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How To Hire For Attitude & Cultural Fit

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Whether an organization is directly hiring candidates or it is utilizing a search firm, the ROI of its employee selection process can be significantly improved by taking simple measures to determine a …

Whether an organization is directly hiring candidates or it is utilizing a search firm, the ROI of its employee selection process can be significantly improved by taking simple measures to determine a potential candidate’s attitude and cultural fit. After all, it is these attributes that make a high performer just that – a high performer. And securing such individuals is key to an organization sustaining its competitive advantage for future success.


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  • 1. How  To  Hire  For   A ttitude  &  Cultural  Fit ~  Sami  L.  Barry,   J ames   G .  Lord  &  W esley  R.  MillerIn  its  article  ‘The  Importance  of  Cultural  Fit’,  Helbling  &  Associates  discusses  how  critical  it  is  to  consider  a  potentialcandidate’s  attitude  and  how  well  it  matches  an  organization’s  culture.    By  giving  serious  thought  to  this  attribute  of  candidates,  organizations  and  hiring  managers  can  significantly  improve  their  employee  selection  process  and  increase  their  chances  of  securing  individuals  who  can  potentially  become  high  performers.    Before  giving  a  candidate’s  attitude  the  proper  consideration,  an  organization    must  first  learn  how  to  determine  its  own  ideal  attitudinal/cultural  fit  and  how  to  discern  it  in  potential  new  hires.    Dr.  Bill  Byham,  President  and  Chief  Executive  Officer,  of  Pittsburgh-­‐based  Development  Dimensions  International  (DDI),  is  a  foremost  authority  on  hiring.    He  founded  a  hiring  methodology  that  is  based  upon  one  simple  idea:  the  best  way  to  select  people  who  will  thrive  within  a  company  is  to  identify  the  personal  characteristics  of  that  company’s  high  performers  and  hire  people  who  are  just  like  them.    In  the  Byham  model,  companies  learn  to  understand  their  top  performers,  identifying  their  target  behaviors  and  attitudes,  and  then  develop  interview  questions  for  potential  hires  that  focus  on  those  characteristics.Mark  Murphy,  Chief  Executive  Officer  of  Leadership  IQ,  agrees  with  Byham’s  theory.    He  recently  wrote  ‘Hiring  For  Attitude’,  which  discusses  the  importance  of  learning  a  candidate’s  attitude  to  determine  their  attitudinal  fit  with  a  company’s  overall  attitude  otherwise  known  as  “culture”.    Leadership  IQ  performed  a  3-­‐year  study  of  5,247  hiring  managers  from  312  public,  private,  business  and  healthcare  organizations  who  collectively  hired  more  than  20,000  employees.    Its  findings  revealed  that  candidates  were  deemed  as  “bad  hires”  for  attitudinal  reasons  89%  of  the  time,  illustrating  the  importance  of  determining  an  individual’s  attitudinal/cultural  fit  before  actually  hiring  them.      Certainly,  a  candidate  needs  to  have  the  necessary  experience  and  technical  expertise  to  perform  a  specified  role,  but  it  is  their  attitude  that  will  determine  their  opportunity  to  become  a  high  performer.    And,  as  Murphy  strongly  notes,  every  organization  has  its  own  unique  culture  and  the  “right  attitude”  that  defines  high  performers  will  vary  from  one  company  to  another.    That  is  why,  even  though  there  are  general  characteristics  of  high  performers  and  low  performers,  there  is  no  general  answer  key  for  all  organizations.    How  does  a  company  determine  its  ideal  employee  attitude?    Murphy  utilizes  the  same  concept  as  Byham’s  model.    His  claim  is  that,  by  considering  and  answering  a  few  simple  questions,  a  company  can  determine  candidate  attitude  characteristics  that  are  ideal  for  its  specific  culture.    The  two  primary  questions  he  suggests  are:   What  are  the  characteristics  of  the  organization’s  high  performers? What  are  the  characteristics  of  the  organization’s  low  performers? After  identifying  7  –  10  characteristics  for  both  high  performers  and  low  performers,   hiring  managers  develop  interview  questions  that  address  “differential”  situations  of   specific  roles.    These  questions  will  elicit  answers  that  separate  high  performers  from   low  performers  based  upon  the  characteristics  identified.    This  answer  key  can  then   guide  how  candidates  are  interviewed,  assessed  and  selected.    
  • 2. Sharing information about organizational culturewhen utilizing a search firmAs  search  consultants,  Helbling  &  Associates  understands  the  importance  of  a  strong  cultural  fit  for  the  long-­‐term  success  of  placed  candidates.    A  search  is  only  effective  when  we  have  a  thorough  understanding  of  our  client  upfront  and  before  recruitment  of  candidates  actually  begins.    Because  we  are  not  employees  of  our  client  organizations,  we  have  a  disadvantage  of  not  having  first-­‐hand  experience  of  working  within  it  and  understanding  its  culture  and  environment.    Wes  Miller,  Managing  Consultant,  explains,  “determining  a  cultural  match  can  be  challenging  when  representing  an  organization  for  the  first  time.    