That everyone shows their best side at an interview is to be expected. It is even more important to be authentic and honest. Because anyone who does not act authentically and is too concerned with conveying a certain image of themselves or maintaining a facade, creates an unpleasant (working) climate for themselves and possibly others.
In this case study, using the example of nterra, an IT consulting firm close to Darmstadt, matched.io shows how authenticity improves the working atmosphere and contentment – especially for developers. While a familiar environment, authenticity and open, relaxed communication are considered the typical attractiveness features of consulting firms, nterra’s internal employee surveys speak a different language: In 2020, the most frequently cited attractiveness feature for nterra as an employer was “humanity”, with “team spirit” in second place. Around 93% of employees feel (rather) comfortable in their team, not a single one really uncomfortable. One of the most important ingredients for the recipe for success: authenticity. With nterra as a partner for this case study, the goal of matched.io was to find out how nterra manages to achieve such survey results and what other companies can learn from them.
Why authenticity is fundamentally important
Authenticity creates trust
Whether in professional or private life: authenticity creates trust in the other person. This in turn ensures an open feedback culture in which negative aspects are also addressed in order to derive improvements. This is not only the basis for good cooperation, but also the cornerstone for personal and economic growth. Because trust not only minimizes bureaucratic hurdles, but can also be reinvested in employees in the form of more freedom.
In stressful situations, trust promotes resistance and resilience. The reason: We tend to put less emphasis on our communication during challenging times. The trust gained through authenticity creates understanding among colleagues, words are less likely to end up on the gold scale, and a pleasant atmosphere is maintained. And the more comfortable you feel in the workplace, the more honest and authentic you can be.
Authenticity shows potential
Only those who allow themselves to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses open themselves up to fully exploiting their own potential. This means that strengths can be fostered and weaknesses can be worked on – if we admit them to ourselves and show them to others. In a company with authentic employees and a positive culture of error, employers can better deploy, promote and retain their employees and also build a good relationship with them.
Authenticity eliminates problems
Many tasks in the workplace can only be mastered together. Openness is the key here, especially when it comes to strengths and weaknesses, desires and passions. Being authentic regarding these points creates bonds across different characters and types. Showing genuine interest promotes team spirit – which helps to master challenges together.
How authenticity can be purposefully promoted
In order to promote the courage to be authentic, nterra and matched.io are taking what at first glance appears to be an obvious approach: authenticity is exemplified. This starts with the individual employee. From the working student to the company founder, communication is open, transparent and appreciative; people present themselves as they are and do not hide behind job titles or hierarchies. The company itself also demonstrates authenticity: company figures are regularly shared in the company chat, in difficult times such as the corona pandemic, people communicate honestly and support those individuals who are having a particularly tough time.
Now let’s look at possible touch points between companies and employees that, done correctly, can reinforce the authenticity of the individual:
In the application phase
In Human Resources in particular, you are often the first point of contact for new applicants and colleagues. You represent the company, the culture and the values both outside and inside the office. Staying true to yourself is the secret ingredient here for all questions. This doesn’t merely mean not imposing unnecessary dress codes on yourself and the applicant during the interview, or basically creating a pleasant atmosphere for the interview. It also means involving yourself: Share something personal about yourself in the interview or tell something about the people who work in the company or the future team. Don’t just question the professional stations in the CV and the tech stack of a developer, but show interest in the people. As a recruiter, you may already find common interests – whether cooking, baking or bungee jumping – with the applicant. In this way, your own authenticity can not only awaken openness in the other person, but also create an initial bond with the company.
Especially as a tech recruiter, you don’t want a “short-term liaison”, but a long and successful relationship – especially since over 70% of all developers would not be averse to a job change. As in any interpersonal relationship, the application process requires commitment from both sides to achieve this goal.
Together we have developed recommendations for IT recruiters to achieve the best possible result in a recruitment process. Spoiler alert: The mindset of the recruiter is already the key.
- Question yourself: Are you happy in your company? If not, how can you solve this problem? First, resolve your potential inner conflicts, because this is the only way you can inspire others for the open position, be authentic to yourself, and represent your company well at the same time.
- Consider the company: What do you like most about your employer? Internalize this for your mindset. Because the other person quickly notices whether you are convinced of something yourself or are simply trying to sell a product.
- Be open and honest: The openness that you expect from the applicant should also be displayed by you: Speak openly and directly about challenges and opportunities for improvement in the company. If you only emphasize the positive things or even gloss over or conceal issues, you will lose authenticity and credibility.
- Encourage your counterpart: Everyone has his or her own baggage to carry. If you create an atmosphere of trust during the interview, you can get to know each other better and more deeply – and build a strong foundation right from the start.
With colleagues – in the development team
Every interpersonal relationship requires mutual understanding.
Usually we have a more intensive relationship with our work – in purely temporal terms – than with our family. After all, with a 40-hour work week, we spend around half of the day interacting with our colleagues. Authenticity is the key here. Because it helps to resolve potential conflicts when there are different characters and personalities who have to pull together.
For everyday collaboration, it is important to allow vulnerability, to communicate when you are not feeling well or simply having a bad day, and to address it when you have been hurt.
Even if a task or a project has not gone so well, this should be packaged as open and constructive feedback, separating the emotional from the factual level. Criticism should be communicated in an appreciative manner.
This can be practiced through regular feedback sessions:
- Daily: take time for each other (also in the home office), do not simply work through tickets and call it a day 😉
- Every 2-3 weeks: a feedback round within the team
- Every 3 months: direct, personal and individual exchange with the team leader
- Every 6 months: a feedback round with colleagues with whom you do not work directly (e.g. from other development teams or even other areas).
- Every 12-15 months: a detailed 360° feedback, e.g. in the context of a promotion.
If employees are dissatisfied or even frustrated by a lack of authenticity, such as empty promises, denial of their own mistakes or scant individual interest, the success rate of the entire company drops.
An appreciative feedback culture in a company is worth its weight in gold and promotes a good working atmosphere. Regular check-ins, team events, or brief small talk at the coffee machine can already do a lot to promote authenticity in the workforce.
As an Employer
As a supervisor, it is essential to exemplify authenticity. This includes, above all, admitting one’s own mistakes, being open to further development, giving feedback and practicing appreciative communication. Those who are comfortable with this can also share private information to create a personal level.
As a company, it is also important to communicate transparently. This also includes encouraging employees and supporting them in the event of personal problems. It can also promote authenticity by setting a few rules and offering training in the area. Courage for authenticity and vulnerability are rewarded.
Creating a space for mistakes and different opinions at the workplace is important. Because only that will help you move forward. It stands and falls with authenticity, closeness and interest in a person!
Note: Although the case study by nterra and matched.io refers to developers, the aspects mentioned are applicable to a wide range of other professions.