Culture is key, but key to culture comes through hiring

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No. 2 large company

Hotel giant Hyatt has a unique workforce, with jobs ranging from cleaning positions to restaurant workers to front desk managers.

Doug Patrick, senior vice president of human resources, said there are several key qualities looked for when hiring: an accommodating nature, a high resilience to a demanding job and a strong sense of follow-through.

But perhaps the most important characteristic to fit in with Hyatt's culture, he said, is the ability to be yourself: "We want people to be genuine; we don't want them to be robots. You have to find that person who is authentic and genuine first and foremost. If they are authentic, they will be that way on the job as well."

One way the company recruits is by paying close attention to internal referrals, believing that a good existing employee is likely to recommend someone similarly suited for the culture. Patrick said 25 percent of Hyatt's hires are people who were referred by an existing employee. (Despite a yearslong dispute with the hotel workers union, Hyatt is making a repeat appearance on the Top Workplaces list.)

The screening process is thorough. Patrick said they walk job candidates through the areas where they would be working and rely on peer-to-peer interviewing to gauge how well a person might mesh with others. Some employees receive training so they know how to listen to job candidates and ask them relevant questions.

"You get a pretty broad cross section of people looking at the candidate," he said. "Those people who are picked by their peers tend to stay with us longer."

Once hired, an employee has to go through a 90-day probationary period, an additional way Hyatt can make sure the cultural fit is strong.

"We obviously have a strong people brand," Patrick said. "And for our employees, from the moment somebody applies to the moment they decide to leave, we want to model our employment experience similar to the way we treat our guest. We want them, from end to end, to feel like they're treated as well as a guest."


No. 3 small company

As an event production company that organizes all manner of races, it's not surprising that Red Frog's culture is high energy and competitive.

Consider this: The company receives about 2,000 resumes a month. It hires 40 to 100 intern event coordinators three times a year, but only a handful become full-time hires.

In other words, nobody gets in the door without going through an extended paid internship.

"They have three months to see how they fit in with Red Frog's culture," said chief innovation officer Greg Bostrom. "Culture is certainly a focus with everybody we bring in. You can do as many interviews as you want, but you get a real sense of a person's true mettle when they've been with you a few months."

The company's culture — the Red Frog way — is broken down in 25 principles, which include "living with passion," "appreciating our customers" and "being drama-free."

Every intern is paired with a mentor, and they meet once a week. That's where the culture is hammered home. If, for example, an event coordinator isn't meeting Red Frog's standard in terms of customer service, the mentor is expected to work with that person consistently to make sure he or she understands that the company's core values are a benchmark against which they'll be judged.

"If there are issues, it's continually coached at that level," Bostrom said. "And then at the end of the internship, they may just not be a good fit."

Again, it's "fit" that's key.

"Sometimes the highest performers aren't a great cultural fit," Bostrom said. "Other times there might be someone who is a slow starter but winds up being a great fit for the culture. That's who we want."

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