Concerns on Culture


I saw a post from James Ellis the other day that got me thinking.

“I love blog posts about improving Glassdoor scores that include “have a better company culture” on their checklist. Oh really? Is that all? I’ll just go take care of that right now…”

Dude has a point. The whole idea of culture is flawed, really.

That culture is something you control, build or worse – “fix.”

That culture isn’t an effect of the people you hire but rather something you say or do. A t-shirt you pass out and a pile of branded crap on your desk Day 1.

When did company culture become such a buzz word that we started to add it to a check list and imply it was something we could do in an afternoon?

The flaw with all of this is that people try to define culture as if it’s one big, bad thing and it’s not. It’s more of a web of teams and micro-cultures that become a sum of their parts. It’s microcosms, not all one thing or another.

Culture is certainly not something you can control.

This is where people nod and 3 minutes later look at me and say, “so how do I change company culture?”

I’m not offering any of this up as a prescription or solution, just things to consider when you’re not in control but want to work on culture. .

  1. You hire better people from the start. Look at soft skills and communication styles, not just resumes and pedigrees. It’s not enough to just know how to do the job any more. You have to be kind, empathetic and whatever other things your company really values to make things run effectively.
  2. Set boundaries. You set boundaries and acceptable standards of behavior that apply to everyone. Every. One. That means your CEO down to the janitor.
  3. Seek out difference. You set the intent in hiring of introducing different ideas into your culture. You seek out different talents and backgrounds. And yes, this means noticing when everyone in the sales department is a white male/female. Then, crazy idea, doing something about it.
  4. Do not hire assholes. Even one jerk can be toxic to your culture. How do you test for that? Ask your front desk staff how they treated them.
  5. Don’t try to create a linear definition of your culture. Accept that every micro-group in your company has their own and let them write the story.
  6. Empower people. Instead of some lump sum culture budget, give it to the micro-groups and let them nurture that in their way.

I’m well aware of the irony in trying to offer solutions to a problem I said you can’t fix but none of these answers are one and done. These are ideas you embed into everyone. You train people to consider culture, not just the work.

You train people to see past the data and into the person and how they can impact happiness in the bubble they join.

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Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. KK: You’re right; those words; ’empower’, ‘company culture’ etc. are meaningless without the right action. Recruiting/Sourcing pros listen to HR folks drone on about the importance of factors and they themselves cannot even define. It’s frustrating. I am grateful for your honesty.