Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Inclusion, company culture and communication: recruiting and retaining talent in the modern workplace

Modern hiring practices have evolved to include a broader range of considerations beyond technical skill and experience.

Companies now often place greater emphasis on cultural fit, creating diverse and inclusive working environments, and developing a motivated team.

Given this shift, especially in a post-COVID world, it’s prudent to examine how recruitment has already changed and what further changes organizations can make to meet the demands of today’s workforce.

Bringing in the right people

At the company where I’m COO, Zama, we’ve implemented a hiring process that is one of the more extensive I’ve seen in my career. We place a premium on finding the right people and ensuring they can handle the rigors of the role before we invite them to join our team. A six-step interview process, including multiple job-specific projects and a full-scale presentation with the entirety of our company as an audience may seem like overkill to some, but it helps us retain our employees and avoid high attrition rates. Both sides know what they’re getting into.  

Given big changes we’ve already seen brought on by the pandemic, I’d advise that you take a hard look at your hiring practices every now and then, and consider a change. I’m not saying you must adopt a process that includes an initial phone screen, a technical assessment, a team interview, a cultural interview, and a project-based live trial like we do at Zama, as this might not be the right model for your organization. However, I do believe that it is essential to scrutinize your process and your people upfront. Once they are in place, there should be little doubt you’ve made the correct decision. 

Culturally, you’ll want to find a means of assessing whether the candidate aligns with your core values. Of course, you’ll need to have a good sense of what these are, but the direction of the business, working style and pace, work ethic and motivation, and overall vision should mostly align between organization and candidate. The last thing you want as an employer is to onboard a person who does not subscribe to your core values of thinking and working, even if it can be valuable to onboard team members with new skills and new ways of doing things. 

Diversity and inclusion are also crucial points of concern, specifically in relation to team-building. You don’t need me to tell you to remove bias as much as possible from your process, but it may be worth contemplating the value a diverse team can bring to your organization. In terms of ideation, individuals from varied backgrounds offer a variety of unique perspectives, allowing a more holistic view of circumstances. Brainstorming, market differentiation, and problem-solving all hold importance within organizations, and diverse groups can bring more to the table if they are allowed to share their voice. It’s also a great way to engender organizational culture, affording your team the space to grow personally and professionally, discern between varied points of view, make difficult decisions, and remain open-minded.

And when it comes to motivation and work ethic, you’ll want to find a way to see what prospective hires are made of. While it’s not always possible for organizations to provide thoughtful, rigorous, role-related trials, there are other ways to assess candidates in this regard. Revising your questioning, embracing role-playing, and stating clearly what you expect of your team can all help the candidate both understand where he or she stands and provide detailed and authentic responses. And, by remaining as transparent as possible, you’re more likely to avoid problems down the line.

Establishing the right culture

Of course, once a candidate is hired, there is still work to be done. You can implement a buddy system to help new staff through the onboarding process and encourage them to integrate into your finely-honed culture, which is part of what supports new hires in succeeding and thriving in their new role.

How can you do it? 

For example, innovation and collaboration should be embedded at the root of what you do. A team with diverse backgrounds and experiences can help immensely when solving complex problems. Ultimately, if your processes center around proactive approaches and creative solutions that prioritize culture and values, it should be much easier to develop the ideal working environment.

A sincere and significant emphasis on employee well-being is also essential. People are an organization’s greatest asset, so prioritizing their welfare ensures optimal levels of happiness and motivation. All companies strive for peak productivity and efficiency. However, I’m of the belief that you cannot receive this without first giving back. 

We offer our team members the means to optimize their skill base and experience to better serve them in their service of helping our company succeed. We attend a variety of conferences around the globe, organize quarterly team-building events, and host regular company-wide meetups at our offices in Paris. While some may view these practices as trite, they really do help develop successful teams. 

It’s also necessary to communicate with your people. As I’ve mentioned, transparency is key. However, weekly and monthly communication is just as important. It’s not always the ‘why’, but often the ‘what’ that we can lose sight of. Sometimes, people just want to see what is going on within the company to feel a greater sense of ownership of and satisfaction with their workplace. Regular company-wide newsletters and informative all-hands calls are easy ways to help your team better understand that your vision is being executed all the time, even if they don’t necessarily see it. The good news is, you can involve your people in a variety of ways, keeping your communication traditional or utilizing technology and team-building events to put more of a modern spin on your messaging. The point is, however you do it, internal communication is as necessary as it is impactful.

How you do anything is how you do everything

Your day-to-day operations help to reflect your organization’s core values, which are integral to success. A one-of-a-kind hiring process that is particularly thorough, designed to attract the best talent while simultaneously promoting innovation, inclusion, and excellence is one option. Committing to creating a positive working environment guaranteeing those invited into your team align with our shared vision is another. Building care into your processes to develop the culture you wish to reflect as an organization is a third. And, of course, incorporating all of these practices or those like them into your organizational design offers you the greatest chance for long-term success.

The good news is, you get to develop whatever processes you want for your organization. It’s completely up to you. But, first, you should get clear on what you hope to accomplish and how you want to approach your people to better select the ideal candidates and develop them to provide maximum benefit to your company.

Jeremy Bradley, COO at Zama

Jeremy oversees day-to-day operations at Zama. He is a cross-functional and highly tactical leader who has worked with a number of organisations to shape strategy, drive communications and partnerships, and lead policy and process. Jeremy's educational and professional background is multidisciplinary. Apart from working across the non-profit, education, and corporate sectors, Jeremy is the author of two novels (2019 Wishing Shelf Book Award Finalist and 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Award Winner). In 2020, he was named Writer of the Year by the IAOTP, and in 2022 he was named to Business Elite's 40 Under 40.