culture

Workplace Culture: It's a Reflection of Who You Are

By Kristen Harris 

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (or lunch). 

This relatively common quote is often attributed to management guru, Peter Drucker, although it’s not really clear who actually said it. Really, it doesn’t matter who said it first, now people say it all the time. 

But what does it really mean?
What IS culture? 
And why is it so important?

While there are plenty, here is my definition of workplace culture: the set of norms your company and employees live by, otherwise known as “what happens when no one is looking”.

Culture is the standard of how things are done, how people treat customers and each other, the flow and pace of work. It’s all of the tiny (maybe seemingly insignificant) details that all add up to “this is how we do it here”. Culture is not what you do, it’s how you do it.

Every company and workplace has a culture, whether it’s been created intentionally or just happened over time. Cultures can be good, feel good, do good. Or they can be bad, feel bad, turn out bad. And, of course, there’s a lot of grey area in-between. 

In most cases, “good” or “bad” may be a judgment call of whether it feels right to you. If you like a laid-back vibe then a hard-charging, competitive culture won’t feel good. And, vice versa. Each culture may be right for that business, but rest assured that they are all different. Culture is a big part of what differentiates one business from another in the same industry.

Think about your favorite coffee shop. Is it a single location, down a side street, where only locals go? Or is it ultra-hip, in a trendy area, a place to network and be seen? Or is it a ubiquitous chain, found on every corner, consistent and easy to find? Each of these shops has its own culture–from the decor and how you’re greeted to what is offered, how it’s made and delivered to you. The way you feel receiving that coffee shop’s product and service is a reflection of their culture. And you probably feel more at home in one over the other. 

Culture reflects company values–what’s important to the people working there–and influences every part of your interaction. Which makes us feel more at home in one place over another.

At Portfolio Creative our culture has always been very important. Catherine and I set out to create the type of company where we’d want to work; we figured if it’s the kind of place we want to be, then our clients, talent and team members would too.

Here’s a taste of our culture:

  • Fun – If we’re not having fun then we’re not doing it right! There’s a lot of laughter throughout the workday, even in meetings (yes, we’ve proven even meetings can be fun).

  • Friendly – We smile, say “Hi”, ask how you’re doing and actually listen to your answer. We act nice because we are nice.

  • Caring – We genuinely like each other, our clients, our talent, and all the other people we get to work with. When you really care, it shows.

  • Helpful – It’s our job to help people; we’re problem-solvers for our clients, talent and each other. If we can’t solve the problem, we try to share ideas or provide resources; no one walks away empty-handed.

Culture isn’t about what you do–it’s how you do it and who you are. How everyone in the company behaves every day, even when no one’s looking. Especially when no one’s looking. 

Our Portfolio Creative culture reflects the values we live by every day. Want to see how it feels to work with people who are fun, friendly and caring? Reach out to let us know how we can help; you won’t leave empty-handed.

Maslow’s New Model? Career, Community and Cause

By Kristen Harris

I’ve always been interested in psychology and human nature–in another life I might have been a shrink. So a Harvard Business Review article about a recent Facebook study caught my eye. 

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? It lays out five levels of human needs, making the case that each level must be met before you’ll care about the next level. The folks at Facebook didn’t feel the model fit today’s information age workforce, and wondered what a modern version might look like.

Facebook has data...a LOT of data. So they went to work analyzing recent internal workforce surveys and discovered three key buckets of motivation: career, community, and cause. 

Rather than a pyramid, I think of it as a three-legged stool. We need all three to feel stable and supported. 

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1. Career is more than just having a job. It means having to work with autonomy, the ability to utilize strengths, and the opportunity for learning and development.

2. Community is about having a connection with people. It’s feeling respected, cared about, and recognized by others.

3. Cause means having a purpose greater than yourself. It’s identifying with the mission, believing you’re doing good in the world and having an impact. 

While Maslow’s Hierarchy may have worked for the manufacturing economy, today we’re in the information age. Companies who understand these three key motivations are able to better meet the needs of their people. 

