I was going through the CUInsight website looking for the most widely read and shared articles. I was looking for current trends, themes and subject matter that really resonated with readers.
I noticed that one subject came up frequently. That subject was “culture.”
Culture is key for hiring and retention. Culture is key for accountability and performance. Culture is key for employees feeling like they belong. Culture is key for innovation. In short, culture is key for success.
So what determines a company’s culture? Values, beliefs, policies, work environment, purpose, leadership style, employee attitudes and behavior … these are all the building blocks of culture.
I would argue the purpose of a company’s culture is to provide an environment where people feel like it is safe to bring their true and best selves to work.
Key emphasis on the word safe.
Culture, collaboration, diversity and conflict
At its core, a good company culture creates an environment that encourages collaboration. Yet, also at its core, a good company culture values diversity, not just of people but of thoughts and opinions. Which is why it’s so important to know how a company handles conflict.
I was reading Joy Smith-Durant’s excellent article Culture matters in hiring and retention and was struck by the questions she suggested hiring managers ask possible new recruits. Questions like:
- Thinking about your previous workplace, how well do you believe you fit in with their culture? Give specific examples
- Describe when you worked for an organization where you felt you were not a strong culture fit. Why was it a bad fit?
- Describe the management style that will bring forth your best work?
These questions help identify what type of company culture would make someone feel safe to bring their true and best selves to work.
In addition to these questions, I would add questions about conflicts and disagreements. And I would ask both the leadership team and new recruits these questions.
How do you handle conflict?
For the leadership team:
How is conflict handled in our organization? How are competing or conflicting opinions handled? Does it feel safe for employees to disagree with their managers or each other? Do we provide specific training, tools or opportunities for employees to express diverse views? Are people speaking up directly and honestly? Or are they talking behind each other’s backs rather than addressing issues?
For new recruits:
How do you handle conflict? Did you feel safe to speak up in your previous workplaces? How were disagreements handled? How would you like to see disagreements handled?
With company culture at the forefront of so many discussions, include how you handle conflict in the conversations. If you can demonstrate how you welcome diverse opinions while steel staying connected with one another, that’s a winning company culture.