Culture For Hire


Culture can make or break a company. It sets the tone for everything from how a team interacts to how customers are treated and to how new hires are made. Culture helps to sustain employee enthusiasm, and thus aids in productivity.

Today, every organization is looking to hire the brightest and best employees to help forward their business – and company culture can be employed as a powerful and important recruiting tool! Successful companies understand the values that are core to their culture. They don’t only look for talent in new employees, but they also consistently hire people who will practice those values and project that image effortlessly.

Below, IMC Professor Kohler shares his thoughts in a Q&A about building company culture and the important role it plays in the hiring process.

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Question: What advice would you offer a company that is looking to build a stronger company culture?

The good news for any company that expresses interest in strengthening its culture is that they’ve already taken a step in the right direction. You have to want it, and saying so sets the right tone.

Culture change takes patience. A nuclear solution may seem tempting, especially if the organization is confronting some toxic issues, but developing a game plan and then executing incrementally has the greater chance for success. Incremental doesn’t have to mean slow. To satisfy those favoring urgency, I offer this reminder, that the enemy of a good plan is the perfect plan. There’s no need to wait for an exhaustive, fully-baked plan if there are small steps that can send positive signals to the workforce and start to make a difference.

Question: How can internal communications aid in developing a company culture?

In matters of culture and branding, you have to look to the core of the organization. Top-down communication is a business reality, and not a negative one. But in order for top-down to be effective, it must start at the top but then be two-way and transparent. The workforce looks to its leaders to set the agenda, and buy-in happens when employees are trusted and respected to be “in on” the game plan.

Employees feel trusted when their managers engage in real dialogue with them about the business. Meaning and purpose are much bigger factors in an increasingly millennial workforce. A CEO Corner of the newsletter means nothing without evidence that actual dialogue is happening in the organization. Our imperative as professional communicators is to act in an ambassador role and facilitate the dialogue.

Question: Why is it important for companies to infuse culture into their hiring process?

“Hire for fit” is a philosophy that I wish more companies would practice. Some may say they like to hire for it, but when they rely on keyword matching to identify qualified candidates, they’re likely to miss back stories of candidates who would be ideal matches for their culture.

The same applies to the interview process. The employer and the candidate need to be candid with one another to make sure they share matching values. That doesn’t mean there’s a textbook values statement that fits every employer. Both parties just need to know what those values are.

Question: Which companies do you think do this best and why?

Thanks to my internal brand communication students, I get to vicariously experience the “greatest hits” of the business world in terms of strong, positive cultures. Some of the most noted success stories, of course, are companies like Google and Zappos. They are famous for their incredibly progressive work conditions, things like game play, flex time and other perks. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. I know of fast-food and even beef-packing plants that have strong cultures that are based on human relations – just treating people with trust and respect.

Question: Can you share a resource or two that can help students that are interested in learning more about the impact the internal communications and culture have on hiring the best employees?

Two recently published books come to mind, partly because I know the authors and have benefitted directly from their fantastic teaching. The first is Ripple: A Field Manual for Leadership That Works by Chris Hutchinson of The Trebuchet Group. Chris has helped many dysfunctional organizations get their act together. Another is David Firth’s Change Your Organization One Word at a Time. David transforms organizations from “have to go to work” to “want to go to work” cultures.

Professor Michael Kohler was just recognized at #INTEGRATE2015 as the winner of the Alexia Vanides IMC Teaching Award, an award based solely on student nominations. Speaking from personal experience, he is an extremely inspiring educator, advisor and mentor. He pushes students to be their best and I’m thrilled to see him as the recipient of the award this year. Professor Kohler teaches Internal Communications as an IMC elective and if you are interested in employee engagement, internal communications and company culture it’s the elective for you. If you’ve already graduated or don’t have any more electives left, read Inside the organization: Perspectives on employee communications by Jack LeMenager, one of the class textbooks. It is a quick read that provides an outstanding overview of the importance and impact that internal communications and culture creation have on a company.

While sometimes overlooked in the IMC landscape, Internal Communications and company culture impact everything from talent recruitment to employee productivity and marketing transparency. Don’t forget how important it is!

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4 Responses to “Culture For Hire”

  1. Laura Garner Says:

    Building a culture that infuses the brand throughout does take time, education, clarity of message to the workforce, and opportunities for engagement within. This important brand touch point often is overlooked at a brand’s peril.

  2. Becky Says:

    Congrats on your recognition, Michael!

  3. paulrhien Says:

    Thank you for your post. My company is growing VERY quickly and is trying to maintain our culture and it is a definite challenge! Appreciate Prof. Kohler’s insight.

  4. rmort27 Says:

    It is definitely important when a company is hiring to not only look at the skill set, but to look at that person’s fit. All the experience in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t fit with the company. I agree that companies focus so highly on the keyword skill set, but not highly enough on the fit within the organization.

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