Success starts with a culture we protect


In a recent review of our organizations experiences in 2018 a question was raised as to "when can we say an individual has finally grown in an organizational context, which is like saying "can we ...

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What I’m talking about here is having a culture built on a sense of purpose about the route that needs to be taken; a mutual appreciation of what matters to achieve the desired outcome

Observing the dynamics at play in the UK government at the moment is quite something. Personal views on Brexit and politics aside, for me it has reinforced just how vital it is to have an effective culture and a shared sense of purpose.

I know there will be at least one person itching to get in touch and argue that ‘deliver Brexit’ is a pretty clear purpose, but I’m not sure I’d agree. Every business in the land could say making profit is their purpose but, like delivering Brexit, I’d say that’s an outcome.

While I refer initially to the government, all parties seem to be in the same predicament, where team dynamics are doing more to sabotage than facilitate success.

I’m a major advocate of the importance of culture and I believe it starts with getting recruitment right. In my 18 years in the recruitment industry I’ve heard many viewpoints about the best way to do it. Some people like to opt for candidates with extensive experience in their sector. Others want to make decisions based almost exclusively on someone’s technical skills. But, in my experience, the universal factor underlying the success or otherwise of every appointment is finding the people who fit culturally.

There needs to be balance, of course. Too much focus on culture and you are in danger of preventing people from expressing their uniqueness. People should still be able to be individuals.

And no process should recruit for culture alone. When a business is too prescriptive about what it is and where it wants to go that can create problems.

But I still stand by the importance of recruiting for culture. In my opinion our business success can be related back to having a culture that we protect. We briefly moved away from this in the past; our team ethic was challenged, and this had an impact on our performance. So now, without exception, we always recruit people who will respect and fit our cultural DNA.

We apply this same ethos when we’re recruiting for our clients. Recruitment should never be about ‘filling vacancies’ but finding people who value and want to contribute to the organisation’s purpose. So we recruit for a defined culture and purpose: one that allows people to be unique but all within a framework that is clear about the environment and values the specific business defines itself by.

By having that fit you’re investing in the future too. People might move around and take on new roles but the driving force of the cultural ethos remains. Its power should never be underestimated.

Every organisation needs to be thinking about it, articulating it and recruiting for it. Otherwise they run the risk of becoming a collection of people with competing agendas who, despite their individual talents, will ultimately fail to deliver what is required of them.

Kate McCarthy is founder and managing director of McCarthy Recruitment


In a recent review of our organizations experiences in 2018 a question was raised as to "when can we say an individual has finally grown in an organizational context, which is like saying "can we allow people to graduate from expectations of growth?" Sounds as if expectations of growth is a burden to people! The question was raised by individuals who may still be struggling with making sense of what we are all about. Our organization is known as EASUN Centre for organizational Learning. We are based in Arusha, Tanzania. We emphasize shared learning processes, which includes developmental counselling support to individuals as avenues for their growth in the organizational context. I am happy to read your emphasis that success starts with a culture we protect. In the end it occurred to me that growth of individuals in an organizational context needs to be examined in relation to their growing awareness and competencies around the core process of the organization. In the case of EASUN this is OD (Organization Development). To what extent should we think in terms of an end to growth of EASUN staff in that direction? Should growth not include their ability to be creative in enriching our understanding and practice? I would be happy to hear your comments on this. Thank you for a very clear article.

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