When making a new hire, assessing cultural fit is key to predicting an individual’s performance and potential within an organization.
Leaders who identify with the values of their organization display higher levels of engagement and work satisfaction. It is also true that leaders with higher levels of engagement and work satisfaction feel much more invested in their workplace culture and are more inclined to want to positively impact it. This ultimately increases the length of tenure and overall commitment by the leader.
This is why cultural assessment is a critical component of our search process. We find leaders who help mold their organizational culture, value diversity, equity, and inclusion, and help build a culture of cybersecurity, which is absolutely critical in these times of heightened cyber risks.
The impact workplace culture has on individual and organizational performance cannot be overstated, and it all starts at the top. Roger Williams University Associate Professor Hume Johnson writes, “Healthy workplace culture doesn't magically exist. Nor will not magically come about. It's created over time through the policies, procedures, and practices that leaders establish, the decisions they make, how they interact with employees, and how they frame how employees engage with each other and within the organization. Therefore, leaders carry the organization's culture and set the tone for how employees feel within the workplace. Workplace culture cannot be transformed into friendly, people-centered spaces where employees — regardless of their gender, racial or ethnic background, sexual orientation, or position — feel a strong sense of belonging unless leaders show up in their roles differently.”
Wolf Hill Group takes seriously our responsibility to thoroughly screen candidates on all aspects of their qualifications including their professional experience, unique background, potential for growth, and capacity to thrive in that specific role in that specific organization. We place a premium on building robust and diverse candidate pools, providing our client partners with a broad range of prospects to choose from. Determining as best as possible how the leader will align with the organization’s existing culture and impact it for the better in the years to come is a significant piece of the leadership recruitment process.
Constructing a diverse workforce and fostering an inclusive culture are significant drivers in attracting smart, ambitious, and accomplished professionals to your organization. A diverse cybersecurity leadership team is a multi-disciplinary group in which people with different backgrounds contribute. The key is to have a broad scope of strengths from which the team can draw from when necessary. Diversity makes the team more well-rounded, nimble, and responsive. As Geoff Belknap, CISO of LinkedIn, recently commented, “One of the biggest things I consider when hiring talent is gathering a diversity of perspectives…Many different types of people interact daily with the products we're working to secure, which means our team needs to be able to understand and consider needs, work habits, and challenges from several points of view.”
Talented leaders understand the value of building diverse teams and fostering healthy and inclusive workplace cultures and make it a priority to do so. Not only can a healthy and inclusive culture engender employee loyalty and enhance retention, it can also greatly enhance an organization’s recruitment efforts. Why? Because coveted leaders who can often write their own ticket in this tight leadership market want to work at a place where they feel empowered, supported, and valued, and can bring their authentic selves to work every day.
According to a recent survey reported in MIT Sloan Management Review, feeling respected is the number on element of culture that matter most to employees.
“The single best predictor of a company’s culture score is whether employees feel respected at work,” the study authors wrote. “Respect is not only the most important factor, it stands head and shoulders above other cultural elements in terms of its importance. Respect is nearly 18 times as important as the typical feature in our model in predicting a company’s overall culture rating, and almost twice as important as the second most predictive factor.”
Scott Case, the CEO and co-founder of Upside, argues that trust is also an extremely important element in building and maintaining a healthy workplace culture.
“If colleagues don't trust each other, they won't be honest with each other. And if they're not honest with each other, you're doomed. There is no greater ‘tax’ on any organization than mistrust. Trust is the currency of progress on a team. It's a lubricant, like the oil in your car. Without oil, the parts of your engine grind away on each other and the engine fails. With oil, friction is reduced and the engine will take you anywhere you want to go,” he writes. “How do we create a culture of high trust? As leaders, we set the tone by being vulnerable with our teams and encourage them to share openly how they feel, too. Most importantly, do not punish people for being honest, as long as they are respectful and coming from a place that's aligned with the culture's values.”
There is also an argument to be made that diverse and equitable workplaces are more prone to foster healthy inclusive cultures where all members of the team thrive. And when that happens, performance across the board is enhanced leading to improved outcomes, higher profits, and better retention. Getting culture right isn’t easy, but when it’s right you know it.
Culture is, after all, the manifestation of an organization’s mission, vision, and values. And it is often reflected in the way leaders interface with their employees and how employees interface with each other. Workplace relationships are most productive when people feel confident that they are playing by the same set of rules and are moving in the same direction. They are disrupted when people feel uneasy about workplace rules, not confident that leaders are being transparent, and confused about the organization’s priorities. That’s when a culture becomes toxic, productivity declines, and talented people leave.
Toxic cultures can decimate organizations. As a group of researchers write in MIT Sloan Management Review, “Toxic culture, as we reported in a recent article, was the single best predictor of attrition during the first six months of the Great Resignation — 10 times more powerful than how employees viewed their compensation in predicting employee turnover. The link between toxicity and attrition is not new: By one estimate, employee turnover triggered by a toxic culture cost U.S. employers nearly $50 billion per year before the Great Resignation began.”
Transforming workplace culture is possible and necessary in some circumstances but can also be difficult and time consuming to execute. Because culture is so deeply engrained throughout an organization the task of altering it takes extraordinary care, effort, and persistence over a sustained period. As Michael Beer, the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School, argues in a recent article, “Culture is how a group does the things it does. It changes because people start doing things differently or start doing different things. The causality doesn’t go the other way.
“So, in a company, you first need to change how the company is organized, managed, and led in light of its strategic goals. The goals themselves may need to change. A new culture then emerges as a byproduct of these changes,” Beer writes.
Such holistic change requires leaders to be fully committed, engaged, and sensitive to the needs of all members of the organization, not just those who sit at the leadership table. But when that change is achieved, it can be transformative. It is akin to a complete rebranding, reflected not only in the water cooler conversations in the office but in social media, mainstream media, and peer group discussions in which your organization is lauded and cited as an influential, innovative, and forward-thinking market leader.
At Wolf Hill Group, understanding our clients’ workplace cultures thoroughly is fundamental, and our DEI Services line is designed to help them foster more inclusive cultures. Our ability to comprehensively assess culture and build strong, diverse, and talented teams is what makes us the most valuable partner for all your recruitment needs.