Culture shock: “That’s not the company I joined!”

by Jobbatical October 11, 2016

Culture Club: Does Your New Hire Belong?

Culture shock isn’t just something talent experiences when they sign on to work in a foreign country. A recruit can be ruffled by the culture of a company based right in their own backyard. That’s because a fuzzy culture is like an algae-infested pond: it’s difficult to see what’s below the surface.

A healthy company culture, like a healthy body of water, allows diverse lifestyles to harmoniously coexist. The ecosystem is clear, and every species understands its place.

In business, “culture” includes:

  • Decision makers/how decisions are made (top-down? bottom-up? squad?). It’s crucial to offer your talent a peek behind the curtain before they come on board, to ensure the essence of your company culture fits with who they are.
  • Coworkers. Your new hire will be working with his or her colleagues at least eight hours a day, five days a week. This is a lot of time to spend with people who aren’t congenial. Exceptional team members enjoy working with other smart, motivated, skilled people, so it’s vital to describe what your company culture is like in terms of their potential coworkers. Better yet, introduce promising applicants to a few members of the team, who might invite their prospective colleague to join the gang after work — before they join the company. There’s no better way to assess cultural congeniality.
  • Team fit. Besides playing well with others, you want to hire the right personality type for the team. If you need a goal-directed, detail-oriented planner but keep recruiting visionaries who work best alone, they may clash in terms of the big picture — and not get much accomplished.
  • What the work environment looks like. If you don’t communicate culture clearly at the outset, your fabulous new hire could quit within two weeks! And even if you do provide a good grounding in company culture, as your business grows and evolves, someone may still leave abruptly later on if he or she no longer feels a sense of belonging. Keeping employees in the loop, connecting with them as people, and crafting a fluid, friendly, inclusive company culture are all key to retention.
  • Activities other than work. Google assigns each new hire a “peer buddy” who has the employee’s back — and this includes social life. No one can work 24/7, but since tech staff spends an inordinate amount of hours on the job, downtime is precious. Make sure they’ll spend it with people they like.

“But that was a terrific job listing!”

If you created an excellent, honest, detailed job description that ticked all the boxes and you’re still not getting enough qualified applicants — even if you elaborated on your business model, expectations, and benefits clearly — the omission of a culture description is probably the culprit.

Surprisingly, neither salary nor nature of the job is the most important feature to top talent today. A LinkedIn survey revealed that 66% of global talent wants to know about a company’s culture and values — then they’ll decide if it’s a fit for them.

This has a lot to do with shifting demographics. Just as Baby Boomers differed radically from previous generations, who usually stayed with one company for their entire career, Millennials who’ve grown up in the digital age are a departure from Boomers and Gen X’ers in what they seek in a job.

Engagement: the name of the game

For Millennials, who will represent 40% of the total workforce by 2020, mobile devices are as natural as computers were to Gen X and landlines were to Boomers, when each cohort entered the workforce. Because they can live and work wherever they choose, Millennials want flexible schedules, a collaborative work-culture rather than the old, competitive model — and, ideally, to be their own boss. Two-thirds also say making the world a better place is a priority.

“Companies can gain immensely by better engaging Millennials, who are very iconoclastic and very ambitious,” says Shara Senderoff, CEO of a Millennial career service. As a Millennial herself, listed in Forbes’ “30 Under 30”, Senderoff observes that conflict can arise with older managers around Millennials’ very different work style and workplace language — and that finding common ground need not be difficult.

By providing these “venture consumers” with an opportunity to make a difference — in a company that is itself making a difference, e.g., in renewables — and by learning to speak their language in terms of work/life integration, a culture consistent with Millennial values will be more likely to attract and retain this population, which is 86 million strong.

Originally published at on October 11, 2016.

Share this article:

Get a job abroad in 2019

Sign up to Jobbatical and explore these featured locations