The Incredible Impact of Values in Hiring
by Marc Eichner
This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.
Everyone is talking about values. But, few do actually realize their power. The impact of values is best explained with a story. Here is the story of a high potential, let’s call him Benedikt.
“I learned it the hard way. 5 years ago I got sick and it took me several years to recover. In my search for a cure I realized that the reason I got sick was not bad luck. It was that I was not living the life that fit me. The leadership at work made me feel like a replaceable part of a machine which sucked my energy. And the little time I had left for my private life I spent on recovering from work. In other words I felt stressed all the time and my immune system weakened.
But what made me stay? I felt I had no choice. Even though I was amongst the Top 0.01% of top performers at university, it took me 1 year after university to find a job. Why? I didn't want to work 60 hours per week and I wanted a job where I actually could learn fast. I wanted to use my intellect and take lots of responsibility from day 1. Having founded startups, most jobs felt too narrow for me. It seemed impossible. But then I found a job that would send me around the world after week 3 completely on my own responsibility. Finally! How exciting!
Well... it came at a cost. I love generating results. Hell was I happy when I helped to rescue a company from imminent insolvency within 6 months. But the way we achieved these results was brutal. In this company the way to motivate employees getting results was pressure and hierarchical distance. This created an atmosphere that killed creativity. It also turned employees into personal risk managers. It sucked so much energy from every one of us. It was not a place where you could nurture your talent without burnout.
The worst thing? I can’t remember one time where a manager in the company asked me how I felt. No one seemed to care. I played many times with the idea of handing in my resignation, but I felt I had a lack of options. I felt the business world was not ready for what I needed, but I needed money, so I continued.
I changed jobs, to realize that it did not change the game. It was the same system wrapped into different corporate colors. The only difference, this time the new managers did not understand how to use my talents. I felt trapped. Boxed in. Running in a hamster wheel. Taking the same grey metro every day to go to a grey office with grey pc screens that caused everyone in the team headaches.
Surprise! Then it happened. I got sick. My body forced me to stop. To get out of this business world that sucked my energy. After week 8 I received a mail that I was laid off. I felt angry but I understood it. It was an economic decision. I was a liability to the system so I had to go. But my job was not important anymore anyhow. I was suffering and had to get my health back.
In my recovery period I had plenty of time for deep reflection. I realized I had created my own downfall because I had not respected my core values. For choosing my next employer I would never compromise on these five values ever again:
- Freedom - I want to work when and where I’m the most productive. My future employer understands the power of mutual trust and the efficient collaboration it enables.
- Community - I want to have colleagues who have my back, with whom I can celebrate success and that become friends. I want a positive work environment and feel a sense of belonging.
- Impact - I want to work at a place where transformation happens, where I can use my talents to the fullest. My employer is going to practise positive leadership enabling me to create impact.
- Integrity - I will not compromise on my important values. My future employer cherishes individuality and differences. This company knows how to create a system that is more efficient and human at the same time.
- Inspiration - I want to have a deeper purpose than increasing the turnover or cut costs. I want to spend my time working on something that really matters. My future employer is going to tackle a major problem the human world faces.
When I was clear about my values I started to apply again. Having my values ready for assessment helped me to communicate what I wished for. And I was surprised how well the interviewees responded to how I imagined my workplace. This helped me to find the right company where I feel amazing.
Now my work provides meaning and I’m looking forward to going to the office almost every day. My energy level is sustainably high and my stress level much lower than it used to be. Sometimes there are still peaks of stress, but that is on me. I’m still learning to set boundaries and communicate my needs on time.
I love my co-workers. Everyone is super open-minded and most of them have become my friends. We even went on holidays to South America together. It’s super fun to work and the results that we are creating as a team are beyond everything I have experienced before, ever.”
Cool story, Marc - I can feel with Benedikt, but what does that have to do with recruiting?
We’ll get to that. But before, let me tell you about the key for creating high performance teams. It’s not the salary or the benefits. It’s not the experience, not the talent and it’s definitely not the skills of the employees. It’s what you, me and everyone else use to guide action.
It’s values. If you want to create a high-performance environment in your company then do this. Create a company culture that attracts the talent that your business strategy needs. Culture and values are something that is still undervalued - pun intended. Values are intangible and seem to be soft. How can they create real results?
But think about it.
In hiring we’re dealing with humans. Everyone on the planet is in the search for meaning. And values help to find meaning. So, communicating values that our ideal employees are looking for is magnetic.
Also values are the most powerful source for intrinsic motivation. And that’s what we want when we’re hiring. We want to hire intrinsically motivated people that love to work at our companies. The ones that are not only there for the money.
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- Serial-Entrepreneur & Talent Marketing Specialist
- Featured in Washington Post, Sueddeutsche Zeitung
- Founder of the Monetizing Individuality Community
Adecco (13.04.2022). Cost of Vacancy – auch unbesetzte Stellen werden teuer. Adecco.
Forbes (04.12.2018). Netflix's Company Culture Is Not For Everybody And That's Exactly How It Should Be. Bretton Putter.
McKinsey (2017). Attracting and retaining the right talent. Scott Keller.