When  our  client  is  one  who  opens  up  about  its  structure  and  the  characteristics  of  its  low  and  high  performers,  that  helps  a  great  deal  and  assists  us  to  identify  its  culture.    Unfortunately,  some  organizations  are  reluctant  to  share  this  information  upfront  or  do  not  understand  its  value.    This  creates  a  situation  when  we  have  to  ask  the  client  a  lot  of  questions  to  obtain  the  information  we  really  need.    Knowing  our  client  organization  as  well  as  its  vision  and  values  is  the  foundation  for  a  strong  search.    If  we  do  not  have  that  at  the  onset,  issues  can  arise  during  the  search  process  and  even  following  the  search.”When  organizations  are  retaining  a  search  firm  for  the  first  time,  prior  to  research  or  recruitment  being  initiated,  it  is    “Recruiters  are  a  key  source  for  executive  recommended  they  address  the  following  with  the  consultant   talent  but  they  can  only  do  so  much  if  you  to  identify  its  culture:     don’t  expose  them  to  the  inner  culture  and   workings  of  your  business.    You  have  to  treat  ✓ How  would  you  describe  your  organization’s  structure?     them  like  partners.    Sometimes  they  are   (i.e.  entrepreneurial,  top-­‐down  leadership,  flat  /  informal) unlikely  to  accept  an  assignment    from  you  ✓ How  would  you  describe  your  culture  and  environment? unless  they  have  an  opportunity  to  get  that   view.    Even  if  they  are  retained,  they  may  ✓ Who  does  the  position  interact  with  and  what  are  their   have  you  look  at  diverse  candidates  so  that   individual  work  styles  and  attitudes? they  can  garner  what  you  are  exactly  looking  ✓ Can  you  describe  the  personal  and  professional   for  in  candidates.”    They  go  on  to  say,  “part  of   characteristics  of  your  most  successful  employees?   what  the  best  recruiters  do  is  they  educate   you  about  the  market  for  talent.    Being  open  Miller  explains,  “the  same  goes  for  candidates.    We  have  to  make  sure  that  a  candidate  is  being  honest  when  answering   at  the  outset  and  doing  everything  you  can  questions  about  their  motivations,  work  style,  and  mindset   do  to  bring  an  outside  recruiter  inside,  both  because  these  factors  allow  us  to  evaluate  their  own  personal   streamlines  the  process  and  enhances  the   results.”culture.    It  is  usually  advantageous  to  meet  a  candidate  in  person  because  that  allows  us  to  confirm  or  deny  our  initial   Excerpt  from  ‘Who’,  by  Geoff  Smart  and  Randy  Street  opinion  about  their  cultural  fit  with  our  client.    On  most  searches,  we  create  customized  questions  for  candidates,  which  allow  us  evaluate  their  specific  answers  with  what  we  know  fits  into  the  company’s  culture.    As  recruiters,  we  can  also  leverage  our  references  and  industry  contacts  who  may  have  a  knowledge  of  a  candidate  to  further  assess  how  they  interact  with  their  peers  and  what  types  of  environments  they  thrive  in.”  
  • 3. Prior  to  candidates  being  presented,  it  is  recommended  that  an  organization  ensure  that  the  search  consultant  gathers   appropriate  information  on  each  candidate  that  identifies  their  personal  culture. Questions  of  candidates  may  include: 4 Things a Hiring Manager ✓ What  is  your  management  style?     Should Not Do ✓ How  do  you  like  to  be  managed? • Miss the opportunity to hire for attitude fit because they do not know how to do ✓ What  qualities  do  you  prefer  in  a  direct  report? it. ✓ What  type  of  culture  do  you  thrive  within? • Be in too much of a hurry to adequately ✓ What  type  of  culture  does  your  current  employer  have? assess attitude fit. ✓ What  type  of  organizational  structure  do  you  prefer? • Have a tight labor market force them to hire someone who is not a cultural fit. ✓ What  are  your  career  motivations? • Rely on their gut feelings. ✓ How  would  you  handle  (insert  a  differential  situation)? It  is  important  to  note  that  behavioral  questions  need  forethought  to  ensure  the  information  being  extracted  is  candid  and   honest.   Whether  an  organization  is  directly  hiring  or  whether  it  is  utilizing  a  search  firm,  the  ROI  of  its  employee  selection  process   can  be  significantly  improved  by  taking  simple  measures  to  determine  a  potential  candidate’s  attitude  and  cultural  fit.     After  all,  it  is  these  attributes  that  make  a  high  performer  just  that  –  a  high  performer.    And  securing  high  performers  is  key   to  an  organization  sustaining  its  competitive  advantage  for  future  success. Sources:    Fast  Company,  Hiring  For  Attitude,  Lou  Adler To  read  more  articles  about  talent  management  and  the  A/E/C  and  facilities  management  sectors,    subscribe  to   Helbling’s  quarterly  newsletter  and  blog  at: W:   h el bl i n g s ear c h . c o m B :   blo g. h elblin gs earc h . c o m F o llo w   us   o n   T wit t er :   @h elblin gs ear c h HELBLING & ASSOCIATES, INC. RETAINED EXECUTIVE SEARCH C o n s t r u c t i o n   •   F a c i l i t i e s   M a n a g e m e n t   •   R e a l   E s t a t e   •   E n g i n e e r i n g RESPONSIVE RELIABLE Motivation  and  urgency  to  fulfill  your  needs Comprehensive  and  accurate  market  intelligence RESULTS Performance  that  exceeds  your  expectations RESOURCEFUL RELATIONSHIPSExtensive  network  of  contacts  in  your  industry Consulting  based  upon  trust  and  commitmentPittsburgh w w w . h www.helblingsearch.com c h . c o m elblingsear 724.935.7500