darren-nolanderThe mortgage industry – heck, the world – had a crazy 2020. For us, this led to many new hires as business amped up. And we’re still challenged with bringing these new team members into the folds: teaching them about our core values, what makes us tick and, really, what makes us…us.

Company culture isn’t some Kumbaya, feel-good approach created by HR. It’s actually the opposite. Company culture establishes our identity and puts us all on the same page. When that happens, productivity increases, collaboration is seamless, and the team reaches new heights.

Naturally, this time-period added a few more challenges when it comes to onboarding new arrivals. Namely, a work-from-home environment. But this isn’t anything that can’t be overcome.

So let’s get to it.

Ask Away

The easiest way to establish a company culture is to ask your team what’s important to them. How do they view your organization and their roles in it? How do they see the team tackling problems? Celebrating victories? What’s the everyday, mundane atmosphere like? What three words describe your team?

These should all be easy questions to answer, with responses remaining relatively consistent across the board. If your team can’t tell you what it stands for and what the culture is like, that’s your cue to start the conversation and create the culture you aspire to.

Caring is Sharing

It’s always difficult for a new employee to integrate into a team, but it’s even worse if that individual doesn’t know what the team dynamic is like, or doesn’t fit into that dynamic. You can avoid some of this stress by sharing your company culture upfront. Describe your team in the job listing, discuss your culture during the interview. Ask the interviewee about their work style and personality, then explain what your team and its members are like.

The best part about this is it’ll likely weed out any applicants who aren’t a good fit culture-wise. If your team is prone to jokes, group texts and Friday Zoom happy hours, while the applicant says she isn’t a “people person,” this may not be a good pairing. The same is true of work ethic. If your team prides itself on fast responses and you’re waiting a day and a half for an applicant to pick an interview time, this may be your time to move on.

Make it Your Mission

Core values are great, but creating a mission statement can really hone in on your team’s identity. It’s easy to say we’re all “hard workers,” but take this a step further. What makes your team unique and elevates it above the rest? For some, it’s supporting or creating a charitable cause. For others, it’s remaining hyper focused on transparency, integrity or even sustainability.

No one can tell you what your mission is. That’s something you have to set out on. But think about it, give it some time, then make sure this lifestyle is woven into everything your team does and says. There should be no question from here on out that your team stands for X.

Know When to Quit

Part of creating a company culture is experimenting. Part of experimenting is admitting that not everything works. Try a Zoom happy hour and see if it sticks. If not, let it go. There are plenty of ways to remain social and motivated, including trivia hours, charity drives, Words with Friends games, binge-watching threads, shared Google Docs with recipes and workout tips, you name it.

Not every fun-sounding activity will be the right fit for your group. Here, again, is where communication comes in handy. Ask your team what activities they’d like to try, then organize a few of them. If it’s not grabbing hold after a couple rounds, or if people feel it’s distracting, uncomfortable or stressful, move on. No one said you have to stick with every idea you come upon.

Check In Often

This is particularly important with new hires who are still learning the company culture. Group texts, calls and videos are great, but every team member needs a little one-on-one attention now and then. This need can be elevated during the pandemic as team members may be faced with health concerns, homeschooling, the loss of income from a spouse, general anxiety or caretaking of elderly parents.

We all have a lot on our plates. So make sure each team member knows they have access to you, and that you’ll be checking in on them regularly.

Regional Vice President - Southwest

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