Cultural and Relational Fit On Your Executive Team

There’s a lot written about corporate culture when it comes to retaining top talent, and that is an important factor. However, retention is more a result of great relationships than a great culture.

Culture and Relationship are sometimes confused; however, they are distinctly different factors. A great culture can flow from great relationships, and a toxic culture can result from poor relationships. The two are not exclusive of each other, however, they are not interchangeable either.

Our firm emphasizes relational fit when placing executive leaders because relationship is ultimately the greatest factor in the long-term success of an individual. Certainly, strong technical and functional competencies have to be there, however, without a solid relational foundation, a new hire is not likely to last.

It’s commonly understood that people tend to leave because of bosses and peers, not the organization. It’s about relationship more than culture.

“Culture” is defined in many ways in organizations. Sometimes a superficial perspective, like having ping-pong tables and free snacks is touted as a great culture. Sometimes it’s about offering flexibility with work-from-home options or flexible hours.

Target Corporation used to tout that they are “Fast, Fun, and Friendly”, that has now evolved into “Friendly, Fun, and Collaborative” (do the employees notice a difference?).

Target’s description of culture (in either form) is a more substantive description of the workplace dynamics in the organization than describing perks the organization offers. Whether it’s a goal, empty words, or current reality, it gives someone a concept of how the work environment may function.

Relationship, however, is a factor that is not synonymous with culture. Two people may both operate in alignment with the culture, and not be able to work well together, or communicate well with each other, or like each other enough to function effectively together.

Relationship generally comes from shared values, shared worldview, and mutual likeability. They may have diverse ideas about how things might best be executed, however, can be productive together because they are aiming for the same outcome and respect each other’s perspectives and contributions.

Through relationship, MUCH more can be accomplished than by simply sharing corporate cultural characteristics. Many leaders seek to improve “Employee Engagement” by hiring people that are a good culture fit with the organization. However, if relational fit is left out of the equation, Employee Engagement may not be positively impacted.

Recent research has shown that high employee engagement doesn’t necessarily lead to better productivity. Productivity comes from more than just liking the organization or co-workers. Greater productivity comes from a relationship that encourages, challenges, and respects the work of the team members.

Relationship evaluation and formation don’t often get much attention in the hiring process because so much focus is placed on prior experience, achievements, personality profiles, and perceived cultural fit. While each of those factors have value, without considering if a good relationship can be formed with the candidate, the likelihood of high turnover persists.

At HansenBack, we certainly evaluate candidates for their functional, personality, and cultural fit for our clients. However, by emphasizing relationship formation in the hiring process we have achieved a 97% retention rate for our clients executive hires vs. a retention rate of 60% or less among the rest of the industry.

Our goal is to help ALL companies improve their hiring outcomes whether they are our client or not, and focusing on relationship formation in the hiring process is a key component to that!

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HansenBack is an Executive Recruiting firm based in Minneapolis. We have a 30+ year track record of helping our Clients hire and retain excellent executive leaders.

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