Guest blogger Terry Vergon’s “Understanding Organizational Values and Hiring of Management”

Mar 5, 2013

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In my last blog (Hiring a Facilities Manager), I mentioned that it is important for a candidate’s values to align with an organization’s values if the candidate is to be successful in their new position.  In fact, this attribute, more than any other, dictates whether they can be successful in an organization or not.  What makes alignment of values more important in the hiring process than knowledge, skill, and experience? Values form the basis of everyday decisions   Every day, managers and leaders make decisions.  It is one of the critical aspects of the position of manager or leader.  During the hiring process, we specifically look for the ability to analyze whatever is necessary to support good decisions, but what is the basis upon which those decisions will ultimately be made?  The values of the individual making the decision will dictate the outcome of the decision. You see, we make decisions based upon our values and beliefs, and we do analysis to determine what decisions will align with those values.  In a sense, the decisions we make must support our personal values and beliefs, or the conflict that arises will eventually create insurmountable tension.  What can result is a situation where a good decision for the organization may conflict with the manager’s values and beliefs. Fight or flight Because the values of the organization rarely change, it leaves it to the manager to change their values or find a coping process to deal with the conflict.  When faced with conflict, we all naturally go into “fight or flight” mode.  And if the manager decides to fight, their decisions will not be in alignment with the organization’s best interests.  This can cause resources to be spent in areas or directions that may even run counter to the organization’s purpose or mission.  If the manager decides to flee, on the other hand, they will ultimately leave the company – and that loss may come at a very inopportune moment for the organization and force it to deal with the consequences.  Neither situation is desirable. How to spot alignment of values  So how do you determine what a candidate’s values and beliefs are?  Realize that it isn’t spiritual beliefs that I am discussing; rather, it is beliefs about the purpose and future of the organization, the candidate’s role in it, and how this situation fits into their lives.  Fortunately, determining a person’s values and beliefs is fairly easy to ascertain, but it does require a thoughtful interview process. Remembering that our actions are driven from our values and beliefs, if we examine past actions and answers to situational questions, they should point us to what the candidate’s values and beliefs are.  As an example, consider the following question: “Provide me an example of how you handled, or would handle, a situation where you had two good candidates to hire and both were equal technically.  How did you, or would you, decide whom to hire?”   There are a myriad of answers for this question, but they all boil down to two major categories: organizational fit or experience.  If the candidate answers along the lines of organizational fit, they value harmony, cooperation, and relationships.  If their answer is experience-based, then the candidate values knowledge, skill, and possibly diversity. Another question might be:  “Give me a time when you and your boss disagreed.  How did you handle the situation?”  When you ask this question, there are a few basic outcomes.  Your candidate might give an answer equivalent to “Yes, sir. Yes, sir.  Three bags full” and describe how they rather begrudgingly did what was asked.  If you receive this kind of answer, your candidate values harmony and avoidance of conflict as their higher values. A second scenario might be that the candidate brought up their suggestions to their boss in private, laid out their reasoning and then waited to see what happened.  The candidate that adopts this approach also values harmony, efficiency, and process, but also has faith in their own opinions.  These candidates are not afraid of conflict. A third scenario is the candidate indicates that they didn’t say anything to their boss, but did what they believed was right anyway.  This indicates that the candidate is confident in their abilities but still wants to avoid conflict.  Generally speaking, they are strong individuals who may add great value to an organization, but they can also be rebels with a cause who may not be controlled to any degree.  Again, a lot depends on the individual and the situation. A fourth scenario is that your candidate brought their objections to their boss in public and tried to get enough organizational support so that their boss had to change his or her mind.  These are individuals of the group mindset.  They believe in the power and wisdom of the crowd, and relish openness and good discussion. In a different scenario, you might also find a candidate who elected to go to their boss’s boss to appeal their boss’s direction.  This is a determined, strong-willed individual that will get things done, but may not be concerned with process or rules. If you are responsible to hire the managers and leaders of your organization, you should develop a list of questions that can provide insight into the values and beliefs of different candidates.  You should also ask these same questions of your peers and anyone in your company or institution that you believe best represents your organization’s values and beliefs.  Their answers should give you a pretty good representation of your organization’s values so that you can easily spot areas where values may not align. Many thanks to industry veteran Terry Vergon for allowing us to post this blog.  You can read Terry's other blogs by clicking here