3 Bold Ideas to Help You Screen and Hire The Right Talent for Your Culture (And weed out employees who don’t fit)

Companies with a defined and strong culture outperform their competitors by as much as 200%. Culture is what positions companies to innovate, deliver an exceptional customer experience and become an employer of choice. Company culture can make or break a company and one of the biggest threats to company culture is employees who are not a cultural fit for the company. Not only can wrong-fit employees threaten company culture, but research has shown that hiring the wrong employee can cost as much as three times the employee’s annual salary in replacement costs. It is imperative that companies defend culture by screening, hiring and retaining the right people. Here are 3 bold ideas to help you protect your culture by finding and keeping the right people.

1. Hire for motivational fit

Most companies screen applicants based on a skill set, experience and core competencies. Screening and hiring in this manner can lead to competent employees who are not a motivational fit. The result could be early burnout for the employee, negative impact on company culture and morale and frustration for managers who may have to deal with negative attitudes. A better way to screen and hire is to seek not only skill competency, but a motivational fit.

In order to excel and be happy, employees must be intrinsically motivated for the position. If you’re hiring a customer service representative, good motivational fit questions might include:

  • What do you like most about being in a customer contact position?
  • What do you want from your next job that you’re not getting from your current job?
  • What part of your current job do you enjoy the most? The least?
  • What are some of the things in a job that motivate you?

Strive to hire not just for skills, but also for motivational fit.

 2. Keep your star employees. Ask everyone else to leave.

When Jack Welch was the head of GE, the bottom 10% of organizational performers were routinely asked to leave. Welch noted that in many cases, the bottom 10% went on to successful careers at companies where they truly belonged and could excel. An on-demand Internet media streaming company sees management’s job as hiring, developing, and cutting smartly so they have star employees at every level. The Keeper Test managers at this company use is: “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving in two months for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep?” Consider keeping and developing your star talent and helping everyone else find better fitting opportunities.

3. Pay employees to quit.

An online retailer famous for its customer culture pays employees to quit. All new hires of the company must attend 4-weeks of Customer Service Culture training. This training is mandatory, not only for customer service employees, but every position in the company. After the first 2-weeks of new hire training, employees are made an unbelievable offer. If they feel that the company is not a good fit for them, they can walk away with their salary for 2-weeks plus get a check for $1,000. Two weeks later, after 4 weeks of training, new hires are offered $2,000 to walk if they don’t feel the job is the best fit for them. A third and final payout if offered 3 weeks after new hire training and employees who don’t think they are in the right place can take a check for $4,000. The company pays employees to quit because they are fiercely protecting their culture. Weeding out employees who don’t fit the culture early on helps maintain the culture. The offer is so high because the company wants to provide an amount that enables the employee to make the right decision and not feel they have to stay in a culture that doesn’t fit just to avert a lengthy period of unemployment.

Paying employees to quit is certainly a bold idea. But can you envision this strategy (at a payout level that makes sense for your organization) saving you frustration and money down the road?

The right employees will support and strengthen your culture, while the wrong employees threaten the culture and cost you money. Defending company culture through rigorous screening, hiring and retention practices takes great effort and the rewards are performance and profits.

Sources cited

Golden, Myra, “Keep the Star Employees. Everyone Else Needs a Generous Severance Package Now.”  2010 Retrieved from: https://myragolden.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/keep-the-stars-the-others-need-a-generous-severance-package-now/

Michelli, Jospeh, A. “The Zappos Experience” McGraw Hill, NY, 2011.

Ren, John, F. Company Culture: What it is and how to get it. Retrieved from: http://management.about.com/cs/generalmanagement/a/companyculture.htm

2012 Customer Service Webinar Schedule Just Announced

Immediately improve your customer experience and build brand value with Myra’s high-impact webinar series

All webinars are recorded and you can purchase the digital recording of past webinars. Access to webinar recordings never expires and you can share the video freely within your organization. Pretty sweet deal, huh?

