One of the most common misconceptions about a Culture First organization is that it doesn’t need to be a high performing organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. A Culture First organization is high performing because the culture not only attracts amazing people but it repels some people too.
A strong culture attracts, but also repels
It’s important to remember that culture and performance are not trade-offs. The goal is always to win, but being Culture First is the way you choose to win. The way to build a high performing culture is to be really clear about what you stand for. Good culture, like a great brand, stands for something. It’s very specific and unique to your company.
There is no culture that suits everyone because we’re all different. The foundation of every culture is shared beliefs and values - what your people care about. For someone who shares those beliefs, there should be no more attractive place in the world to work. But at the same time, there will be certain people that don’t care about these things (and who will not want to come and work for you).
Others may realize over time that it's not the right place for them and the culture pushes them out. It’s important to clarify that this isn’t being ‘pushed out’ through a sense of exclusion or discrimination. The push comes as people realize that they don’t share the same fundamental beliefs as the the rest of the organization. When that becomes evident, it’s hard to do your best work, and people will typically move on to a more aligned organization.
This isn’t about creating monocultures
You want your culture to be something that your people are passionate about. The worst possible outcome is for your people to be indifferent about your organization’s culture. This means you need to be clear about what you are and what you're not. It’s an art to be upfront and honest about what your culture is without demonizing what it isn’t.
Rather than hiring for “Culture Fit” (which can promote a lack of diversity and inclusiveness) think about hiring for “Culture Add” - how can you hire people who will bring something new and different to what you care about?
This doesn’t mean that you’re creating a monoculture where everybody looks the same or that lacks diversity.
You don’t want new people to be clones, you do want them to believe in your principles especially when they have a different way of manifesting them.
If your culture is tolerant of other ideas and wants people to feel included then it will become more diverse. You should value different backgrounds and experiences and it is important to position your culture as one that goes out and finds people that others aren't engaging with. By focusing on what your organization cares about, you can find people that other companies don’t even see.
People want to belong. Being willing to stand for something, to be a place that won’t work for everyone, actually makes it easier for a wider group of people to want to join. People want to belong, but they also want to believe. They want you to be different and to have the courage to stand for what you believe in.