A few examples of how we help fulfill these needs at Portfolio Creative:

  • Career: We help creative people find new opportunities, utilize their skills and talents, learn through their work, and develop their career. Creative work is outcome-based so there may be autonomy in how, when and where it is done. Technology makes it easier to work anywhere, anytime, and to learn anything you can imagine.
  • Community: We’re all for autonomy, but we also value human connection. We meet our clients and talent, and connect in-person, online or via phone to keep building a real relationship. We listen and truly care about everyone we work with. Technology lets us build community online and in-person, locally and with people across the globe.
  • Cause: We believe that what we do and how we do it really matters. Our work helps people, companies, the local economy and our creative community succeed. We love seeing the impact we’re making and our mission gets us going every single day. 

What would Maslow think about our new hierarchy? I think he’d like it. When the basic needs of food, water, shelter, and safety are covered, we can focus on the higher needs of love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. We just keep moving up the pyramid.
 

 

The 3 Things Employees Really Want: Career, Community, Cause

By: Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, Brynn Harrington, and Adam Grant for the Harvard Business Review 

Strike up a conversation about work values, and it won’t be long before someone brings up a pyramid — a famous psychologist’s best-known theory. Abraham Maslow’s big idea was that we all have a hierarchy of needs: once our basic physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, we seek love and belongingness, then self-esteem and prestige, and finally self-actualization. But that pyramid was built more than half a century ago, and psychologists have recently concluded that it’s in need of renovation.

When you review the evidence from the past few decades of social science, it’s hard to argue with Maslow’s starting point. If your basic needs aren’t met, it’s hard to focus on anything else. If you have a job that doesn’t pay enough, and you’re up all night worrying about survival, chances are you won’t spend much time dwelling on self-actualization.

But Maslow built his pyramid at the dawn of the human relations movement when so many workplaces in the manufacturing economy didn’t have basic physiological and safety needs covered. Today more companies are operating in knowledge and service economies. They’re not just fulfilling basic needs; they’re aiming to fulfill every need, providing conveniences like meals and gyms, and competing to be the best places to work (from 1984 through 2011, those that won outperformed their peers on stock returns by 2.3% to 3.8% per year). In those environments, survival isn’t in question.

And once you get past that layer of the pyramid, the rest of it falls apart. People don’t need to be loved before they strive for prestige and achievement. And they don’t wait for those needs to be fulfilled before pursuing personal growth and self-expression.

If Maslow were designing his pyramid from scratch today to explain what motivates people at work, beyond the basics, what would it look like? That’s a question we set out to answer at Facebook, in collaboration with our people analytics team.

We survey our workforce twice a year, asking what employees value most. After examining hundreds of thousands of answers over and over again, we identified three big buckets of motivators: career, community, and cause.

Career is about work: having a job that provides autonomy, allows you to use your strengths, and promotes your learning and development. It’s at the heart of intrinsic motivation.

Community is about people: feeling respected, cared about, and recognized by others. It drives our sense of connection and belongingness.

Cause is about purpose: feeling that you make a meaningful impact, identifying with the organization’s mission, and believing that it does some good in the world. It’s a source of pride.

These three buckets make up what’s called the psychological contract — the unwritten expectations and obligations between employees and employers. When that contract is fulfilled, people bring their whole selves to work. But when it’s breached, people become less satisfied and committed. They contribute less. They perform worse.

In the past, organizations built entire cultures around just one aspect of the psychological contract. You could recruit, motivate, and retain people by promising a great career or a close-knit community or a meaningful cause. But we’ve found that many people want more. In our most recent survey, more than a quarter of Facebook employees rated all three buckets as important. They wanted a career and a community and a cause. And 90% of our people had a tie in importance between at least two of the three buckets.

Wondering whether certain motivators would jump out for particular people or places, we broke the data down by categories. We started with age.

There’s a lot of talk about how different Millennials are from everyone else, but we found that priorities were strikingly similar across age groups.

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Contrary to the belief that Millennials are more concerned with meaning and purpose, we found that younger people cared slightly less about cause — and slightly more about career — than older people. In fact, people ages 55 and above are the onlygroup at Facebook who care significantly more about cause than about career and community. This tracks with evidence that around mid-life, people become more concerned about contributing to society and less focused on individual career enhancement.

