Clash of Cultures Costly In New Hiring

Employers can save themselves considerable time and resources by making sure they understand their own corporate culture and taking care that prospective hires fit in. Hiring a single person can cost as much as $19,000, not counting the lost productivity from the hiring manager, according to one study.

In my last column, we examined the link between a company’s bottom line and the tone at the top (TATT) set by its managers and supervisors. Of equal importance is recruiting and retaining employees who can harmonize with that tone.

Ann Carlsen, founder-CEO of Carlsen Resources, advises that employers and prospective employees can save themselves considerable time and resources by ensuring that there is harmony between the corporate culture that’s reflected in the tone at the top and a company’s new hires.

“We believe one of the biggest contributors is cultural confusion: the new employee simply doesn’t fit in. ‘This isn’t the company I thought I was joining’ is a familiar refrain,” observes Carlsen, whose firm provides executive search and consulting services for cable, media and entertainment companies.

She addresses the importance of ensuring a good fit between new hires and a company’s culture in the “Human Factor” section of the current issue of MFM’s The Financial Manager magazine.

As Carlsen goes on to point out: “Once disillusionment sets in, it’s only a matter of time before an unhappy separation occurs. Every time such a mismatch happens, it’s a tremendous loss of time, money and opportunity for both parties, who must begin their searches anew.”

That loss of money she mentions is no small sum. A recent study from Bersin & Associates, a human-resources advisory firm, found that companies in the technology sector can pay a median figure of $4,339, per hire. A June 4 article in The Huffington Post concludes that when costs for posting, reviewing, pre-screening, preparing for the interview, and wrapping up the process are included, hiring can cost as much as $19,000 before adding in the cost of lost productivity from the hiring manager. Of course, the cost varies by company and position, which is why industry-specific benchmark reports such as the 2012 Human Capital Metrics Survey from The Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association (CTHRA) are so valuable to their subscribers.


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The point is, no matter the industry or the position, hiring consumes a lot of company resources. That’s why, as Carlsen observes, “A carefully crafted on-boarding process can help minimize some stumbling blocks.”

She goes on to explain: “During the hiring process, it is natural for an eager candidate to see things through rose-colored glasses. And, just as often, the hiring team unintentionally misrepresents the culture, because they can’t see if for what it is.”

When that happens, Carlsen says new hires can experience this clash of cultures as they slowly discover things like:

  • The company says it’s “family-friendly,” but expects employees to be available for business 24/7.
  • The mission statement says the customer comes first – until there’s a drop in share price.
  • The company claims to be lean and entrepreneurial, but every decision is subject to endless meetings and a Byzantine approval process.

So how do we avoid the costs, including productivity losses, when individual and corporate cultures clash?

Carlsen shares the advice from an article in Inc. by management consultant Pat Lencioni. He encourages business owners to start working on culture by understanding their company’s core values. “Your goal should be that 100% of your people embody the one or two values that make your company truly special.”

It’s important to start with realistic view of the current culture of our organization. Carlsen reminds us, “Change of this kind requires time and commitment at every level of the organization. A new mission statement is useless if standard operating procedures don’t back it up, and everyone must have skin in the game.”

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Ensuring consistency between who we say we are and what we do is ongoing. “It’s easy to fall back into well-worn behavioral grooves, but when that happens, call it out quickly. Not to do so risks employees questioning sincerity, and the key people devoting the greatest energy to change will become discouraged and move on.”

Just as there are losses when employee and corporate cultures clash, there are payoffs on investments designed to ensure harmony. As Carlsen observes, “Winning corporate cultures acknowledge employees as the value creators.”

And what happens when we don’t make those additional, proactive investments? “Companies that see employees as costs to be managed are playing a game of diminishing returns,” she warns.

Carlsen suggests we consider a guest post in Forbes magazine earlier this year by Deloitte’s John Hagel, Suketu Gandhi and Giovanni Rodriguez, which finds, “The biggest challenge for businesses today is learning to think about their employees the way they think about their customers.”

When it comes to our (and our advertisers’) customers, we place a lot of focus on engagement and measurement. So how are we engaging our employees and measuring the return?

Carlsen recommends using the same types of tools that we use to engage our customers. “Social media and the information revolution are the great levelers in recruiting and retaining employees. Armed with information, people can now actively seek out opportunities that carefully align with their personal goals and aspirations when those needs are not being met.”

And what do these empowered employees expect? “In a nutshell,” Carlsen says, “a corporate culture in which they are respected as unique individuals.They also expect to be listened to, have their ideas considered and receive credit when it’s due; to be compensated fairly; a career with growth opportunities in whatever manner they chose, not just a predefined path.”

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Carlsen concludes her article by saying, “These expectations aren’t new, but they take on greater potency in the age of a socially connected and empowered employee. To keep your company thriving, engage and respect your team. Work with them to build an enduring culture that celebrates what’s special and honors the people who make it all happen.” 

Now that’s a great example of the type of tone that we need to set at the top — and throughout — our organizations.

Conventional wisdom says that media industry employees are still worried about the economy, making them hesitant to leave for other jobs right now. We also aren’t hearing about a lot of industry hiring. That could be a blessing or a curse when it comes to the potential for corporate culture clash. While you may not be adding people who aren’t the right fit, financial pressures may be changing your culture in ways you don’t even think about. And what happens when a change in ownership or senior management changes that tone at the top?

I am interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences. You can comment below, add your thoughts to the discussion on MFM’s LinkedIn group or [email protected] hashtag #cultureclash.

In media, more than in any other business, our resources walk out the door every night.

Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.

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