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People Over Process: Creating a Caring Hiring Culture

The Great Resignation is rebranding as the Great Reshuffle. According to Forbes, more than half of the 4.4 million workers who quit their jobs in February 2022 switched occupations or fields rather than left the workforce.

But why are so many leaving their jobs in the first place? Research from the MIT Sloan Management Review found that toxic corporate culture is the strongest indicator for attrition and 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. 

If culture is the top reason people leave jobs, it’s safe to assume candidates will pay attention to it when seeking new opportunities. Good Insight works with hundreds of candidates every year, and we can confirm that people care about organizational culture now more than ever. But we’ve also observed that most of our clients only think about the work environment after employees are hired and onboarded, rather than highlight it as an asset to prospective employees. 

Beyond answering the question, “what is it like to work here?” employers have a chance to create a caring hiring culture that showcases the organization’s values throughout the hiring process, centers candidate care, and supports new employees with a clear, human-centered onboarding plan. 

Showcasing your organization’s values 

One of Good Insight’s core values is “people over process.” While our searches are guided by robust processes and timelines, we constantly adjust them to reflect general people-first practices or to accommodate specific individuals’ needs. 

For example, we recently realized we could do more to help candidates prepare for search committee interviews. While it may be the “norm” for candidates to walk into an interview not knowing what to expect, we now send a preparation email that includes the types of questions they’ll be asked ahead of time, who’s on the committee and their bios, and tips about timing and what to wear. We have seen that this relatively simple step helps folks focus on their strengths, feel more comfortable, and show up authentically in an interview. 

We have a three-step framework that ensures you showcase your organization’s unique culture:

  • Define your organizational culture – How do you describe your organization’s culture and values in the job description? Are you naming that values are important to you in this search when talking to potential candidates? 
  • Assess for culture – Operationalize your culture and values into the hiring process when possible. Discuss how you’ll evaluate organizational culture questions with your team and craft interview questions that enable you to assess the values you’ve identified as important.
  • Model the culture – think about the people you’ve identified to be the “face” of the organization throughout a hiring process. Do they demonstrate and model the values that you’ve defined? Are they equipped to answer questions about team culture if asked by the candidates?

Centering candidate care

Thoughtful touchpoints with a candidate keep them informed, prepare them for interviews, and demonstrate respect. The bottom line is that workers want to feel valued. Implementing a process for candidate care shows you value them as human beings. Done consistently, this will set you apart as a prospective employer. Below are some examples that you can integrate into your hiring process:

  • No ghosting! Send regular correspondence to applicants (we like a 2-3 week cadence), even if the only update is that there is no update. Everyone gets notified of the status of their application, including when it’s that they are not moving forward. 
  • Interview preparation: Include bios for the interview panel and a list of questions to prepare for. Give the candidate tips about dress code and timing their answers.
  • Negotiations: Connect with candidates throughout the process to understand their specific needs and motivations, and communicate your expectations clearly and honestly.
  • Onboarding: Create a clear and thorough onboarding plan (see below!).

Creating a clear onboarding plan

You might think that the hiring process ends once an offer is accepted (hint: it’s not). Onboarding is an important part of creating a caring hiring culture. Generally speaking, onboarding should be about helping new employees feel settled, rather than on the job training. Fostering inclusion and belonging for a new employee can go a long way towards helping them to feel valued and retaining them as great employees. Onboarding practices that create a caring hiring culture may include: 

  • A welcome letter from the Executive Director that outlines key organizational history, culture, and information. 
  • Opportunities to meet team members that go beyond “what do you do” and focus on “tell me who you are.” 
  • A clear onboarding plan or checklist to ensure the new employee feels supported and has clarity about the direction they’re heading in their first few months of employment.
  • 30-60-90 day check-ins with supervisors to elevate experiences, cultivate values, and provide opportunities for clarification and course correction.

Simple Steps Pay Great Dividends

As an executive search firm serving small nonprofits, we understand what it takes to create a caring hiring culture for prospective employees who are looking for values-aligned organizations with cultures that help them feel respected. 

In a job market where hiring is a mutual decision-making process for both candidates and employers, centering people over process throughout hiring is essential to attracting and retaining talented employees – especially in today’s Great Reshuffle. We hope that incorporating this advice helps you attract the talent you need to move your mission forward.

About the Author

Erin Lau joined Good Insight in the fall of 2021. She supports our searches as the Senior Search Associate, helping to ensure that our clients and candidates experience a smooth process working with us. 

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