George F. Black has seen a lot and learned a lot in his 11 years as president and CEO at RSA Corp. But when it comes to determining the cultural fit of an executive-level job candidate at the 100-employee company, Black often turns to his wife, Sherry, for advice.
“She has incredible intuition,” Black says. “She knows my company quite well. At times, she says, ‘I still don’t understand what you really do, but I know what kind of people are good for you.’”
While skills are valuable, Black says it’s just as important that a new employee fit in with the other employees and buy in to the company’s vision and values.
By making cultural management a part of his job description, Black has led the IT, strategy and staffing services provider from $6.4 million in revenue in 2003 to $14.5 million in 2006.
Smart Business spoke with Black about how to make your employees feel valued by letting them write on the walls.
Q. How do you get off to a good start with a job interview?
A resume should only answer one question, and that question should be, ‘Do I want to know more?’ The mistake that many of us make is to look at a resume and decide that isn’t the person and not do a thorough job of figuring out who this person is.
Never make a prospective candidate wait. If you can’t and it’s just unavoidable, make sure someone meets the candidate and helps them through the wait time.
Secondly, I always ask the candidate to share with me their most memorable success and their most memorable mistake. A lot of insight can come from those two. Probably as important as anything else is to ask open-ended questions or questions that cannot be answered by yes or no.
Try to relax the person who is interviewing through some open-ended banter at the very beginning. I never interview across my desk. My interviews are always either around a conference table or in a couch and chair setting.
Q. What tools do you use to determine cultural fit?
Get the individual into a social setting. Everybody is on their best behavior through the interview.
If you can get them to relax a little bit, that’s when some of the true story comes through. It doesn’t always work; it’s not 100 percent foolproof. But if you can get that opportunity, at times, you can see if the real person comes through.
Q. How can you ensure a smooth start for a new employee?
One of the industry trainers and gurus I respect is a man by the name of Jack Daly. One of the things he talks about is how crazy we are because we celebrate when an employee resigns. We have a going-away party.
But we don’t do anything like that when a person starts. It’s important to welcome a person on board so the first couple of days are memorable to them in a positive manner.
When someone starts a new job, there is a lot of trepidation. There is a lot of worry as to how I’m going to fit in.
When we have a new employee start, particularly an executive, we have a two-week indoctrination or orientation plan that includes every important touch point within the organization.
We meet in the reception area for a little continental breakfast and introduce the new employee to everybody. We say, ‘We’re glad you’re here.’ You can go as far as having balloons on the back of their chair so when they walk into their office, they have colorful balloons saying, ‘Welcome.’
It really gets them started on the right foot. There is no lack of understanding for what to do the first two weeks. I think that’s a real important step to getting a person launched correctly.
Q. How do you maintain a healthy company culture?
It’s part of our culture to regularly recognize and celebrate. It’s well-known that after a certain level, salary falls way down on the list of motivators for employees. Right up at the top is recognition and the ability to feel like one is making a difference.
You can see the chests swell with pride when they are recognized.
One way for everybody to participate is the use of bulletin boards and write-on walls. There are pictures and success stories and the opportunity for people just walking down the hall, if they have a creative thought on something that is going on in a project, they just write on it.
It has all of the various projects that are going on and the initiatives that are in progress, and people can just come along and write on it. Just say, ‘What about this? Have you thought about this?’ It’s a way for everybody to participate. <<
HOW TO REACH: RSA Corp., (281) 488-7961 or www.rsacorp.com