The Culture Puzzle: Figuring Out If You Fit In

A few weeks ago, I was asked to lead an information session at a hiring event. I was somewhat reluctant to accept given the fact that I too was on the job market. I wasn’t sure my insight would be appreciated since, despite my professional expertise in Talent Acquisition and Recruiting, I could be easily viewed as their equal.

I communicated my reservations to the event organizer.

In an effort to eliminate my misgivings, he provided details about the event, the attendees, and the participating companies. I learned that the event was designed to be more of an invitational than a cattle-call type job fair.  The majority of attendees were currently employed, held active security clearances, and were pre-screened prior to the event.  I was familiar with almost all of the participating companies since they operated in the industry with which I am most experienced. He boasted that I would probably know and/or have worked with a number of the recruiters who be there.

I accepted to the challenge, anyway.

Free to speak about any topic I desired, I thought it’d be beneficial to use my recruiting experience with the job seeker in mind instead of the organization.  I asked myself,

“What would like to hear?”

Most, if not all, job seekers have been given advice on the following go-to topics:

  • Resume Writing
  • Social Media Profiles
  • Interviewing
  • Negotiating Offers.

I’m not one to follow the crowd so I settled on the topic, “The Culture Puzzle: Figuring Out If You Fit In.” I encouraged the job seekers to incorporate cultural fit into choosing the next position or company along with their other “must haves”.  I used an example from my past where I accepted a position in spite of the clear warning signs that it wasn’t a fit.

The 3 years I spent there were miserable at worst and indifferent at best. I was so eager to get away from that place that it only took 6K and the promise of more responsibility to convince me to leave.  Once again, I didn’t factor culture into the decision and placed myself into a more toxic work environment.  I revealed that one of the reasons I went to the last company, the toxic one, was because I would be reporting to a former manager from my best employer.

During the question and answer period one of the attendees asked me a profoundly thoughtful question. Since people make up the culture, what was the issue?

The missing piece was fun.

It started with breakfast.  Every Friday the Senior HR Manager brought in bagels or donuts, coffee and juice. If he was feeling especially generous, Chic-fil-A was our treat. It was something to look forward to at the end of a hectic workweek.  It provided an escape from worrying about the changes that were occurring in the company.  It allowed HR and Recruiting to set the emotional tone for the building.

Happy people attract and retain other happy people.

Taking the lead from the Sr. HR Manager, we not only continued the Friday breakfast, we saw a need to incorporate additional fun activities. First came the celebrations; birthdays, holidays, marriages, baby showers, and new homes. Jokes, pranks, and spontaneous activities to invoke laughter soon followed.  This gave way to contests like best work space decorations and wind-up toy races to name a few. We also found ways to revel in our work achievements, convincing management to incentivize high performance.

Over time, a subculture developed in our group. At the heart of it was fun.  Along the way other groups started to replicate our model and fun was now a part of our overall company culture.

“Fun” is an essential piece of company culture. Some of the benefits include:

                             Motivates Employees                    Produces greater job satisfaction

                              Improves Productivity                  Increases Engagement

                              Fosters Creativity                            Encourages Teamwork

                              Talent Attraction Tool                   Employee Loyalty

The next time you are on the market for a new position

  1. Assess the culture of your current or most recent employer
  2. Determine your culture must haves
  3. Evaluate the culture of your prospective employer.

Lastly, if “fun” is an important aspect of company culture for you (and it should be), make sure that your prospective employer defines and fun in a manner that is a fit for you,

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