Hiring For Core Values Is a Good Start, But There’s More to It Than That

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This won’t be surprising to regular readers of this blog, but I am a firm believer in the importance of hiring people who personally reflect your organization’s core values.

Why? Because it makes it that much easier to embed your values into the way they work every day.

Of course, I’m not unique in my thinking. I’m sure many of you agree with the approach.

Competing on values

Here’s two examples of CEOs who also hire to a set of values (though in very different ways). And yet, both also miss out on a final step that could help them realize far more benefit from these hiring efforts.

First, Rene Lecerte, CEO of Bill.com, shared in an Inc. magazine article. He says:

In our neighborhood [Silicon Valley], we need to compete for talent with Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and dozens of other fast-growth companies with deep pockets. It’s the world’s most competitive market to hire top talent in. I won’t and can’t compete on budget.

I compete on values…

Every person who comes into the Bill.com office is first greeted by our company values. The sign is big and bold. I love our product and service and have learned that I must invest heavily on developing an innovative and collaborative team in order to build an award-winning, successful service. This starts by hiring the type of person we strive to be as a company: humble, fun, authentic, passionate, and dedicated. We look for those who live these values every day and won’t hire them unless they do.”

That’s on-point. Mr. Lecerte goes on to say how he’s deliberately created a collaborative work environment and efforts to inspire passion. But something’s missing.

Filtering out those who don’t fit

Then there is Logan LaHive, chief executive of Belly, a customer rewards company featured in The New York Times “Corner Office” column:

To be honest, I can’t stand walking into a company that has seven values on the wall that no one actually cares about or can remember. I’ve tried to actively avoid documenting or stating what we had to be and just tried to ensure that we maintain our authenticity.

We do have employee guidelines that put we put on the wall and they would have to be highly censored to be made public. We use the same curse word in the middle of each of these sentences, but they’re about things like believing in yourself, working hard, working outside of your habits, educating yourself, trusting your gut and not forgetting to laugh. There’s some level of shock with it and it’s certainly been off-putting to a number of people that have come into the office and people who were applying for jobs.

But we use these ‘who we are’ statements to filter out people who won’t fit. It really acts more as a tracker beam for the people who are going to be kind of core to who we are. We’re looking for people who take the work very seriously but not necessarily themselves.

And we don’t do it just to be controversial. It’s just about who we are, and that either resonates with you or it doesn’t. I always like to say that in everything we do, I’d prefer us to be loved or hated. Apathy is the slow death of every company.”

I would argue Mr. LaHive is practicing a bit of semantics twisting. His “who we are statements” sound a lot like core values to me. And, like at Bill.com, they are prominently displayed on the wall and a primary filter during the hiring process. Something is missing here, too.

Bring core values out of hiring and into daily work

Have you spotted it? As much time, effort and commitment as these leaders invest in hiring the right people according to their core values (or “who we are” statements, or guiding principles – all are the same idea under different names), there doesn’t seem to be a process for daily, individual, personal reinforcement of these values once the employees are in the door.

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I may be a very “authentic” person, but how that authenticity is displayed in interactions with colleagues vs. customers vs. friends can be different.

If I were an employee of Bill.com, think how much more benefit could be realized from the core values if I were told, “Derek, thank you for your work as part of the Project X team. You really demonstrated our value of ‘authenticity’ by both giving real, critical feedback that helped improve our product as well as how you onboarded feedback for your area of responsibility and made the project even more successful.

Embedding values in daily work

Now that’s taking your core values to an entirely different level – deep embedding in the daily work of every employee.

What do you hire for in your organization? How do you ensure those elements are reinforced once the onboarding process is complete?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.

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