The Role of Hiring in Shaping Culture

By Marty Parker

Understanding the values and behaviours that define your corporate culture is just one piece of the puzzle. Hiring and casting teams so that individuals not only fit the existing culture but also add to it is key – our people don’t just shape culture, they shape what culture does, which is drive performance.

I recently sat down with Lori Grant of Klick Health to talk about how that organization approaches hiring, and how their people-first approach is core to that organization’s success.

The interview has been edited for length, but you can listen to the full conversation here.

Marty Parker:
As a leader, how do you approach corporate culture and what helped shape your approach?

Lori Grant:
So at its very core, Marty, organizations are really just a collection of people and principles. And when you really think about that, and you think about the principles that you put in place… and you think about the behaviors that you are looking for from your organization and from the people that you bring into it… it creates this amazing virtuous cycle. And when we think about it, we think about it through this lens. If we hire and cast our teams and take all the care and attention there, then you are actually creating your culture at the very foundation.

And so hiring and casting our teams for success is one of the most important things that we do as leaders….And then once you hire amazing people, we onboard them incredibly well. And once we onboard them into the company – what we do, how we want to work together, how we want to show up together – you actually cast and create these amazing, happy teams.

What happens when you have happy teams and people who want to work together and want to lean in on each other and want to make each other be better and more successful, they project that onto our clients. And what happens with clients? You have happy teams, you have happy clients because you’re bringing them amazing solutions and they can feel the energy from your team and how you want to work together. And what happens when you have happy clients? They reward you with business.

And so for us, it’s about creating that happy team environment that creates happy clients who then reward us by giving us their business. And it creates this virtuous cycle. And that is exactly how we approach the organization and really employ the people first core principle.

Marty Parker:
I’d love to hear a little bit more about some of the tools and the programs you have in place to support [your] people focused culture.

Lori Grant:
Absolutely. So people first and wow, what a year to put your principles and values into action. I want to go backwards to come forwards, if I might, on that question.

So here I am, a new CEO for a mere three months, and a global pandemic hits. And as a CEO, you have a tremendous responsibility to your organization to set the tone and lead the team through what are going to be, or potentially going to be some very tough times. And the very first lens through which we looked at what were we going to do in order to hit this challenge head-on was a people first lens. And let’s not forget, as leaders, all of us, there was no one to call to say, “Hey, what was your playbook for when this occurred in your organization.” There was no peer to ask or to have led you because we all faced a global pandemic for the very first time in our careers.

And so through that people first lens, the very first thing that we did was ask everyone to work from home… We used data science as our guide. We’re scientists. We have a very strong data science team, and they helped us with the mapping and modeling of what this virus may do. And remember we work in healthcare. So we’re very familiar with what a virus is and what has the potential to do. And our modeling showed very early that this was going to do exactly what it did. And so we made the decision very early. And as a leader, I often get asked now, “Was that a tough decision?” And the answer was “No, not at all,” because it is people first, and there’s nothing more important than the safety of your team and the safety of their families. And by extension, the safety of our clients and their families.

So that’s one of the first things you can do is live your principles and make them not just words on a piece of paper, but live your principles. But when we extend that out to this people-focused culture, it is about how we hire and the experience that we create. We often talk about the experience advantage that we create for our clients, but also for our teams.

It is about how you onboard your team, being mindful, putting an actual program in place, not just a folder on a desk or not just a peer buddy, but an actual program that someone will follow to onboard into your organization… We also have mentorship programs in place, mentorship programs for parents, mentorship programs for women, for people of color, for diversity, equity and inclusion. We have… programs in place for the consciously curious. So whether that’s our monthly breakfast meeting, where we’re sharing work across the organization, that’s a weekly standup call where myself and some of the other leaders are speaking to the organization transparently and honestly, about where we are with the COVID situation and what our perspective is on the company.

There’s so many things, but it really does come down to, it’s not the trappings. And if the last year has taught us anything, it is that, you either had a strong culture coming into COVID where you had to transition to meetings like this, where we’re on Zoom, or you didn’t. And that got amplified in this situation. And frankly, I couldn’t be prouder of the amplification at Klick because there really is something different at Klick, and culture is really nothing more than how you make people feel every single day.

Marty Parker:
I want to ask Lori, about the principle, outcomes over optics. What does that mean and how has that truly shaped your culture to what it is today?

Lori Grant:
So when you think about outcomes, you’re thinking about the long-term, you’re thinking about playing the long game, and you’re thinking about success at the very essence. You start asking yourself the questions, what problem are we really solving and what does success look like when we get there? And if you can answer those questions, then you are playing outcomes over optics. And it goes beyond just your people and your clients, it goes outside into the broader world.

Again, I’ll lean in on COVID as the most recent example, an amplified example. When COVID hit, the first thing we did was to make sure we got all of our people home and safe. The second thing we did was start to look broader at how we could help the world deal with some of the immediate term issues, like getting masks. And so we donated 400,000 KN95 masks to healthcare providers. We actually constructed (based on a model used in Taiwan) intubation boxes for hospital and sourced materials that constructed them, literally in the garages of some people to get ourselves up and running to test the concept, which helps just a tremendous amount of people when they needed it most. And then we wrote protocols, we wrote a lot of thought leadership, and then we shared it. So we put together a website called covid.Klick.com, where we are openly and transparently sharing our knowledge and our experiences so that others can learn from them. We’re in a global pandemic, we’re in it together. Now is not the time to hold onto information. Now is the time to share it so that all can benefit. And that is what outcomes over optics looks like.

Marty Parker:
Let’s look ahead Lori, three, four or five years, whatever, what do you see as critical to aligning your people at Klick to your culture and to sustaining what has been an incredible high-performance culture?

Lori Grant:
Look, it’s actually quite simple. There’s nothing more to it than how you hire and how you cast your teams. And so if you really think about your hiring protocols and you really think about who is interviewing, how you’re interviewing, you’re not just filling a role, you’re filling a spot in your culture.

When you think about it through that lens, of how you enhance that culture through every single person that you add to the team, then you will create a high performance culture.  If you think about your hiring as something that someone else takes care of, then you’re not thinking about your culture through that lens, because every single person contributes to an amazing high performance culture. So it will all has been and always will be how we respond and create a high-performance culture.