But overall, the differences between age groups were tiny. And that’s not just true at Facebook. In a nationally representative study of Americans across generations, Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers had the same core work values — and tended to rank them in the same order of importance. As we’ve said before, Millennials want essentially the same things as the rest of us.

We also didn’t see any major differences by level, or by performance reviews: people valued these three motivators whether they were exceeding, meeting, or falling short of expectations. And when we compared office locations, it was clear that career, community, and cause were all prized around the globe.

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Finally, we turned to function. “If it weren’t for the people,” Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “the world would be an engineer’s paradise.” Survey says: false. Our engineers care a lot about community, giving it an average rating of 4.18 on a 1-5 scale. And just as we saw with age and location, across functions people rated career, community, and cause as similarly important.

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“To know what one really wants,” Maslow argued, “is a considerable psychological achievement.” Our data suggest that people are very clear on what they want at work — and they fundamentally want the same things. When it comes to an ideal job, most of us are looking for a career, a community, and a cause. These are important motivators whether you’re 20 or 60, working in engineering or sales, in Luleå or São Paulo or Singapore or Detroit. We’re all hoping to find a what, a who, and a why.

Recruiting is For Lovers: Life as a Professional Cupid

By Kristen Harris

My reality television weakness is The Millionaire Matchmaker or the newer version Million Dollar Matchmaker. In case you haven’t seen it, Patti Stanger (The Matchmaker) runs a high-end dating service (Millionaire’s Club). Every week she and her team select two high-net-worth individuals, preview potential dates for them, set up a social mixer, orchestrate a “master date,” get feedback from both parties, then decide how to move forward. She’s from a long line of matchmakers and focuses on helping her clients find true love, not just a hot date.

Guess what? Recruiters are matchmakers too; we focus on work relationships instead of personal, but the premise is the same. Whether we’re filling a short-term project or a full-time position, we do all the same things. Select great clients, preview potential candidates, set up an initial phone screen, schedule an interview (or several), get feedback from both sides, then decide how to move forward. If all goes well, an offer is made because both the client and candidate have found true love (or at least a very strong like). When it’s not a match made in heaven for either side, we keep looking until we find the right fit.

Often Patti has to figure out what is “wrong” with the client. Why have they not found true love on their own? She identifies patterns, reasons they might be selecting the wrong people, or actions that turn off the kind of people they want to attract. Maybe they say they’re looking for one type of person, but all of the dates they choose are a totally different profile.

These are the same things recruiters do for our clients. We dig a little deeper to figure out what they really need, not just what they say they want. We ask questions to figure out what the real criteria should be. We identify what makes our client special so we can share those qualities with candidates. If we see culture, language, reputation, or anything else that may prevent our client from attracting the type of person they want, we try to help them resolve those issues. We help candidates see great qualities about the company that may not be immediately visible on the surface. We don’t let our clients settle for someone who is just okay, we want them to find the perfect match.

And we do all of the same things for our candidates as well. It’s just as important to Patti and her team that the millionaire’s date has a good time and feels a connection. If it’s not a great match on both sides, it just won’t work out in the long run—it won’t be true love. We think our client is great or we wouldn’t be working with them, but sometimes they’re just not a great fit for that particular candidate. We want to create long-lasting relationships, to help people find companies where they’ll stay and grow.

Recruiters are hopeless romantics. We truly believe every match we make is going to be perfect and, if it’s not, we always believe the next one will be. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you’re the professional cupid that helped connect two great people. Celebrate and share the love!

 

Why You Should Tell Your Team to Take a Break and Go Outside

By Emma Seppala and Johann Berlin for the Harvard Business Review

Wellness programs are becoming an integral priority for most human resource managers. After all, research shows that a happier workplace is more productive. To this end, workplaces are adding health-related perks from exercise rooms to yoga classes. Leaders participate in mindfulness and compassion trainings and are coached to learn emotional intelligence. However, there is one important wellness factor that many are forgetting even though it may be the most potent of all: access to green spaces.

Greenery isn’t just an air-freshener that’s pleasant to look at, it can actually significantly boost employee well-being, reduce stress, enhance innovative potential, and boost a sense of connection. Yet most of us don’t spend much time in nature. Richard Louv, author of the Nature Principal, argues that we’re collectively suffering from “nature-deficit disorder,” which hurts us mentally, physically, and even spiritually. Adding a little wilderness to your corporate officesmay just be the smartest move you can do this year.

