Your Culture Is What’s on Your Walls

Three colleges, in three states, in three days. We were on a trip to find the right college for my daughter Ally. But how could we know what was the right fit for her?

Or, similarly, how do you choose the right job? How does your company attract talent in a competitive marketplace?

Some of you who are parents have already gone through the college tour and selection process. For me, it’s the first time, and I’ve learned quite a bit, including the similarities of colleges and our workplaces.

Universities and companies are both organizations with unique cultures, both need to attract new faces and are competing with others in similar spaces offering similar offerings. A lot of thought that goes into deciding the right school. Similarly, selecting which company to work for is a big decision.

How do we choose the right college or the right job opportunity? At first, we may be interested in a college or a company based on facts – location, size, benefits. But the more challenging, and more important aspects are culture and who you’ll be working with and learning from. If a culture is a collection of actions and behaviors, then you can find out about a company the same way I was finding out about the schools that Ally and I were visiting.

At one university, the walls were a disorganized menagerie of postings on walls and corkboards. When looking at these areas, you couldn’t tell what the department was about. Was it traveling abroad? Getting connected? Going on to graduate school? Showing off accomplishments? At the school yesterday, the department’s walls were clean and orderly. The few items posted were all about what students would need for classes. It’s not to say one is better, or should or shouldn’t have certain topics and content up. The point is, whether orderly or disorderly, a lot of content or little, it communicates something. It’s a real reflection of who your company is, or your department or team is. You may have some description on your job listing, but that’s controlled and carefully worded. Inside your doors – that’s reality.

What about who represents your company? Who’s the person(s) that first engages or welcomes prospective new hires?

At one university visit, I was told by the tour guide about their rock climbing wall and Chik-fil-A on campus (Chik-fil-A is a very, very big deal in the South). At your company, you might tell candidates of employee benefits such as health insurance, PTO or even Free Bagel Fridays. But if your work or work environment isn’t enjoyable, doesn’t bring out your best or provide challenging and fulfilling work, does it really matter if there are free bagels (even with Honey Walnut cream cheese)?

If a top-notch candidate is hearing about bagels, and not the amazing work being done in your company, consider the person talking to candidates – that person is the face of the organization, acting as an ambassador in many ways. If the most significant thing they can comment on isn’t the work, but the freebies, that reflects on the quality of work, and colleagues, to be expected. Are your company’s first contacts accurate representations?

I’ll contrast that first college tour experience with the one I had yesterday. That tour guide talked of where the best study areas were, how to serve and give back at the school, and shared his story of why he chose this college. He reflected well, and it was appealing. Additionally, we met with professors in the programs we were interested in. This was immensely valuable, but that was on our own volition. Do candidates get to meet with the real doers, influencers and key players in your company? Beyond the best ambassadors, you also show the potential new hire that you value them.

I recorded a short video with some more thoughts –

One idea from one of our technical coaches, Paul Moore, was that at your college tour or workplace interview events, do you ask for feedback? Great questions from agile retrospectives could be “What did you like? Didn’t like? Any ideas about how to improve the experience?”

And if you feel that you would have to “spin” things a bit to make your company or department look appealing, then we should talk. I think there’s always a great story if we’re willing to do a bit of mining for it. It doesn’t take much to change the team atmosphere, beginning with asking them the same retrospective questions and then doing something about what they raised.

Your team can learn about this, and all the agile basics, at our Agile 101 training. If you are already using Scrum, perhaps consider leveling up the team coach by sending them to our Advanced Certified ScrumMaster workshops in Nashville or Scrum, LeSS or Kanban training in Southern California.

And you don’t need to be a software team to benefit from Agile. Many Marketing, Human Resource, and Operations teams use agile approaches. Contact us to hear more about their stories and successes.

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