Shocking turnover?  That star you recently hired left just as quickly?  Your customer experience isn’t what you envisaged?  These are all possible symptoms that you’re not hiring for values. I was recently speaking to a business about a recent hire who they had to let go just short of the 90-day period.  In discussion it was very clear that the person just hadn’t gelled, at the end of the day he wasn’t a match for the company values. Sadly I have this conversation far too often.  Short tenure, poor service and many other maladies are often a direct result of not recruiting for values, yet many businesses have never given these any thought.

People tend to know their personal values, and even though a company takes on a life of its own, values often haven’t been formalised for small and medium businesses (SMEs). Instead in a SME the values of the owner by default become the foundation as to how their team is expected to behave. What this means is that SMEs aren’t clear on what behaviours are needed to be successful in their companies and are even less clear on how to measure and recognize if someone is a match.  

Larger companies more often define their values and what they stand for, which enables them to identify what success looks like and build these measurements into their recruitment process. They may utilise a ‘Competency Framework’ to match the behaviours that best exemplify their values, though SMEs don’t have this luxury. 

Company Values set a standard for behaviour.  People know what is expected of them, but when hiring, Values also create a clear way to assess if a candidate is right for the company, and for the candidate to decide if the company is right for them.  Trouble is there are many Company Values decorating company walls, with nothing further done with them.  To really benefit they need to be built into the Recruitment and Performance Appraisal processes.  The good news is if Company Values already exist, this is relatively easy to do!  And if they don’t exist this article on Company Culture will help you get started.

Good recruitment practice focuses on the behaviours sought (known as competencies), and Values can also be turned into behaviours.  You can then ask interview questions to reveal these.  It is just a matter of defining what a value looks like in action.  What would you expect to see from a person living that value?  For instance I have a client who has defined one value as being ‘Smart and Focused’.  This is defined as “We know what we need to do and are driven and clever in how we achieve it, when necessary seeking innovative approaches.”  This is then broken down into what this looks like when someone doesn’t live that value, does live that value and leads an example to others, as shown below.

These definitions enable interview questions to be built to assess whether an applicant also has that value. An example question for ‘Smart and Focused’ may be: 

Tell us about a time when you’ve been busy at work then a problem has arisen.  What did you do?

These interview questions are complementary to behavioural/competency-based questions directly related to the job. 

A way to absorb values into the DNA of the company is to build them into performance processes. A company I previously worked for divided their Performance Appraisals measurements into ‘What’ a person did and ‘How’ they did it.  The ‘How’ was directly aligned to the company values.  So if a staff member met a target but left chaos in their wake then it impacted their overall score, and naturally their yearly bonus.  A Reward and Recognition programme can also reflect and reinforce company values. In addition to managers recognising work what is ‘above and beyond’, colleagues can also provide informal recognition.  Create a simple system for thank you notes that recognize when someone has demonstrated a company value.   This way staff get a pat on the back and are more likely to consider the impact of their day-to-day actions.

The combination of hiring for values and then reinforcing them, have a hugely positive impact on both the culture at work, productivity and the customer experience.  If you’re serious about improving your customer’s experience, improving the quality or tenure of your hires, consider assessing your Company Values and embedding them into the recruitment process.  Talent Seed can show you how.