Company Culture – How building a team is more than just skills matching

Let’s talk about company culture – what it means, how you can build it for your company, share the culture deck with the team and, most importantly, how to use it in the team building process. 

So, what is a company culture?

Company culture is the unique combination of core values that a company embraces and that should be the answer to the following question asked by team members: “Who are we as PEOPLE?”. 

The core value list can contain anywhere between 5 and 12 items but this is not set in stone and each team can decide what is relevant for them. It is important to mention that these core values are not 100% who the team is today but they are 100% who the team strives to become.

Although some may think that the company culture is something that just comes into existence without someone taking ownership of creating it, this is not really accurate. 

Let me share an example of a process an organization can use for building their company culture – this is just one out of many other ways to do it. 

Here are the steps I recommend: 

  1. Decide if the team is too large to involve everyone in the process as it will probably take 30-60 minutes for a 7-10 people team and more for a larger team
  2. If your team is larger than 10 people, involve only leadership team to begin with
  3. Ask each person to come up with 3 to 7 core values they believe to be key for the team – all their suggestions will be written down on a virtual whiteboard that everyone can look at during the meeting
  4. Do a quick review of the suggestions and remove duplicates as well as combine the core values which have the same meaning
  5. Go through each core value still standing and have everyone vote for either keeping it or removing it
  6. Repeat the voting process as many times as necessary until you are left with 5 to 12 core values. 

If you’re thinking this is it – 6 steps and you have a company culture, let me tell you that it’s just the beginning!

Once you have the core values defined it is time to work on the culture deck. The reason for documenting this is because it makes it very easy to share it with the team as well as candidates interviewing for open positions with the company.

What’s a culture deck?

The culture deck should list all core values of the organization with a few explanations and details on what each means for your team. It also contains your mission as a company. 

While some or all core values may seem clear, words are oftentimes misunderstood, especially in a multicultural environment. So make sure you eliminate all confusions and bring clarity for everyone on this matter. 

Having a culture deck, which can easily take the form of a slide deck you can ensure everyone in the company is on the same page and also that they remain on the same page.

Should you hire based on company culture? Yes!

We can already agree that the core values actually represent who we are as people.

Taking this further into the hiring process, this translates into looking for candidates that have the same mix of values as the company has.

You might be thinking “Yes, Cristiana! But this is easier said than done!”, I know. But let me show you how you can create a very simple process and list of questions you can reuse for all interviews: 

  1. Take each core value one by one and think about someone in your organization who is a great example – what is the person doing consistently that made you think about her / him, what are some specific scenarios you can remember with this teammate?
  2. Prepare a few scenario questions (2-3) starting from your experience with your colleague being a great culture fit, but also keep them a bit generic, so you can use them with candidates. 


How would you handle a situation where you have an argument with your manager, related to an important matter for the company, on which you have different views?


Can you give me an example of a project you were responsible for and you are very proud of completing?

  1. Go into the interview prepared with questions for each core value and at the same time keep an open mind and be flexible in case none of the questions fit and you need to improvise.
  2. During the interviews, note down candidates’ replies. The reason for this is that you will for sure forget all details, especially if you talk to several candidates per day or per week. In the end, if it comes down to 2-3 shortlisted candidates, it is always good to go back to your notes and read them from a different, new perspective.
  3. Grade the candidates on a scale from 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 on each core value; the grade is not given for their ability to tell a story or the complexity of their reply, but it is purely a way to assess how fit they are for your company culture
  4. Decide internally with relevant parties what is the minimum acceptable average grade for culture assessment – I generally recommend 80% or more. At the same time, there may be core values you decide are a MUST to be embraced 100% by all team members so those will represent an eliminatory criteria if not met by candidates

Keep in mind that people’s values might change over time, so once a new team member has joined the company, make sure you perform periodical culture assessments to ensure they maintain their great culture fit over time. 

Based on my experience, I suggest the following approach: 

  • Monthly or quarterly assessments conducted by management on all team members and grading them against the same core values 
  • Grade team members based on their actions and behavior, not on interviews and questions
  • Agree on a baseline or minimum score at management level – for each team member falling below the score during an assessment, several actions can be taken – such as looking in more detail at what caused the issue, was it an isolated issue or a recurring one, is it something that can be fixed and is the team member open to fix it etc
  • Keep track of the team members with recurring issues that stand out, because at some point, it may be time to let some of them go if they are not fitting the company culture anymore. As difficult as this may be it is actually more painful for both parties if the situation is prolonged for too long.

Find out where each personality fits

Part of building a strong team is also understanding each team member’s personality and how it fits with the personalities of others she or he would have to work with on a daily basis. 

