If there’s anything we love as HR/talent pros, it’s talking about culture. We love talking about how the culture at our company is different, what we value and how we reward people according to our cultural norms.
But the dirty little secret is most people are either actively looking or open to moving to a different opportunity. If you believe a recent 2016 CareerBuilder poll, 3 out of 4 employees would leave your company if the right opportunity came around.
But that’s not you, it’s them. Right?
Sure it is, Sparky.
That stat means one of two things: Either your culture sucks or it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.
The aforementioned CareerBuilder stat leads to turnover in a good economy, resulting in the blame game inside your company. Who does the company want to blame for rising turnover? HR! Who should be blamed? Probably someone else!
But most HR pros don’t have the time or organizational clout to blame others, so we start to try to stop the bleeding by building a case that our culture is different. We do this in an attempt to differentiate our company on the recruiting and retention trail.
The path is pretty standard. Upgrade workspace and make it cooler. Insert pingpong, foosball and a pool table — in that order — and start recruitment marketing activities designed to compete in a hot market for talent.
Of course, your culture isn’t struggling because you don’t have good ideas or a road map on what you want your real culture to be built on. Your culture struggles because you’ve got mediocre managers.
Crappy managers lead to all kinds of bad outcomes. The most obvious one is a lack of leadership across teams of all sizes and specialties in a company. An absence of leadership leads to team dysfunction, infighting and yes — turnover.
That’s why you probably should stop competing in the superficial culture wars and start getting focused on how you select people to join your company. Whether your culture truly sucks or is just bruised a bit doesn’t really matter — selecting the type of talent who can survive the challenges that exist inside your company is key.
You don’t have to hire superheroes to deal with the cultural challenges inside your company, but you do need to have a road map in mind related to the behavioral strengths that a new hire needs to have to deal with ambiguity, uncertainty and a lack of organizational consensus that accompanies weak culture.
Simply put: Hire the right type of person who can deal with the downside of your culture, and they’ll thrive. If they thrive, odds are they’ll stay.
While it’s impossible to give you notes based on the specific cultural challenges you face, there are some common elements to candidates who can survive in crappy cultures.
First up, star employees in mediocre corporate cultures tend to have low sensitivity; inconsistency or even outright hostility doesn’t fluster them. They take each day as it comes, remaining level-headed and calm when others around them are melting.
Low sensitivity doesn’t mean someone doesn’t care. It simply means you don’t have to talk someone off the ledge when things don’t go as planned. Without the norms of a strong corporate culture, inconsistency in outcomes, feedback and internal politics is the rule rather than the exception.
Another common behavioral characteristic is the ability to deal with chaos. Dealing with chaos requires someone with low-rules orientation.
An employee with low-rules orientation wants to help determine the best possible solution for each circumstance. Inconsistent company culture maximizes that circumstance for all employees, so it stands to reason that the person who can create new solutions on the fly is going to be a winner.
Finally, these employees are almost always more aggressive than their peers. Uncertainty leads to a natural advantage for those with high-assertiveness levels. While no one likes an asshole, there are jerks, sharks or whatever name you want to give assertive people who almost always get more done than passive employees. That reality is even truer when cultural norms aren’t there to guide the way for the masses.
Great HR pros are pragmatic to a fault, which leads to our ability to understand we might be working for companies with room to grow related to culture.
While you’re helping build a culture you can be proud of, do yourself a favor: Start recruiting the type of person who can thrive in that freak show you call a company.
Kris Dunn, the chief human resources officer at Kinetix, is a Workforce contributing editor. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.