.
But just how does Zappos emphasize culture in their organization? Well, the answer can be found just about everywhere from recruiting to hiring and firing to training and even to office décor. One example of just how seriously Zappos takes culture into account is found is found in this short video of CEO Tony Hsieh:
“I fire those who don’t fit out company culture.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com
(Watch: Tony Hsieh on Culture): tony-hsieh-zappos-i-fire-non-culture-fits-fast.html?nav=pop
Seem harsh? Well keep in mind that Hsieh literally puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to the importance of culture during the hiring process: according to Businessweek, “Zappos offers new employees who are struggling $4,000 to quit after one week’s work, rather than waste resources to train someone who doesn’t gel with the group.”
$4,000! To quit! After one week!
That’s the degree to which Zappos emphasizes culture: the company will pay an employee to leave rather than risk a negative impact on their organizational culture.
It’s hard to find any organization more dedicated to its culture than Zappos.
How does your organization demonstrate its commitment to culture?
It used to be that qualifications (e.g. a college degree, previous job experience) were the determining factors that drove companies’ recruitment and hiring strategies. But new information shows that culture matters too, for both employers and employees.
Businessweek recently cited a study done by employment site, Glassdoor.com, which collected “285,000 questions asked by hiring managers.” Scott Dobroski, the spokesman for Glassdoor notes that they have found “a significant rise in questions asked about cultural fit,” such as questions about job applicants’ favorite books, movies, or websites.
And it turns out potential employers aren’t the only ones increasingly concerning themselves with culture. Potential employees are also placing more emphasis on considering the cultural fit of a new workplace. Dobroski also points out to Businessweek that according to Glassdoor’s study, company culture is now the second-highest priority of potential employees, narrowly behind salary.
So no matter which side of the 21st century interview table you’re on, don’t forget to think beyond qualifications…..think culture.