Cultural fit is a concept that can be hard to define, but everyone knows when it is missing. Imagine a company founder who believes that an open office plan and team projects promote creativity and progress, but whose employees are introverts who prefer privacy. Or think about the ambitious employee stuck ind an organization that offers no employee training programs, tuition reimbursement or room for advancement.
At its core, cultural fit means that employees’ beliefs and behaviors are in alignment with their employer’s core values and company culture. Finding employees that add to your company culture is important; as such, cultural fit should play a key role in your recruiting and hiring process.
Your company culture is a combination of organizational factors such as your mission statement, goals, workplace environment, management styles, and employee expectations and behaviors. Your company culture is unique to your organization. While a company’s culture can be directed by business leaders and management, the employees you hire will also have an impact. When it is done strategically, you can create a great company culture that attracts the type of workers you want to employ.
Company culture is important to employees. In a survey by Glassdoor, 77% of respondents said they would consider an organization’s culture before applying for a job, and 73% said they wouldn’t even apply for a position unless the company’s values aligned with their own. This means that employees are already evaluating whether they themselves would fit your company culture.
Many employers also understand the importance of hiring for cultural fit. More Glassdoor research shows that people who fit well into their organization often express greater job satisfaction, employee engagement and productivity.
“We can teach someone to do a job. We can’t teach someone to love the way we operate,” Lauren Kolbe, founder of Kolbeco, told Business News Daily. “An employee who is not aligned with the culture and is not committed to living it can wreak havoc pretty quickly, even if they bring a great deal of skill and experience to their craft.” [Time and attendance software can help all new hires understand the expectations for employees.]
Cultural fit can also play a role in employee retention. Employees who fit in well with their company culture are more likely to remain with that organization for a longer period. Every organization should strive to maintain a low employee turnover rate, as the cost of replacing an employee can be one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.
It can be tough to identify whether a job applicant matches your company culture if you don’t have the proper processes in place. When you recruit new employees, follow these five steps to narrow down which candidates are the right fit for your company culture.
The first step in hiring for cultural fit is to define your company culture. You must be able to articulate what values, norms and practices define your business. As a hiring consultant for small businesses, Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, founder and CEO of YOLO Insights, asks her clients to list the top three or four behaviors critical for success in their organizations. “These behaviors are their company culture translated to daily operations.”
Once your company culture is defined, it should be clearly expressed in all of your communication materials, including your website and recruiting tools, especially job postings. Your job ads must reflect your business culture and connect back to your core values.
“You can do this by emphasizing some of the qualitative things you want in a candidate,” said Ian Cluroe, marketing director at Center for Internet Security. “So, in addition to looking for X years of experience, say that you’re looking for someone who’s innovative, entrepreneurial or customer-centric – whatever characteristics reflect your culture.”
According to Cluroe, any members of your organization involved in interviewing potential employees must have a good grasp of your business culture and refer to it throughout the hiring process. It is not sufficient to ask candidates if they will fit into the corporate culture, because “a smart candidate will know what you want to hear and give you the right answer,” he said.
“Many companies talk about their culture in glowing terms during the interview,” said Mark Babbitt, founder and CEO of YouTern, a company that helps interns with their futures. “In fact, the culture segment of the interview has become a large portion of the ‘sales’ process when speaking with top candidates. we learned that we need to hire people who genuinely care about the people they work with and for and not hire those who show up to work every day just to collect a paycheck.”
The best candidates know this and are prepared with answers to the most common interview questions that take on the culture topic, Babbitt noted. “Unfortunately, that means both the interview questions and answers are both canned – perhaps even disingenuous.”
To avoid this, provide your hiring staff with training courses and resources on how to successfully discuss company culture in a way that is honest and genuine.
According to Babbitt, another way to successfully discuss company culture with job candidates is to provide a look at your culture in real time. Walk the candidate around the office. Let them meet key team members. Show them where the real work happens. Then, when you’re back in the interview room, ask one question: “What were you thinking as we walked through the office today?”
“If you get a more specific response rather than a canned answer, then there’s a good chance you’ve found a culture fit,” Babbitt said.
You can also assess candidates for cultural fit by asking them to take personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the DiSC assessment, and arrange for them to meet with team members from various teams and departments in your organization.
When you are hiring for cultural fit, it is important that you take diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into consideration. Creating a company culture that promotes workplace diversity and inclusion is beneficial for you and your employees. Develop an inclusive recruitment strategy that grants equal opportunity to every candidate.
Avoid confusing personal similarities with cultural fit, said Pavneet Uppal, managing partner of the Phoenix office of Fisher Phillips, a law firm that represents employers in labor and employment matters.
“When cultural fit is used to hire a homogenous workforce, the resulting lack of diversity will often manifest in poor creativity and undermine a company’s competitiveness,” Uppal said. “Focusing on hiring based on shared background or experiences may also lead to discriminatory practices.” [Learn how to comply with equal employment opportunity laws.]
Refusing to hire someone because of an alleged lack of cultural fit will not save an employer from legal liability. Asking candidates about personal issues – such as age, citizenship status, health, family history or ethnic background – is never justifiable on the basis of cultural fit, Uppal stressed. [The best HR software can ensure recruiting and retaining talent is a seamless process.]
The end goal is to identify and hire the very best candidates whose skills and attributes match the organization’s core values. Cluroe said this objective is achievable when organizations have a “culture that’s based on positive values that are open enough to enable a diverse selection of people to embody them in their own way.”
Shannon Gausepohl and Paula Fernandes contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.