I spotted a piece in the WSJ last week about how UBS issued a 43 page report recently to its staff about appropriate attire and appearance. And at first, I couldn’t help but to poke a bit of fun at it. Guidelines on skirt length, preferences against cufflinks, boundaries on lipstick colors? It would totally stink to be a manager or HR person there when I think about “enforcement” and such. No one likes to have conversations about attire or hygiene. Sure, those conversations might be character building for a newer manager or HR pro to need to have an awkward/tough conversation like that… but surely we’ve got more important things on our plates to deal with, right? And it’s easy to mock or call out a 43 page guide on attire and appearance as so very lame if you’re the type who feels long live cultures of jeans and flip flops or sneakers.
But I had a moment of pause after having read that article when I thought about UBS within the context of corporate culture. As easy as it is to mock them and all 43 pages of that guide, the reality is that for their culture, it is what works and makes sense. The guidelines outlined are the norm for them. And if as an outsider I don’t like it or think it’s lame? Well, that’s my signal that perhaps UBS is not the kind of employer I’d want to work for from a cultural standpoint. Now think about that from a job seekers perspective.
As a recruiter, I bet like me, you know that it can often be frustrating to talk to candidate after candidate who seems skilled on paper with all the right experience but is a poor fit culturally. And making it even more frustrating are the sky high expectations that your organization and hiring managers may have because, in this climate, you would expect the market should be plentiful. Unemployment is high. People need jobs. Not everyone is hiring. It should be easy to find quality talent quickly. But then there’s that little ole thing called cultural fit. Crucial. Warm bodies won’t do.
So what can you do to bridge the cultural gap? Well, UBS’ 43 page guide may be something for us to poke fun at but at the end of the day, it’s partially what defines their culture and press about their guide actually could be helpful for spreading the word about their culture. All press is good press, as they say. But there could also be more proactive efforts you make to spread the good word about your culture.
You could blog about it.
You could tweet about it.
You could have a Facebook page that shares tidbits into your culture.
You could speak at conferences about your employee programs which reflect your culture.
Your CEO or other members of your leadership could speak publicly about your organization’s culture.
You could try to get more positive press about some of the cultural norms of your organization.
You could talk about culture on your corporate website.
And it’s not all about trying to position your culture as being the coolest necessarily. Zappos, Facebook, Google are all known for their “innovative” cultures – but their cultures are their cultures and your culture is your culture. LIke my friend Paul Hebert wrote about recently, it’s about manifesting your own coolness, not theirs. Your culture is what it is and you’ve just got to own it. The point is just to define it, articulate it clearly, and then get it out there for others to learn about it. Even if 43 pages worth of guidelines on how you should look and act is a norm for your culture. And at the end of the day, this all should also make it easier for job seekers to self select. The more they know about your culture, the easier it becomes for them to decide whether you’re their employer of choice.
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.