For one, exposure to green spaces profoundly enhances physical and mental well-being which is why corporations like Google prioritize biophilia as a core design principle. Studies are showing these interventions can reduce not just everyday stress but also boost general health. Taking walks in nature lowers anxiety and depression while boosting mood and well-being, a large-scale studyshowed. Exposure to more light can boost Vitamin D levels that are known to increase mood, especially in colder months.

Scientists are also exploring how exposure to nature might result in lower risk of depression, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. The immune system certainly receives a boost from stress-reduction, and even just the sounds of nature trigger a relaxation response in the brain. Exposure to natural environments lowers stress,including its physiological correlates the “stress hormone” cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure. By boosting mood, natural environments may also decrease inflammation at the cellular level.

In short, even a small green intervention like having more plants in the office could significantly boost employee happiness, and we know that happiness is a powerful predictor of an organization’s success. Corporations can significantly reduce organizational health costs by introducing more green spaces and plants into an office space. As Florence Williams has exhaustively reviewed in her recent book The Nature Fix, “forest bathing” have become popular practices in many East Asian countries because the impact of even a few minutes of immersion in nature has measurable benefits not just for our psychological well-being but also our physical health.

Greener office environments can boost employee performance and decision-making. One study found that exposure to greenery through office plants boosted not just employee well-being but also productivity  - by 15%! Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis concludes: “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.” For one, plants, natural environments and greener offices offer superior air quality which in turn strengthens employee cognitive function – allowing them to perform at their best.

Here’s why this may be the case: Neurosciencist and founder of My Brain Solutions Dr Evian Gordon proposes that “the brain’s attunement to nature has a seminal evolutionary origin, beginning with the earliest species sensing and responding to their environment. Our ancestral hominids (australopithecus, homo habilis, and homo erectus) evolved in response to short-term survival pressures within the rhythms of nature.” Dr Gordon who has published more then 300 scientific papers draws upon insights from the world’s largest standardized brain function database, that shows the immediate and significant extent to which any sensory input creates changes in the brain and body. Stress impacts the heart’s rhythms, for example. Unnatural environments are a subtle form of distraction and stress to optimal brain processing. Natural environments have the opposite effect.

Moreover, research shows that exposure to a natural environment helps people be less impulsive (while urban settings do the opposite). In this particular study, participants were asked if they’d prefer to make $100 immediately or $150 in 90 days. Those who had either been in a natural environment (or simply looked at photos of a natural environment) were more likely to make the more rational and beneficial decision: wait for the $150. Such was not the case for those exposed to cityscapes. Exposure to nature may therefore foster boost superior decision-making which includes better foresight. Exposure to natural environments also strengthens attention and may even help strengthen memory.

Finally, we know that the #1 trait leaders look for in incoming employees is creativity, and exposure to natural environments dramatically improves our ability to think expansively and make superior decisions. Being in nature is a core element of New York designer Joanne DePalma’s work, inspiring her most iconic designs, including the flagship store for Tiffany in Paris, and leading her to creative breakthroughs, including creating one of the world’s most sustainable carpets with Bently Prince Street. “Nature inspires my design and restores me,” she shares. “Whether I’m feeling stuck or exhausted during a long and grueling project, or just need some new ideas, a visit to the waterfront or Central Park gets me back to the source of my creativity. I find so many complex design solutions are hidden in nature.”

Nature can have a positive influence on workplace culture by strengthening employees’ values and leading to greater harmony and connection. Exposure to nature doesn’t just make you feel and think better, it also makes you behave better. People who’ve just walked out of a park or other natural environment are more likely to notice when others need help – and to provide that help. In line with these findings, researchers at the University of Rochester found that exposure to nature resulted in participants valuing community and connectedness over more superficial concerns like personal gain and fame. Participants also became more generous and willing to share with others.

As the lead author Netta Weinstein observes, “we are influenced by our environment in ways we are not aware of….to the extent that our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other.” Given that there are fewer and fewer “human moments” in the workplace yet that employee well-being is in large part due to positive social connections with other people, embracing greener environments could be tremendously beneficial for a workplace. Other studies have confirmed that exposure to nature leads to less antisocial behavior and more social connection and harmony.

