While culture is something all team members help grow and participate in within a solid organization, it should be a key part of the hiring process as well to make sure that bad cultural fits can’t disrupt team spirit and cause good people to leave.
This was one of the key points Chris Sullens, CEO at CentralReach, recently made on an episode of The BragWorthy Culture podcast. CentralReach provides end-to-end software that supports the delivery of applied behavior analysis and related therapies for autism and IDD care at home, school, and work. This software can help people achieve better outcomes, live more independent lives, and unlock their potential.
In 2012, Charlotte Fudge was a practicing Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who was drowning in manual work like paper billing, clinical data collection, and clinical reporting. She looked in the marketplace and couldn’t find a software solution to help her save time and improve client outcomes.
So, like so many entrepreneurs before her, she built her own solution. The outcome eventually became CentralReach, which allowed her and so many other BCBAs to spend more time with clients. She eventually sold the company (and is still a CentralReach customer herself).
Chris had been CEO at another technology company for over a decade and was chosen to come in as CentralReach’s CEO in 2018. He saw where the company had already gone and had a sense of where it could go and was excited about the opportunities.
One of the first things that Chris did when he arrived was meet the top-level leaders to learn more about how the company had grown in the way it did at the speed that it did; it had the success it did for a reason.
Rather than putting himself forward as the guy who was going to come in and make sweeping changes, Chris focused on listening and showing appreciation for the work that had been done before. He asked the leaders what they were doing, why they were doing things a certain way, and why things had been successful. He also asked them what they thought should be done differently to improve.
In this way, Chris not only gained a better understanding of the technology, but also put himself in a position to inspire those leaders to follow him on the journey to take the company to the next level. He was able to take those conversations and weave together a company narrative for growth that included many voices, not just his own.
At the same time, Chris made some hires early on that he then had to quickly exit because they lacked an attitude of appreciation and cooperation. Instead, they acted as if the world started when they walked through the door: Chris notes that if you don’t let those people go right away, they can do real damage to morale and culture.
Chris says that such employees often display two sides: a flattering side to their superiors that makes them easy to manage, but a terrorizing one to their reporting team members. These bad actors lack humility and often play the blame game when something goes wrong.
Management and Hiring
One way to ensure that bad hires don’t make it into the company in the first place is for management to be involved in the hiring process.
Chris says that management often believes that involvement in work and tasks is fine but that it’s better to let the team handle interviews. But his own experience and research have shown that bad cultural fits can get through when management is not involved in hiring, and this can lead to problems.
When Chris is part of the interview process, potential hires often tell him that despite having worked at other companies for many years, they never met the CEO. Meeting him during the hiring process really makes an impact and has been important during the company’s growth from about 80 employees when Chris started to almost 400.
During interviews, Chris can shine a spotlight on the company culture and demonstrate that CentralReach isn’t just mouthing values posted on a wall somewhere but living them through the interactions of the entire staff with each other and customers.
A Yellow Light in Interviewing
In the interview process, Chris sometimes notes what he calls a “yellow light;” something that gives him pause, which is a lack of curiosity.
Chris knows that job interviews can be tiring and that some people don’t ask every question they might be pondering because they’re nervous. But if a candidate has no questions at all when Chris asks if they have any, it might be a problem.
If it’s not nervousness, it might indicate a lack of curiosity about the culture of the company. And if candidates aren’t interested in the how and why of the company, they are probably more focused on the what and when of the paycheck, which isn’t the sort of player Chris wants on his team.
Diversity and Inclusion
As pressure mounts for companies to take stances on public issues, Chris finds it’s important to make sure that such issues get discussed internally, even if those issues are challenging to talk about. By creating awareness of and appreciation for different views, team members are also reminded that they serve a neurodiverse customer base, and to always act with empathy when offering those customers solutions.
To further heighten awareness, CentralReach brings in outside speakers. For example, recently a Black woman who is on the spectrum and a BCBA came in to share her story and the challenges she has faced. Diverse speakers help team members get greater context for the work they do every day.
A Final Thought
There’s so much more that Chris shared (make sure to listen to the episode if you’d like to learn more) but he left us with a reminder that culture is (and should be) a living, breathing organism that evolves over time.
It’s never done, or “handled,” or over.
Leaders in organizations need to do whatever they can to help nurture, feed, and grow culture. As Chris noted, that includes being part of the interview process before team members are hired, listening to them when they are hired, and showing appreciation for what they do
Check Out the Full Episode
Looking to build your own BragWorthy Culture? Fringe can help. Fringe is the number one lifestyle benefits marketplace. Give your people the power of choice and save a ton of administrative headaches by consolidating existing vendors and programs into a simple, automated platform. Talk to our team to get started.