Goal: To encourage new recruits to adopt corporate values and practices without making it seem like indoctrination or brainwashing.
This article lays out a seven-step process for strengthening company culture. Corporations tend to err on the side of being culturally permissive because they are frightened of being accused of trying to impede individualism and freedom. They must walk a tough line between creating a corporate culture and allowing, even encouraging, individuality.
Taking corporate socialization out of the closet and acknowledging that corporate socialization is necessary to make organizations more effective. People are too sensitive to criticism that this is brainwashing, but frankly, the seven steps read like a “How To” book for forming cults. Here goes:
Grill the applicant during the interview to encourage him/her to take himself out of the running if the cultural fit is not right. Don’t sugarcoat anything; be honest about the job/culture in hopes that candidates who don’t fit (whether or not they are strong for other reasons) will pull themselves out of the recruiting process. Example: Morgan Stanley takes the spouses of candidates out to dinner to warn them about the hellacious hours their spouse will be working.
Select jobs/experiences for the new hire that will make him/her question his prior behavior, beliefs, and values (sounds like psychological manipulation to me). By lessening the recruit’s comfort with himself, the company hopes to promote openness toward its own norms and values.
Promote from within. If all new recruits have to start in the same place they will feel the pressure to prove themselves. In addition, senior executives will know the business and culture well by the time they get to the top.
Performance should be continually measured and results rewarded. Reward systems should be comprehensive and consistent. Example: P&G measures managers on factors it deems critical to brand success: building volume, building profit, and conducting planned change.
Publicize the company’s mission and values so that it becomes a rallying call. Once employees identify with the company’s rallying call, they will be more willing to make personal sacrifices for the job. Example: Delta’s “family feeling” value encouraged older employees to volunteer to reduce their hours to avoid laying off younger workers.
Reinforce company folklore to reaffirm the importance of the firm’s culture. Example: Bell System folklore is about the extreme sacrifices employees have made to keep the phone system up and running during emergencies.
Supply promising employees with role models who embody the company culture. Example: the best P&G brand managers exhibit extraordinary consistency in several traits: they’re all analytical, energetic, and adept at motivating others.
Many companies do a few of these things, but very few manage all of them well. It is the consistency across all seven steps of the corporate socialization process that results in a strongly cohesive culture that endures.