Why 'Citizenship’ and Teamwork Are Key Employee Attributes

November 3, 2016

Why 'Citizenship’ and Teamwork Are Key Employee Attributes

One of the most important functions of any business is the hiring of talent. Recruiting (and retaining) skilled, values-aligned leaders and team members is the lifeblood of your organization.


HR plays a huge role in hiring. Your expertise in people systems, personnel practices, and interviewing helps ensure you do everything possible to bring in the right players for the right role.


And, you put your desired culture at risk every time you hire someone. You put your desired culture at even greater risk every time you hire a leader, someone with responsibility for guiding the work of others.


The challenge? In many organizations around the globe, HR is typically asked to hire people based on only half of the necessary criteria: knowledge and skills. The other vitally important criteria? Citizenship and teamwork.


Knowledge and skills are of course of critical importance to your organization. Skills help players deliver top quality products and services to your customers. Skills help players meet or exceed performance expectations. Exceeding performance expectations helps wow your customers and deliver desired results, including profits. Those are all very good things.


However, skills alone don’t make for a great team member or team leader. You need people that treat others with trust, respect, and dignity—in every interaction—in both smooth and turbulent times.


We know that “hoping" people treat each other kindly isn’t a sustainable strategy. If the only thing we measure, monitor, and reward in our companies is performance, people typically behave selfishly (and unkindly) to ensure they win and others lose. Creating a purposeful, positive, productive work culture requires not only consistent performance but cooperative, engaging relationships across your organization.


HR can’t hire for values—cooperation and teamwork—unless the organization has formalized those values. You can educate your company’s senior leaders about making values as important as results. That requires values to be as measurable as results, meaning they must be defined in observable, tangible, behavioral terms.


Telling people to “treat customers well” is far too vague. If you don’t specify exactly what you mean by a value, your people will be left to “figure it out on their own.” That’s not going to create consistent respectful treatment.


For example, one client defined their “service excellence” value with these behaviors, which outline exactly how everyone in the company is expected to demonstrate that value:


  • I initiate friendly hospitality by promptly and enthusiastically smiling and acknowledging everyone that comes within 10 feet of me.
  • I passionately exceed customers’ expectations by offering solutions to their needs.
  • I ensure each customer is assisted in finding requested items.


These behaviors do not leave the company’s “service excellence” value to chance. A “good job” is clearly specified. And, at the end of the week, a leader could easily rate the degree to which the employee modeled the three behaviors, which makes this value measurable.


You don’t need to do a formal rating of values alignment each week, but you do need to do so twice a year. You track performance frequently, which is good. This twice yearly values assessment helps ensure accountability for desired valued behaviors.


I counsel organizations to have no more than four values with no more than four behaviors for each value. That keeps the list of “citizenship and teamwork” valued behaviors short enough to follow and easy to remember.


Only with explicitly defined valued behaviors can HR hire for those behaviors. Once your organization has defined its desired culture (with an organizational constitution, which includes your servant purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals) and has aligned behaviors to that desired culture (all leaders and team members demonstrate your valued behaviors), then HR can embed those values and behaviors into your hiring process.


You share your company’s values and behaviors with all candidates. Recruitment for any role emphasizes your company’s unique culture and the requirement for all players to demonstrate your valued behaviors. More than half of your interview questions engage candidates in discussions about the company’s values in action, quandaries they might face, how to address conflicts, and so forth.


Candidates would interview with a cross-functional panel of current team members to let them gauge the candidate’s culture fit; department leaders would participate in interviews to enable them to assess the candidate’s culture fit.


After hiring, everyone completes a thorough orientation to ensure they understand their specific performance expectations and values standards, an overview of the values survey process, how performance is monitored, etc.


These five best practices help ensure every new hire fully understands and commits to the performance and values demands of their role.


The benefits of a purposeful, positive, productive culture are impressive. My culture clients enjoy 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service, and 35 percent gains in results and profits, all within 18 months of implementing their organizational constitution.


Don’t hire blindfolded. Get clarity on the values and behaviors needed for great citizenship and great performance—then hire for both.


The Authors: 

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading high-performing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. He also serves as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Chris is one of Inc. magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and was a featured presenter at SXSW 2015.

Chris is the author of the Amazon bestseller The Culture Engine, the bestseller Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, and five other books. Chris's blog, podcasts, research, and videos can be found at Driving Results Through Culture. Thousands of followers enjoy his daily quotes on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration on Twitter at @scedmonds.