There are a lot of personality tests that could be used for this purpose, but my favorite is the 16 personalities test, based on Carl Jung and Myers-Briggs type theory. 

The 16 personalities test gives a very clear explanation of the 4 dimensions of each personality and, once you spend some time to understand how each one affects an individual, it is actually quite easy to create realistic expectations in terms or personality traits or even guess the personality of certain people you interact with.

A personality test doesn’t have right or wrong results and no personality is better than the other, but it should be considered a valuable tool for motivating and leading a new team member using a style which is closer to their expectation.

This is why, sending a personality test to candidates should be one of the first steps during the team building process. 

I can tell you that there are certain roles where people with specific personalities tend to perform better and you should take this into account during the hiring process. 

For example extroverts will probably not feel comfortable in a role where they need to work in isolation, without too much interaction with the team or in silent environments. 

Although personality should be looked at in the context of cultural background as well as experience and education, there is a lot of value in paying attention to who are your teammates from a personality standpoint as well. 

Diversity from a personality perspective is very healthy for companies and it can support them to perform better in situations such as making a decision or adapting to a new market situation. 

The reason for this is that different personalities giving feedback on the same issue fosters constructive discussions and in the end supports for a well rounded conclusion. 

Knowing at all times who you are interacting with from a personality perspective can reduce or eliminate conflicts as well as improve communication between team members. 

In the end this leads to increased work satisfaction for everyone and more efficiency for the company.

I recommend sharing everyone’s personality test results with the team and making them aware of the benefits of knowing who their colleagues are.

How to match the strengths with the job

Another step in building a team, whether this is by hiring a new resource or with internal resources, is looking at candidates’ strengths and motivation. 

While this is not a flexible process, similar to the personality test I told you about before, it could still be a very good indicator whether or not an individual is a good match for a particular team or role. 

One of the best tests that can support you with this is the DISC profile.

There are a lot of DISC test versions to choose from, however I prefer the one I found on Tony Robbins website because the results are very detailed and well explained. 

This particular assessment offers a detailed overview on a person’s strengths by looking at 4 dimensions – Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientious – and what I find even more valuable is a comparison between the natural and adapted style of the individual.

What this means is that the result offers an insight into the gap between how a person really is and how they are trying to look in front of others.

In my experience, having to deal with a situation which creates pressure in the sense that you constantly have to adapt your natural style, can create conflicts and situations that are difficult to manage, in time. 

For example a person whose natural style is to dominate and control every decision, may find it very difficult to adapt her style to always being in agreement and looking for consensus. It won’t be long until these differences will inevitably create frustrations which will be reflected in the performance of those required to act from an uncomfortable place.

The second part of this test is focused on determining the motivating factors for each individual and this is essential in understanding if the expectations of the candidate are likely to be met by the role and the company. 

This is also a way to avoid asking too many cliché questions during the interview, such as what motivates you to do a good job and save that time for more scenario based questions which oftentimes can provide more value. Not to mention that most candidates will not share what truly motivates them if they believe that could decrease their chances to be selected. 

For this step there are many other similar tests that can be used and one of them is Kolbe for example. I think the best is to test what works best for you and your organization.

What does an Enneagram test tell you?

Another personality test I recommend is called the Enneagram test. 

In most cases this is not going to provide a lot of new information on top of the other tests I mentioned, but it can be a useful tool to reconfirm what you already found out about our future team members. 

What I like about the Enneagram test is the fact that it presents in a very simple, easy to digest manner, the 3 dominant personality traits. I find results less complex than those provided by 16 personalities test, for example, and this is why I suggest using it in parallel with other tests. 

At the same time, if the Enneagram test and the other tests used are providing conflicting information it would be recommended to further investigate the issue and see where this is coming from and if it could represent a potential red flag for the team you are working on building.

The Enneagram test is the last resource I wanted to share with you, that can support in finding the right people for your team, the ones who are a match for both their job position, but also for your company culture.

Again, these are just a few resources that I recommend using, based on my experience and after trying many others, but please feel free to experiment with other versions of the same tests or other tests altogether. 

The important aspect to mention here is that it is less important how many tests and which are the tests used for candidates and team members.

What is crucial is that test results are interpreted against specific roles, company culture and expectations. 

This is altogether a very complex process and it is, in most cases, one where there are no definite right or wrong answers. 

When building a team I find it helpful to remind myself of the company culture and refocusing my efforts to find those team members who are not just super skilled and talented but also the best fit for who we are as people, and I recommend you to get this reminder for yourself from time to time.

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