Why Candidates and Organisations Need to Take Culture Seriously with Chelsea Foxwell

In a recent episode of our podcast, we were joined by Chelsea Foxwell who is the Head of People at Uptake Strategies, a healthcare consultancy whose clients are amongst the top twenty pharma brands. Uptake Strategies help clients with their brand launch, their strategy and planning, their capability development, and their internal teams; all aimed at enabling clients to make a bigger impact on patients’ lives.  

She tells us about the importance of company culture for both a candidate’s and an organisation’s perspective and shares some useful tips for candidates looking to identify how they can assess their cultural fit with a company from the outside.  

What’s your perspective on the importance of culture and values for attracting and retaining talent?  

Both are incredibly important for retaining and attracting talent. Candidates ought to spend more time exploring the culture of an organisation before they join, and organisations should spend more time explaining their company culture and the ways in which they work.  

I would encourage anyone who’s interviewing to find out how the company is testing their cultural fit. It’s not necessarily a reason not to hire someone, but it can make a candidate’s onboarding and their chances of success more challenging if some of their behaviours aren’t aligned with the company culture.  

In the past, I had a member of my time tell me they felt like an “organ rejection,” they felt so different to the culture of the company that they felt as though they were being rejected every day. Eventually, they left, after eighteen months. So, I think it’s probably one of the important factors when considering talent retention.  

I think the key thing many leaders don’t think about is the shadow of a strong culture. In one of my organizations, we had a huge culture of family orientation, but it got to the point where people didn’t challenge each other because they were afraid of breaking up ‘the family.’ So, there is a dark side in the shadow system of the strongest cultures, and I think it’s important for people to understand both sides. 

What can a candidate do to assess the culture of a business from the outside? 

It’s not easy. When I coach people for interviews, I ask them questions like “what does success look like to you in three years’ time?” and “what happens if you make a mistake?” The answers they give tend to give an indication as to what they value and their mindset when it comes to learning and failure.   

In turn, I’d encourage candidates to ask recruiters those sorts of questions too; “what’s the company’s response when things go wrong?”, “what happens when things go well?”, “how will they assess my performance?” This way they can assess what the team relationships are like, whether there’s a growth mindset or not, and they’re questions I rarely hear from candidates. Candidates need to spend more time thinking about culture, and less time thinking about the technical aspects of the job; they wouldn’t be in the room if they hadn’t already demonstrated they could do those.  

What sorts of questions do you ask candidates during interviews to ensure the company maintains its culture of kindness as it grows?  

We ask them quite pointedly; “what are the three qualities that you value in other people?”, we ask them to “give us an example of when they’ve helped somebody else succeed in their role,” we ask them to describe a time when they gave difficult feedback to a colleague, a client, or somebody who works for them; we ask them about a time when they made a mistake, and what they learned from it. Also, questions about the future and their aspirations; what their perfect job and perfect environment looks like.  

Every question is aimed at helping us identity what type of environment they’re likely to succeed in, how they take and give feedback, because humility is a big part of who we are; there’s no space here for individual heroes. Ultimately, these questions help us identify whether they’re likely to flourish at Uptake Strategies.  

Click here to listen to the full episode.  

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

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