Best Ways to Optimize Your HR Strategies For a Better Company Culture



Truth is, there is a lot to unpack in Human Resources and it’s evolving all the time. There are dozens of reasons to share experiences with the woes of HR. To start, tables around the room took a few minutes to discuss current pain points and why they came to the panel.

Here, we’ve broken down the key takeaways from these HR gurus.

The Panel:

George Karavattuveetil, President of Psyched LLC
Liz Ahrens, Director of Human Resources at Northshore University Health System
Andrew Matt, Director of Operations at Liners Direct
Liz Corcoran, Director of Talent Development at Sprout Social

Moderated by: Deanna Salo of Cray Kaiser, Ltd.

First things first…


Questions circled the room—Should I hire recruiters? How do I attract young people? Where should I post the opening? The panel is diverse in size and industry, giving us a wide variety of methods for how to market both the company and open positions to attract applicants.

  1. Solidify exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate. Leave no loose ends.
  2. Know what makes YOU, as the employer, attractive to the candidate.
  3. If you decide to hire recruiters, make sure you ask questions. How often do they follow up?
  4. Always be recruiting.


Interviews are all about establishing your expectations and culture while you learn about a candidate. Share what makes working for this company rewarding and what purpose this person would serve.

George shared an experience from when he worked at Terminex, a pest control company. It took a specific kind of person to work as an exterminator—able to mix chemicals, good with customer service, and not afraid to get their hands dirty. Out of the candidates to fit this bill, many turned away as soon as they found out they’d be down in crawlspaces and controlling bugs. What did Terminex do? They became much more transparent about the job, and even had a looped video of exterminators working with bugs playing in the lobby!

Let’s look at some best practices for interviews.

  1. Be authentic and transparent. Make sure the candidate knows the culture and expectations.
  2. Involve other people in the conversation. Conduct panel interviews, or have more than one person from the company do a 1-on-1. Discuss together. Liz shares that since Northshore has about 10,000 employees, this keeps them efficient and builds a pipeline.
  3. Distribute responsibility to those who do it best.
  4. Move away from generic. Ask situational/behavioral questions that extract skills or traits from the candidate.
  5. Use online assessments. They are proven to improve the candidate pool.  With larger companies like Sprout Social, cognitive assessments can be helpful in sorting through high volumes of applications. On a personal or cultural level, personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs help understand a person’s strengths. Andrew conducts these typically after the first interview.
  6. It’s always better to wait for the right candidate than to settle for someone good enough.


Do you remember your first day of work? How did the company make you feel welcome and show their appreciation?

George tells us that onboarding is like parenting. You can take the time today, or you can put things off and deal with a much more difficult situation later. Processes are crucial when a new person joins your organization. From training to integrating them with your culture, consider these steps.

  1. Make them feel welcome. Decorate their desk, mail a note before their first day or give them some company gear. Take them out to lunch with the team. Let them know that you are excited to have them.
  2. Have a method and follow it consistently.
  3. Practice touchpoints. Check in and see what is going well or what questions have arisen.
  4. Give them purpose.
  5. Let them know the connections and networks that are available to them through your company.
  6. Make sure their first days match the expectations you laid out in the interviews.
  7. As a leader, walk the floor and be approachable.


When we think about a person fitting into a culture, people will say it’s someone they would be friends with, get lunch with, or be with when they are stuck on an elevator. However, this is limiting because it only accounts for people similar to ourselves. We want people to ‘fit’ into our culture, but don’t we want them to add something new as well?

  1. Be transparent about the people, the office environment and the expectations.
  2. Focus on "culture add" instead of culture fit.
  3. Put a lot of responsibility on the new person’s immediate supervisor/mentor.


Hiring takes resources. You’ve invested so much into a person, but things are falling flat. Maybe this person is one of your best friends or a family member. What do you do?

  1. Assess the situation. Is this a strong candidate that’s just sitting in the wrong seat?
  2. Exhaust your options by giving them every opportunity to succeed.
  3. Prepare—the paperwork, the employees involved, the process.
  4. Make the process organized and consistent to create habits. It makes things easier on the HR folks and on those who are being terminated.
  5. If termination comes as a surprise to the employee, you’ve done something wrong.

Being in a family business creates an extra layer of complexity. The methods above still apply. If there are clear expectations of performance, there should be no surprises regardless of your relationship with the person.

Recognition, Retention and Entanglement

Liz shares one of Sprout Social’s motivations: “We didn’t come this far to come this far.” Retaining employees is all about going the extra mile to show that they are appreciated, counted on and trusted. Entanglement occurs when the employee feels that way about the company in return.

  1. Reward high performers and give them opportunity to grow. Spend less time worrying about low performers.
  2. Establish milestones and encourage employees to reach them.
  3. Understand what motivates each person.
  4. Remind them that you care through pulse checks, even for employees that have been with the company a long time.

Check back to our blog for more event takeaways and other stories.

See upcoming events on our events page.

This post is a recap of CFBC’s Building a Better Culture: Optimize Your HR Strategies on October 11th, 2017.

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This entry was posted in Blog, Past Programs and tagged . Posted on October 12th, 2017 by kerra