Lip Service (n): an avowal of advocacy, adherence, or allegiance expressed in words but not backed by deeds (Merriam-Webster).
Is there anything more frustrating? Seeing MP Tim Wilson's lip service to supporting the Parliamentary Friends of Running, who were jogging with members of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation's squad to encourage their communities to adopt active lifestyles, really made me think about how often our workplaces pay lip service to causes, political issues, culture, wellbeing, even OHS, and then jog off when people stop paying attention.
We all see the "About Us" pages on company websites that proudly list their values, mission, purpose and goals, often requiring us to demonstrate how we align with them in our responses to their selection criteria.
Only, when we land the job and walk in on the first day we realise everyone was just pandering to the ideals in their applications and the "culture expectations" exist only on the website and in interview rooms.
Company culture is more important than most people give it credit for. You can't just put words on your website and expect it to happen because they sound good.
It actually takes work and the right people to bring them to life. This is just one of the many reasons why your hiring practices are vital to the success of your business and the establishment and maintenance of your workplace culture.
Paying lip service to corporate values without any positive intent can be highly destructive. When a company talks to values like integrity, respect, excellence, communication, it sounds great on paper. What's not to love?
But when the company doesn't walk the walk to match, this creates a culture of cynicism, disenchantment, negativity, and can alienate both staff and employees through undermining leadership credibility, writes Patrick M. Mencioni for Harvard Business Review.
Mencioni highlights that Enron, one of the US's largest companies until it declared bankruptcy in 2001, claimed these very values of integrity, respect, excellence and communication.
However, they crumbled under a scandal of dishonesty, fraud, disrespect, and criminality, ultimately completely undermining the executive's credibility, and to borrow Mencioni's words, "poisoned the cultural well."
He acknowledges that developing and articulating strong values (and sticking to them) takes "real guts" and he's right. The hiring process is key to a company's ability to walk the walk on Value Street.
So, from a jobseeker's perspective, how can we tell if the company we are applying to has the culture they advertise?
First, research the company - look up the website and see what's said about the company's mission and values.
Does it just list the values, or does it articulate how it actions them? Are there press releases about the commitment to diversity? To the environment? Do you know anyone who works there, and can you ask them what it's really like beyond the interview panel?
LinkedIn is a great tool to use here, to connect with people who work for the company that you are applying to and get to learn a little more about the behind-the-scenes reality.
Websites like Seek and Glassdoor also provide opportunities for employees (and past employees) to rate their employer and provide info about what it's like to work there.
It's highly worthwhile to check these reviews out to see if everyone experienced the same thing and if not, who experienced what and think about why the differences might exist.
Did you know that companies like Glassdoor and organisations like chambers of commerce recognise the work of companies through awards programs?
It's worth checking these out to see if the company you are applying to has been recognised as finalists or winners of these prestigious awards and what they were recognised for if they were.
Finally, you know that part of the interview where you are asked if you have any questions? Use this opportunity wisely.
Ask questions like what the team you are potentially going to be working is like - what are their personalities? What do they do for lunch? What are the greatest challenges that the role faces? What is the layout like - is the office open plan or is everyone in their own offices? Is there a mentor program?
Really think about what you want to know and ask the question. You are interviewing them too.
Culture matters. Lip service just doesn't cut it. Run the whole 4km, not just 100m that the cameras are rolling for.
Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au. Twitter: @ZoeWundenberg