Hire for Culture. Train for Skill

Hire for Culture. Train for Skill

by Guest Author | December 3, 2015


IntegratyBy Ian Feaver


In a world where culture and values are the keys to engagement and business success, the adage ‘Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill’ may be out of place.


This month, The Royal Albert Hall hosted the annual Institute of Directors Convention. International Rescue Committee’s CEO, David Miliband, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Anya Hindmarch, and NHS England CEO, Simon Stevens, took to the stage to share their experiences of breaking boundaries in business. The event closed with explorer extraordinaire, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, sharing anecdotes and imagery from the various expeditions he has carried out over his incredible career. Then, he revealed his secret to success: “Getting the right characters was critical. You can teach skill but you can’t change character.”

His words echo those of the old adage, “Hire for attitude, train for skill,” which has become a people proposition many businesses buy into.

Founding Editor of Fast Company, William. C. Taylor, writing for Harvard Business Review, revealed that following lengthy studies of high-impact organizations who are changing the game in their fields, he found the one common denominator was that they hired for attitude and trained for skill. In fact, these businesses, Taylor said, believed that their biggest challenge was “filling their ranks with executives and front-line employees whose personal values are in sync with the values that make the organization tick.”

Culture over attitude?

Like Sir Ranulph, these organizations believe that character counts for more than credentials. However, over the years, HR professionals and business owners alike have grown to recognize the fundamental importance of not just character, but culture and values in an organization. In an ever increasing competitive marketplace, culture and values are the only true and sustainable competitive advantage that a business can offer. And as a business grows it is this which underpins business strategy and ensures for success; the steel thread uniting the organization and ensuring you all move in the same direction.

That is why it’s critical to hire the right people. The importance of cultural fit at recruitment has to be considered, even more so than attitude. After all, you can influence someone’s attitude, but it’s harder to influence their personal values or cultural fit.

If your company is clear on what your values are and the type of culture you offer, communicating this throughout your recruitment and interviews, you will hire someone who culturally is right and, most likely, will have the attitude required to deliver and succeed in your organization.

In her best-selling title, Purple Your People, author Jane Sunley shares the story of a successful salesperson who was headhunted by a competitor organization. After three months, the business (and the sales person) couldn’t understand why she wasn’t performing. Something just didn’t stick. She was diligent, hardworking and maintained a positive attitude. Yet she wasn’t productive and was increasingly becoming disengaged. When they brought in a coach to assess the situation, they identified that the individual didn’t fit in with the company culture, a vast corporate machine. After lengthy discussions, both the employer and employee agreed it was best for her to move on. She has since found her calling at a smaller entrepreneurial organization where her targets are always achieved.

So, I say it’s time for businesses to “Hire for Culture, Train for Skill.” Because if someone doesn’t fundamentally align with your culture, it doesn’t matter how great their attitude is, they won’t perform at their best.


Ian Feaver is O.C. Tanner’s Vice President of European Sales and Marketing is a seasoned expert with more than 30 years of sales and marketing experience. Ian’s valuable background has cultivated an empowering leadership style, which inspires our successful team of Marketing Managers and Reward and Recognition Strategists to achieve great work. Since joining the company in 2010, Ian has taken O.C.Tanner Europe from strength to strength; educating the European market place and employees across the world. With an invaluable wealth of knowledge, Ian provides expertise in how to successfully use the power of appreciation to drive global business results.


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