Talking About Culture is the Ultimate Weapon in the War for Talent

Iapetus CEO and Founder Craig Taylor Went Deep into the Value of Culture on a Recent “Inspire Podcast” Episode

A Discussion With Craig Taylor About Cultural Fit, Diversity of Thought and Feeling Valued

In this episode, the Humphrey Group’s Bart Egnal speaks with Craig Taylor, Founder and CEO of Iapetus Holdings, about what it takes to attract and retain employees in this incredibly tight labor market. In sharing his personal leadership journey, Craig talks about how today it’s harder than ever to compete for talent and then keep people engaged. His solution: Culture. Define it. Commit to it. Communicate it. Engage the whole organization in the conversation. Craig’s insights and tips are invaluable for anyone who wants to forge a deeper connection between people and the organizations they work for.

Cultural Fit and Communication
The two biggest things you and your leadership team have intentionally done to drive growth and retention:
The biggest thing, without a question, has been a focus on culture. Absolutely, that has been really the driving thing. Part of that is communication. We did not, until about two years ago—the first company was started in 2006—up to two years ago, we didn’t have a communications officer, we didn’t have a marketing officer, and those things have a huge impact on how people feel internally. The focus on culture has had such a dramatic effect on every part of the organization, from the profitability to the happiness of people to how well we work together, and it was really a matter of cultural fit.

Hiring Philosophy
Tangibly, first of all, from a hiring perspective, we stopped hiring someone solely because that person could generate more revenue or profit, now we’ve shifted to whether this person will work collaboratively in a positive manner. Because things are not always smooth. There are times when tough things are happening, the pandemic for example. Nobody could predict. A focus on cultural fit on a hiring level has given us the opportunity to be working with [the right] people.

A Take on Diversity
Diversity is a huge part of our culture, but it’s not just diversity of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender: it’s a diversity of mindset. We want people that have different perspectives. And opening that up—transparency—and checking your ego at the door, everyone coming in and their voice being heard and listened to. So many decisions are made by committees. We have a very flat organization.

We have 30-40 CEOs: Everyone in their position is the CEO of what they’re doing. I can’t do their job. I wouldn’t know how to do their job. They are without question the CEO in what they’re doing. They are the expert there. Empowering people in that way, letting them know that their voice is heard and valued and that we will all discuss things by committee. Most importantly, going back to the cultural fit, hiring from that perspective. The reality is if you don’t culturally fit with someone, no matter how hard you try, they won’t feel that you’re listening, even if you are.

The Approach to Job Interviews
An interview process is a two-way street. The employee should be interviewing the employer just as much as the employer is interviewing the employee. We’re going to have to work together. We’ll effectively be spending 30% of our lives together! We need to know that we want to be working and being around these people. It’s a real relationship. Focusing on that has really made a drastic difference and is where I saw the most immediate acceleration.

What Would You Be Asking People?
Are you happy? What would it take to hire you away? What would you like to see?
The hardest thing is to get people to a place where they feel safe that they can speak openly. The people that work for you speak to you in a transparent way, that really helps: talking to people openly. What do you think would make us a stronger organization? You will quickly start to hear trends. One of the things that would make our people happier is more robust health benefits. A lot of smaller companies struggle with this. We try to offset that with performance bonuses and 401 contributions. We have a very open conversation. Here are the things we can do and things we can’t do and why.

Key Takeaways:
1- It’s not about money
2- Creating a safe space
3- Be willing to take the punches
It’s about the willingness to have the conversation and say why we can’t do “that” right now.

Feeling Listened to and Valued
We stand firmly behind cultural fit. At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself, I “Do I fit in over at ___?” Every day that you go to work you don’t want to feel like you don’t matter, like you don’t have value. I feel like more than ever, people want to feel a part of something. 

At an organization like ours, you do matter! Your voice is listened to, and you do matter. It is a significant effect and impact on our company, our client, and our culture when someone leaves it or when we bring someone in. Letting people know that. When they really understand that and value that, then those are the people who join and those are the people that sign and those are the people that you want.

You end up attracting what works for you. Isn’t that we all want? If you can put yourself in a place where that person comes into the organization based on what they’ve seen and felt, based on what works for them, you’re going to have that person for five to ten years. You know how to work with one another. And there is trust. And they feel safe to speak. It is a team effort. The stronger that bond is, the more comfortable people are, and the more success you’re going to have.

Episode edited for brevity and clarity.

To listen, visit The Humphrey Group.

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