Culture-is-your-operating-systemDo you know the values that are core to the culture of your company? Many companies do. For example, at Whole Foods Market, they genuinely care about the environment. At Zappos.com, they talk about their culture of delivering WOW through service. Amazon is a company that strives to do really big, innovative, groundbreaking things. And, as detailed in a recent NY Times article, Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace, “when you’re shooting for the moon, the nature of the work is really challenging and for some people that doesn’t always work,” said Susan Harker, Amazon’s top recruiter.

Raising the bar at Amazon

When it comes to filling higher-level jobs, Amazon is in no big rush. In fact, it has a team of people called, “bar raisers” who must sign off on potential hires. Bar raisers are skilled evaluators who, while holding full-time jobs at the company in a range of departments, play a crucial role in Amazon’s hiring process.

Amazon believes the program, created in the company’s infancy and honed by founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, screens out cultural misfits. In cultivating the program, Bezos wanted to create a consistent corporate culture. Amazon executives say the approach reduces hiring mistakes by forcing several people to sign off on a candidate.

The tough review process is meant to weed out job hopefuls who aren’t adaptable and may be skilled at only one task. Why is this important?

“You want someone who can adapt to new roles in the company, not just someone who can fill the role that’s vacant,” John Vlastelica, who runs an HR consultancy business, says. “It can be an expensive process because it takes longer, but think of how expensive it is to hire the wrong person.”

However, Roberta Matuson, a market leadership consultant who writes about talent maximization for Forbes.com, recently reported in an article, “The Amazon Debacle,” that leaders at Amazon may be perceiving their culture differently from that of their employees.

The story here is not whether Amazon is a good or bad workplace, but rather, if it’s the right environment for the employee.

John Sullivan, a San Francisco State University management professor, said Amazon’s protracted hiring process is an important signal for applicants that Amazon is a tough place to work, with a lot of pressure.

“If a job seeker feels like they want to run away from the building screaming after the interview, that’s probably a good sign that they don’t belong there,” he says.

Some will thrive and others will fail. So, use your organization’s culture to manage retention. When you hire people who fit with the culture, there is a greater likelihood they will want to stay.