View our 2012 Customer Service webinar series

“I really do love your webinars, Myra. They are very well done and extremely beneficial. I always find little helpful hints in your information.”

Kristy L. Bolen 
Project Manager 
Carlson Hotels Worldwide

“I just viewed the replay of the webinar you did not long ago with citrix online and I was so enlighten and amazed to hear such outstanding information. I am a marketer and I knew surface level some of the information you shared but you went deep and took it to another level of understanding for me, the light bulbs of ideas and solutions have been bombarding my mind ever since. I simply desired to say thank you.”

 James Stuart

 View our 2012 Customer Service webinar series

You Get What You Celebrate (Customer Service Tip)

One of my clients asked me to deliver a keynote to kick off their Customer Service Week celebration.  Right before I took the stage, the company played audio testimonials from a few very happy and satisfied customers. The testimonials were very descriptive and quite emotional.  Each of the testimonials was about an interaction a customer had with the company’s Customer Service Team. The entire company was in attendance so this was a golden opportunity for Customer Service to shine. People from all over the company got to hear first-hand the impact the customer service team had on customers, satisfaction and the brand perception. Audience members began to smile and nod during the testimonials. At times applause broke out. I got chills as I listened to the customers and watched the audience reaction.

What a great way to kick off Customer Service Week. What a great way to celebrate great customer service. One of my former employees used to always say, “You Get What You Celebrate.” I thought about her as I listened to my client’s testimonials. I knew that each of the employees who were responsible for those heartfelt testimonials had to be filled with pride and that they’d go on to deliver more of that awesome customer service. I also knew their co-workers would be even more motivated to go out and deliver an outstanding customer experience.

You want to improve your customer experience? Why not start by celebrating what is already great about your customer experience? Share testimonial emails and letters on a bulletin board. Forward email testimonials throughout the company. Recognize employees who stand out for delighting customers. Get creative. Think out of the box. Remember, you get what you celebrate.

How Getting Out of the Way Might Lead to a Better Corporate Culture (And Better Photos)

Last Sunday I grabbed my camera and took my son and his friend to the neighborhood lake for a breather from Wii and PlayStation. I let them go barefoot and they ran on at least 100 feet ahead of me. I stayed back to let them do what boys do: explore, play and discover.  I watched as they watched the ducks in complete silence and then I smiled when they suddenly got up and began throwing pebbles into the lake, startling the ducks and sending geese inflight. While the boys explored and played, I took shot after shot of them in action. They all but forget I was even there.

Thirty minutes later I was back home looking at some of the most amazing pictures I have ever taken. Here are 3 of my shots from Sunday afternoon.


Watching the ducks and geese


What made these pictures so amazing to me is that I completely got out of the way and allowed the boys to do what came naturally to them. I didn’t make them stop to smile and pose for shots. I didn’t interrupt their natural curiosity and energy.  I simply stayed back with a watchful eye and tried to capture the exuberance of two young boys at play.

Imagine the difference in my shots if I’d made the boys stop and pose and smile. The pictures would have been far less exciting and the boys would not have enjoyed their playtime nearly as much. Now imagine your culture and customer experience if you gave your employees more freedom, fewer rules, and if you stayed back just a little. 

Isn’t this what we should be doing with our employees? What if we stayed out of their way, had fewer rules, and gave them freedom do what comes naturally? Is it possible that giving our employees room and freedom just might lead to a better customer experience? What if we were there to give our employees support and guidance, but we granted them freedom to be themselves and have fun with customers? (i.e. I kept the boys from danger by not allowing them to go into the deeper waters to get a soccer ball. That’s guidance. Yet, I still let them have fun.) I think it’s possible that staying out of the way, giving freedom and offering support might just make for a more innovative, fun, and profit-generating culture.

Stand back. Get out of the way. Let your employees explore, play and discover.

