Move Over Zappos and Google – The New Role Model for an Org That Really Gets Culture Is…

Jessica Lee Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Jessica Lee, Recruiting

Someone I met at the SHRM conference the other week really got me thinking about culture in the workplace. I think we often point to folks like Zappos or Google when we think of organizations with really distinct and killer cultures. But what about World Vision? How come no one talks about them when it comes to culture?

Okay, okay… bear with me for a moment. I know you’re not making the connection immediately, but let me help you out there. The notion of workplace culture hit home in a really big way when I met a young HR pro at the conference who recently joined World Vision. He was a complete stranger to me, but I was intrigued by him as a recent grad of an HR program from Central Washington University and he was just starting his career out as a comp analyst with World Vision. Did I know of them, World Vision, he asked?

Of course. Immediately, I thought of the commercials to sponsor a child. Beyond that though, when I used to live in the Seattle area, I shared that I actually remember World Vision as an employer and specifically, I remember seeing a job posting at some point for an HR related role that I thought seemed interesting… but I never put my hat in the ring because I couldn’t see myself working for such a religious organization and didn’t feel there was good alignment between what they believed and what I don’t believe. Not making the connection yet? Well, they are known as an evangelical relief organization. And their mission?

“To follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”

Yep. So we got to talking about who they recruit and hire, how religious he was and what role religion played in their selection process and everyday culture. Talk about fascinating. Starting with… how does religion come up in the interview and selection process? He was asked – and they continue to ask all prospects – what I may find to be quite possibly the world’s most interesting interview question – ready for it? Brace yourself. I’d sit down for this one –

“When did you get to know the Lord, Jesus Christ, as your personal savior?”

BAM!  Read that again! Yes. They ask that in their interviews. I’m uncomfortable just typing that question! (So immediately, on a practical level, your takeaway is to think about how do you assess cultural fit of candidates. Well, that’s one way. Crazy, right? I know.)

So then I began to wonder what the workplace is like. How much does religion play into day to day life at the office? A huge part, he shared. They start every morning of every work day with devotion time. They have weekly bible studies. And I’d venture to guess that whenever anyone sneezes at the office, everyone says, “God bless you.” Not just that short cut, knee-jerk reaction of, “Bless you.”

Totally fascinating. I only wish I had more time to spend with him to learn how religion may play into their policies and how they handle employee relations challenges. I mean imagine… what if someone committed a major policy violation, like let’s say… misuse of a corporate credit card. Or having an intimate relationship with a subordinate. Whether it’s a performance plan or termination, how do those scenarios play out? Do they make the employee ask for forgiveness? Do they pray for the employee in question? Are policies tied to the bible in any way? And I promise, I don’t even ask these questions facetiously. I’m genuinely curious. It’s a unique culture that we don’t often talk about.

And yet everyone talks about workplace culture. You’ve got folks like Zappos and Google who are blazing the trails… but World Vision is my new beacon for an organization that really gets culture – and is living it out in a major way. Which reminds me… there’s no right answer for what a kicking culture should look and feel like. Every organization is unique as can be and your culture is, to a large degree, what it is. For better or worse. You just have to figure out the value proposition, define it, and build the messaging around it.