Defining core values
To screen for culture fit, you must first define the culture of your organization. To understand the culture, you must look inside your organization to uncover its Core Culture. Think of your organization as a system of concentric circles—labeled the Five Ps. The core of your organization’s culture is in the shared center—at the organization’s core.
Core Culture is the essence of your organization’s culture. It is those few shared beliefs and values that serve as the foundation for why you’re in business and the framework for how you do your work. Core Culture consists of the central three Ps—the vital Purpose, the distinctive and enduring Philosophy, and the strategic Priorities that employees value. Core Culture is the heart and soul of the organization. To understand what the three Ps are for your organization, begin in the very center with your organization’s Purpose. As you discover what is meant by the Purpose, think about what it is for your organization and whether or not you are hiring people who find that Purpose meaningful.
The Purpose: the “Why”
The Purpose of the organization is the most central component of Core Culture. The Purpose defines why the organization exists. The Purpose is not the answer to the question “What does the organization do?” which typically focuses on products, services and customers. Instead, it is the answer to the question, “Why is the work of this company important?” This may sound like a simple question, but in its simplicity is significance for the organization and for each employee.
The Purpose is the cause that defines one’s contribution to society through work. Of course, businesses exist to make a profit, but they also exist to make a difference. Through work, employees can do meaningful work that makes a difference, and they can be part of a meaningful legacy. When the Purpose of the organization is meaningful to an employee, it provides a connection to work that is not just rational: it’s also emotional. When employees see the Purpose as challenging and meaningful, work is more than a job—it’s a cause that makes a difference in people’s lives.
A Purpose statement is only a few words, but they are important words because they inspire and motivate employees who care about making that contribution. The Purpose statement is brief so employees remember it and use it to guide their daily actions. Additionally, the Purpose statement is broad in scope to allow the organization to adapt over time to a changing world while its central focus remains constant. This broad perspective opens the organization to endless possibilities. Products and services often change, but the Purpose endures. Companies are living entities; they are vehicles for improving life and the world we live in.
If the organization’s Purpose is one that matters to an applicant, then working there can contribute to a meaningful life which enhances engagement in one’s work.
Key Points about Purpose
The Purpose of the organization is the fundamental reason why the organization exists.
- The organization’s Purpose is central and enduring to the culture of the organization.
- The organization’s Purpose is the cause that defines the employee’s contribution to society through work.
- The Purpose statement is the answer to the question: Why is this work important?
- A Purpose statement is brief in length and broad in scope.
Questions to Uncover the Purpose
To uncover the Purpose, ask two questions (although the second question may need to be asked several times to get to the Purpose):
- What is the purpose of this organization?
- Why is that important?
Criteria for a Purpose Statement
The Six Purpose Criteria
a) Is it a contribution to society—not a product or service?
b) Does it answer the question: Why is the work we do important?
c) Does it inspire and motivate?
d) Does it use powerful words?
e) Is the statement brief in length?
f) Is the statement broad in scope?
Deciding the Purpose
Together with all employees, decide the Purpose of the organization by asking the Purpose questions and uncovering the Purpose that meets all six criteria. This Purpose defines the contribution that the organization—and its employees—make to society. And it is the first filter to use in evaluating culture fit for an applicant. You must evaluate if this Purpose is personally meaningful to the applicant.
The Philosophy: the Distinctive and Enduring “How”
Just outside of the Purpose, in the three Ps of Core Culture, is the organization’s Philosophy. Where the Purpose states “why” the organization exists, the Philosophy directs “how” employees do their work. And “how” you do work matters. The Philosophy directs behavior across the organization. In successful organizations, employees consistently use the Philosophy to guide their decisions and daily actions.
The Philosophy may be one value or a small set of values. Many values may seem important, but the Philosophy is the value or values that are fundamental, distinguishing and enduring to the organization. They are the beliefs that have been essential and core to the character of the organization over the years. Employees believe that their Philosophy distinguishes their organization from others, particularly their competitors. And the Philosophy is the enduring core beliefs that typically do not change. The Philosophy is extremely important.
The Philosophy is like the personality or character of the organization. This personality or character is typically derived from the organization’s founder, or from the principles and ideals that drove the organization’s creation.
If a company has had a lot of change, it is often the leader who sets the tone for the Philosophy of the organization. The leader impacts the character of the organization and its vision.
The Philosophy is what employees value today, what was most important in the past and what will continue to be important in the future. Where the Purpose provides the foundation for why the organization exists, the Philosophy provides the framework for how that Purpose is delivered in a distinctive way. The Purpose is the heart of the organization, and the Philosophy is its soul.
When determining if the culture of a workplace is a good match for an applicant, in addition to screening for fit with the Purpose of the organization, you must also evaluate whether or not an applicant shares values that are aligned with the company’s character, its distinctive Philosophy. Finding candidates who obsess about “how” you do things at your company will produce a workplace where employees live the principles consistently. And consistent employee behaviors provide a predictable customer experience.
