One of our killer questions, when meeting with prospective clients is, "describe your organisation's culture."

It's a killer because the answer or inability to answer is pivotal to whether they are a business we want to partner. I know that sounds arrogant but let me explain. 

We have been in executive search over 10 years and experience tells us that a 'shrug of the shoulders' response to our question can only signal one thing - trouble ahead.  

Our goal is to find the perfect candidate, make a successful placement and have a happy long term employee within our client's business.  But without clear direction as to the companies culture we are left with only a vague outline of the best candidate to search for and identify. We then have one hand tied behind our back as we engage with candidates, as we are left unable to give them a real 'feel' for the business we are asking them to join. Add to this the correlation we find between an unhappy employee 3 months into their role and lack of defined culture.  As I said, trouble ahead!

I appreciate I have painted a pretty pessimistic view but all is not lost. In fact, often the reason we are in the meeting is because the senior leadership team wants help from our consultancy team as they've understood the need to define their culture, so they can enhance the good and manage the bad.  As our consultancy work shows defining the culture of an organisation is about asking the right questions and taking the time to listen and understand the answers.  

Remember, just because you can't describe it, it doesn't mean it's not there...