Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh estimates that in its early days, Zappos lost roughly $100 million dollars due to bad hiring decisions. Hiring a cultural fit for your company, which means focusing on your prospective hires’ personalities first and skills and experience second, improves employee retention, engagement and customer experiences.
These days, to make sure new hires can live the company’s “powered by service” mantra, Zappos relies on 10 core values to guide the hiring process and guard its service-centered brand experience. If you want to be Zappos’ next Vegas-based couture buyer, for example, you’ll have to have a true passion for clothing and the latest fashion trends. Passion is core value No. 9 at Zappos (because it’s easy to wow customers when you’re passionate about what you do) and is listed in the required skills section of its couture buyer job description.
From your customer service representatives to your sales team, your staff’s day-to-day decisions on the job quite literally make or break your brand experience. Which means, at the end of the day, your brand is only as strong as the crew you’re letting run the ship.
If you want to empower employees throughout your entire organization to make decisions that align with its brand values, you’ll have to hire with those values in mind.
So how do you hire for culture fit?
First, define your brand. When branding starts inside an organization rather than with external marketing, it becomes easy to align your hiring practices, company culture and business practices to ensure you’re driving a cohesive, strategic brand.
Ask yourself what one idea you want to own in the hearts and minds of your customers.
Zappos has set out to own outstanding customer service. Its tagline, its marketing, its values, its company culture, its hiring practices and its customer service are all designed to strategically live the “powered by service” brand. Your brand is the focal point. In order to hire for brand and cultural fit, your HR department or hiring manager has to deeply understand the brand.
Next, identify your brand’s values. What core values does your brand need to hold itself accountable to in order to consistently deliver on its brand promise?
While Zappos has its own 10 core values to guide hiring, they are considerably different than the values employees will need to drive a patient-centric health care brand or a sustainable clothing brand like Pategonia. Cookie cutter values just don’t cut it.
Pategonia’s mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Core values include quality, integrity and environmentalism. New recruits at Pategonia must believe environmentalism can serve as a catalyst for personal and corporate action, and share their commitment to quality.
Last but not least, incorporate culture into your training. Onboard new recruits to ensure they know how to make decisions in line with the brand’s values rather than just in line with their own. Being the right cultural fit doesn’t automatically translate to living the brand and leverage brand values to guide decision-making.
Every touchpoint that makes your customer’s radar has the power to make or break your brand experience. When your employees understand, organization-wide, how we make decisions in line with our brand, they’ll be able to maintain cohesion across touchpoints from research and development all the way to marketing and customer service.