The Top 3 Things Most Companies Miss When It Comes to Creating a Customer-Focused Culture


Many organizations talk about creating a customer-focused culture, but few companies actually set up and sustain an authentic customer-focused culture. Culture is about more than new customer service training, employee empowerment, buttons and mugs, and advertising. A real and sustained customer culture begins with clarity of purpose, customer-friendly policies, and the right people. Organizations often miss 3 critical aspects of customer culture. Let’s take a look at the 3 critical areas of a customer-focused culture and learn how to adopt and master each of them.

1. Be very clear about the behaviors employees are expected to deliver.

Often employees don’t take care of customers because they fear they’ll do too much or they just don’t know that the company wants them to do whatever it takes to please a client. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is crystal clear in its message to employees. Every Ritz-Carlton employee is empowered to spend up to $2,000 per guest, per day to resolve issues and ensure guest satisfaction.

One of my clients clarifies expectations of employees this way: “Do what’s right for the customer, and you will have done what’s right for the organization.” My client further tells employees that they will never be reprimanded for taking care of a customer.

Be crystal clear on what you expect of employees, and it will be much easier for them to reach your customer-focused targets.

2. Develop customer-friendly policies.

Were your policies written to create the best possible experience for your customer or were they written to settle disputes and protect profits? Most corporate plans look something like this:

“ABC Company will offer you an exchange or refund provided that you return the item within 28 days of purchase and you produce your original ABC register receipt at the time you return the item.”

Creating and sustaining a real customer service culture isn’t possible without having customer policies that help customers have the best possible experience. Every year a popular home shopping network extends its standard 30-day return policy during the holidays so that the clients can buy gifts with confidence. At this company, all purchases from November 1st through December 23rd can be returned for any reason until January 31. Customers can purchase gifts for friends and family confidently knowing that those gifts can be returned well after the holiday season.

Take a look at your policies and ensure they support the best possible experience for your customers.

3. If employees aren’t entirely customer focused, replace them.

The world’s largest online shoe retailer, legendary for customer service excellence, pays employees to quit. All new hires go through an intensive 5-week customer service training. After two weeks in the immersive customer service and culture training, employees are given “The offer.” “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $2,000 bonus.”

The company has found that the people willing to take the offer don’t have the sense of commitment to excellence they are looking for. The company only wants people that fit in with their customer-centric culture.

A customer culture will only happen when all employees have bought into the culture and support it fiercely. Strategically move or remove the wrong people so you can actually focus on delivering the best possible customer experience.

Be crystal clear in your expectations of employee behavior. Ensure your policies actually do give customers the best possible experience. And by all means, have only the right people in charge of servicing your clients. When you do these things, you’ll be on your way to creating a real customer-focused culture.

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Keep the Star Employees. The others need a generous severance package now!

I’m doing research on the NetFlix customer service culture this afternoon for a customer service conference I’m hosting next week. One of my many discoveries about the company’s culture is that they view themselves as a team, not a family, according to one website. And there’s a big difference folks. In a family, you never want to get rid of a member. You (hopefully) believe the best of everyone and you stick it out no matter what. Not so with a professional sports team. You keep the stars and trade or ax the rest.

Netflix works to hire well and sees the coach’s job as hiring, developing, and cutting smartly so they have stars at every level. The Netflix culture is no recreational basketball camp. No, they run their operations like a professional sports team, according to a 128 slide PowerPoint deck that someone posted on SlideShare, “Adequate performance gets a generous severance package.” The enlightening PowerPoint deck explains the Netflix Manager’s Keeper’s test:

 The Keeper Test Managers Use:

“Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving in two months for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?”

They keep the stars and believe “the other people should get a generous severance package now so we can open up a slot and find a star for that role.”

It may sound cut-throat, but it works. In 2009 Netflix was offering a collection of 100,000 titles on DVD and surpassing 10 million subscribers. The company is legendary for customer service and they’ve got their competitors running scared. Take a look at the PowerPoint deck I’m reviewing for my customer service conference. (below)