Key Points about Philosophy
The Philosophy of the organization is a value or small set of values that are fundamental, distinguishing and enduring to the organization.
- The Philosophy is the special value or set of values that the founder possesses that has influenced the character of the organization.
- The Philosophy is the source of the organization’s distinctiveness.
- The Philosophy provides the enduring framework for “how” employees do their work.
Questions to Uncover the Philosophy
A few questions can reveal the Philosophy of the organization—its distinctive personality and character—guiding how employees do your work:
- What value is fundamental and distinctive to our organization since its founding?
- What special attribute does our company’s founder possess that has influenced the character of the organization?
- What ideals drove the organization’s creation?
- What makes this organization feel different from other companies in the same business?
- What is central to who we are as an organization that should never change?
Criteria for the Philosophy
The Five Philosophy Criteria
a) Is it a prime value?
b) Does it guide “how” employees work?
c) Do employees consider it a source of the organization’s distinction?
d) Is it derived from the organization’s founder or the ideals that drove the organization’s creation?
e) If changed, would that alter the personality or character of the organization?
Decide the Philosophy
Together with all employees, decide the Philosophy of the organization by asking the Philosophy questions and uncovering the Philosophy that meets all five criteria. This Philosophy is the value or set of values that are central and distinctive to the culture since its founding. Therefore, this personality or character must be a fit with each employee. The harmony between the organization’s Philosophy and the values of the applicant is another filter to use in evaluating culture fit.
The Priorities: The Strategic “How”
Priorities are the third component of Core Culture. Priorities guide “how” the Purpose and the Philosophy are put into practice. Think of Priorities as “strategic” values. Priorities are the values that will enable the organization to achieve its goals. Therefore, you must know your goals to define your organization’s Priorities.
Only a few Priorities are central to all areas of the organization. These are the key values that leaders and managers are focusing on—throughout the organization—to enable the organization to compete and thrive.
Also, specific areas of an organization may have additional Priorities that are unique to the area. The goals and objectives of each area inform the area Priorities.
In selecting people for culture fit, they must be aligned with both the organization-wide Priorities and the area Priorities where they will be working.
Priorities are relatively stable, but Priorities can change when the organization’s strategy changes. Also, new leaders often bring with them new goals that can affect Priorities. Altering Priorities is a way to shape culture and bring needed change.
Organizations must hire people who genuinely value and will naturally practice the organization-wide Priorities and the area Priorities where they will be working.
Key Points about Priorities
The Priorities of the organization are the strategic values that enable the organization to achieve its goals.
- Priorities are the standards for behavior that direct how the Purpose and Philosophy are put into practice.
- Organization-wide Priorities are limited to a small number of values that are important to all areas of the organization.
- In a particular work group, additional area Priorities may be important to that group.
- Strategy and leadership guide Priorities.
- Priorities are those few values that leaders believe will enhance the competitiveness of the organization and enable it to thrive.
- Priorities are relatively stable, but Priorities can be altered as leaders change and/or as goals change.
- Organization-wide Priorities are determined by the focus of the top leadership of the organization. Area Priorities are determined by the focus of those who manage the area where the employee works.
- Fit with Priorities means that the applicant is a fit with both the organization-wide Priorities and the area Priorities where the applicant would work.
Questions to Uncover the Priorities
A few questions can reveal the Priorities of the organization—its strategic values—guiding how employees work:
- What should we focus on and pay attention to?
- To effectively achieve our goals, what values should guide everyone in how we work?
- What key values, if followed, will allow our organization to compete and thrive?
Criteria for the Priorities
With a list of prospective organization-wide Priorities, evaluate those values against the Priority criteria.
a. Is it a key value and important standard to guide behavior throughout the organization?
b. Do top leaders believe it will enhance the organization’s ability to compete and thrive?
c. Does the value support the organization’s goals?
With a list of prospective area Priorities, evaluate those values against similar Priority criteria.
a. Is it a key value and important standard to guide behavior in the area?
b. Do area leaders believe it will enhance their area and the ability to thrive?
c. Does the value support the area goals?
Decide the Priorities
Together with all employees, decide the organization-wide Priorities by asking the organization-wide Priorities questions and uncovering the Priorities that meet all criteria. Additionally, understand the area Priorities for where the applicant will work. These area Priorities must be decided by those of that particular area. The harmony between the organization-wide Priorities and area Priorities and the values of the applicant is another filter to use in evaluating an applicant for culture fit.
With a clearly defined Core Culture, you are positioned to design your selection processes so that you hire the right people for the culture of your organization—people who connect with the cause of the organization and who genuinely value and will naturally practice those few Core Culture principles.
[For continuation of Hiring for Culture Fit discussion, read the next post on topic: Part 4]