"Company culture" can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. What a seasoned marketing director might want out of their company's culture can be very different than what a junior accountant right out of college would like.
People come to work for companies for countless reasons, but one question they're almost guaranteed to ask their potential boss during an interview is this: "What's it like to work here?" In other words, describe your company's culture.
Depending on the company and who's conducting the interviewing, the answer to the question can range from brutally honest to a bald-faced lie- whether the culture is generally considered good or bad.
The point is this: Companies get in trouble when they struggle to define their culture and clearly identify what they stand for. It leads to bad hires and short stays for employees-and that doesn't help anyone.
We made the decision early on at Infusionsoft that we would hire, train, and fire to our purpose, values, and mission. We're not always perfect, but in my view, it's the only way you can create an enduring company. Here's how we do it.
Be honest in hiring
The key here is to include filtering questions and tasks in every step of the application and interview process. This may include asking why they want the job, requesting details on past experiences in a similar role as well as giving the applicant an assignment similar to one they'll have on the job.
Always keep company culture top of mind when screening candidates. Ask them how they practice your company's values in everyday situations. Don't be shy in asking for specific, recent examples. The last thing you want to do is waste an applicant's (and the company's) time in the interview process when you could have identified upfront if someone wasn't a culture fit.
Finally, create interactions with potential coworkers before making an offer. Taking candidates out to lunch or having other peers interview them helps you gain perspective and feedback on cultural fit.
Take training seriously
Many of us have started jobs in the past and were "thrown to the wolves" to figure it out ourselves. It's often frustrating, and leads to high employee churn.
Retention is the best way to reduce hiring costs and training is a driving factor in keeping employees. You can hire the best employee, but you may lose them quickly if you don't properly on-board them.
I recommend using the first few days on the job to immerse the new employee in the company's culture. The most important part of this process is sharing the company's purpose, values, and mission. Define what they mean and how they impact day-to-day life in the organization. Create experiences for new employees to learn about your business, the customer experience, "how things work around here" and anything else that will help them be successful. Time spent on-boarding a new employee is an investment that pays off tremendously.
Don't be afraid to fire based on culture
There's no denying this is the toughest part of the equation, especially if you have an employee that performs the duties of the job but simply doesn't fit the culture.
In my view, employees who are misaligned, disconnected or whose behaviors have strayed from the company's core values have to go. They may be getting their work done but at what cost to everyone around them? Ignoring these kind of problems can destroy the health of your thriving culture. I always say, every single new hire strengthens or weakens the company culture.
Always meet with your employees and listen when these situations come up. Try to understand and work with them to overcome any problems. Acknowledge their contribution and be generous in trying to come up with solutions, but if it's not a fit, it's not a fit. Many times a change is better for all parties involved, as difficult as that may be at the time.
Building a strong, positive culture in your business takes time and discipline, but it also provides great benefits to employees. If you're able to hire, train, and fire to your culture, you won't have any trouble answering the "what's it like to work here?" question. In fact, they won't even have to ask. You'll be proud to tell them up front.