Even a very small exposure to nature – as little as five minutes – can produce dramatic benefits, especially when coupled with exercise like walking or running. In many of the studies mentioned above, the effect was observed after participants simply looked at pictures of nature (vs urban environments) for a few minutes or worked in an office with (or without) plants — easy touches to add to a work setting.

While creating a “green office” may seem daunting, it really isn’t. Here are some easy ways you can make your officer greener

  • Encourage your staff to have “walking meetings” outside.
  • Encourage your staff to sit outside or in naturally lit areas on breaks or during lunch.
  • Provide outdoor walking, meeting, and sitting spaces.
  • If outdoor spaces are not available or you are in an urban environment, create an indoor garden in an atrium or, if space is at a premium, a vertical “green wall.”
  • Light rooms with natural sunlight as much as possible. Open blinds and, if possible, windows to let in outside air and natural sounds.
  • Display nature photography or artwork.
  • Play nature videos or nature slides on your television or display screens.
  • Place as many plants as you can prominently around the office (making sure a designated person takes good care of them).
  • Move your office closer to a park or natural environment.

An increasing interest at Google and similar companies is to make green spaces that are also respectful of the natural environment as a habitat for local animals and plants. Not only are these companies promoting employee well-being, but also reducing their ecological footprint.

Even if your company’s management is unwilling or unable to do these things, you can try a few out yourself: a walking meeting with a colleague, taping a photo of your favorite nature scene to your cubicle, or listening to ambient nature sounds on your headphones. Remember the words of German poet Rainer Marie Rilke: “If we surrendered / to earth’s intelligence / we could rise up rooted, like trees.”

 

Health Matters: Why We Focus on Wellness in the Workplace

By Kristen Harris

When Catherine and I started Portfolio Creative we set out to create the kind of company we'd want to work for. Because, well, we do work here, and so do other people. We both came from demanding environments and knew how important it would be to take care of ourselves in order to do our best work for clients and talent. 

In the beginning, this just meant taking time to exercise and eat a healthy lunch. Over the years tactics have changed but the goal remains the same. Today we offer a wellness-based healthcare plan to all qualified employees, providing access to a health coach, gym memberships, and incentives for completing health-oriented tasks. We've always offered the same health plan to both our internal team and the talent we place because we want all of our to people feel healthy and cared for, regardless of whether they're in our office or working at a client's location. This was (and still is) highly unusual in our industry, and we're proud of that.

We also bring in speakers on health-related topics, encourage people to take time to rest or workout, keep a stocked fruit bowl in the kitchen, and more. We believe wellness isn't one big action, it's a series of small activities that add up. People spend a large portion of their time at work. As business owners, we realized the positive impact decisions we make can have on the lives of our people and their families. One of the decisions we've made is to focus on wellness at work. 

So, is this all worth it? It takes time, money, and effort to have a wellness-focused workplace. We have to organize the speakers and health coach, buy fruit, and give people time to go to the gym. Is it just a nice thing to do, or is there a business case for focusing on wellness in the workplace?

There is plenty of research that makes the business case for workplace wellness, and we agree. Participating in a wellness-based healthcare plan helps keep premiums as low as possible both for employees and the company. This has a direct financial impact on the business, each individual, and their family, and is something every employee can contribute to and benefit from. This wellness-based plan sets us apart as an employer and is a benefit that is highly valued by our team members.

We believe there are other reasons that wellness belongs in the workplace, beyond potential financial savings. We truly like the people we work with and want them to feel valued and cared for, to be their best physically and mentally at work and at home. When people feel good they're more connected, engaged and do better work. Think about the last time you went to work with a cold...it's hard to do great work when you don't feel good. People who feel well need fewer unplanned days off, get more done and are more engaged in their work. When our people feel good they can take better care of our customers. At home, they take better care of themselves and the people that matter to them.

Having a wellness-focused workplace isn't a single financial line item, it's a series of small actions and items that add up to greater business success. It's one of the things that continues to make Portfolio Creative the kind of company we'd want to work for, and we think it's worth it.

Hiring: Plan Ahead, Ideal Fit Takes Time

By Kristen Harris

“Never make a decision until you have to.” – Randy Pausch

As hiring managers and job candidates, we’re all looking for an Ideal Fit. Whatever term you use to describe it, we all want to find someone who is a good fit for our team, or a work opportunity that feels “just right”. If you’re not sure how to assess an Ideal Fit, check out our article Hiring: What’s an “Ideal Fit”?

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time. It’s not something you can rush through, yet we’re often pressured to make quick decisions. Hiring managers need to quickly assess whether a candidate is the right fit for their team and realize that candidate is probably talking to other companies too. When you find the right person, you feel pressured to make an offer before someone else does.

On the other side, with all of the options and opportunities, candidates are getting offered roles more quickly and feel pressured to accept. They may get multiple offers and need to make the right choice for themselves and their career.

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time, but with all the pressure to make a quick decision, we don’t have time. How to resolve this seemingly impossible conundrum? By putting in our time beforehand, so we’re prepared to make a quick decision when the clock is ticking.

Never make a decision until you have to, but be prepared to make a decision when you need to. When you’ve spent time getting clear on what the Ideal Fit is for you, then it’s much easier to make that quick decision when the pressure is on.

For hiring managers, it’s important to be very clear on what matters to you, your company, and your team. Identify the must-haves vs nice-to-haves for any role you’re trying to fill. What is required for success in this role? What skills, experience or background are necessary? What type of personality traits or soft skills are you looking for? What’s important to your company? What is your culture like? Make a list of everything you’re looking for, ranked from most important to least.

For individuals seeking a new role, project, or work opportunity, you need to know what matters the most to you (and what doesn’t). Are you looking for higher pay? More interesting projects? The opportunity to learn new skills or grow the breadth of your work? To work with a particular person or for a certain company? Is flexibility or a specific work schedule important to you? Stability and predictability, or new exciting challenges every day? What kind of culture do you thrive in? Write it all down, in order of priority.

A prioritized list of what matters the most gives you a base to compare against when making decisions. Let’s be honest, no person or job is completely, 100% perfect. There will always be compromises. You need to know what matters most, your deal-breakers vs nice-to-haves.

When you’re clear on what’s most important, making decisions becomes easier, even under pressure. Compare every candidate or opportunity to your list. How does the person or role measure up against your must-haves? If all those boxes are checked, then look at the nice-to-haves. Those probably won’t all be covered, so decide where you’re willing to compromise. You’ve already set your priorities; you decided that the items lower on your list are less important to you. Now, take a breath, listen to your gut, and make your decision.

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time that we don’t have in the heat of the moment. By spending time beforehand to identify what’s most important, we can quickly make a better decision when the pressure is on.

Hire People That Believe In What You Do

By Catherine Lang-Cline

If you have ever had to hire anyone in the past, you know that there are many people that will apply. You need to find the right fit. The easy way to find a good candidate is to find someone that matches the skill set that you want. Look at the resume and check off each skill from the list. But that rarely results in a great candidate.

Humans are an intelligent species and typically a person can be taught a skill. It may vary as to how good they can become in that skill, but if they know similar software, for example, they can be taught a new one. What can’t be taught is culture. What can’t be taught is a belief in what you do.

Believe it or not, you can interview for that.

Many companies hire people that fit their job description. The excellent few companies hire people that believe in what the companies believes in. If you company exists because you wanted to make a change, hire others that believe in that change. Here at Portfolio Creative, we believe in providing our clients with the best candidates, the candidates that we would have selected to perform a task when we worked in advertising and marketing. We believe that the people we place should earn fair pay and have access to healthcare plans as well as be eligible for PTO. We believe that artists and the artists that hire them should be treated differently because they are different.

We hire people internally that also believe in our mission. Your mission might be selling fair-trade goods, local goods, organic goods, and providing a really specialized service. What better way to build on that then to hire people that can be evangelists for what you do. The people that really believe in your mission.

So while we could hire people that are merely driven, instead we hire driven people that believe in all that we do. Because a placement is a person and not just a butt in a seat. What are some of the things that your company stands for and believes in, or what do YOU believe in? Find a candidate that is a match and you will have an engaged, involved, and driven employee that is doing more then completing a job.