Successful Recruitment: The importance of cultural fit

The importance of cultural fit

When recruiting a new member of staff into an organisation it can be a tough challenge to find people who have the technical skills and experience to do the job.  Often so much time and energy is invested into looking closely at the skills and experience a person can bring to a role that a person’s fit with the company’s corporate culture can be overlooked.

Only too often recruiters and hiring managers place too little emphasis on the importance of cultural fit in a new hire.  During the recruitment process, it is essential to establish that a potential new employee can do the job, but it’s equally as important to ensure that the person is the right “fit” for the organisation.

What is cultural fit?

In simple terms, cultural fit is the compatibility between an individual employee’s values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour and an organisation’s culture.  And so, in seeking good cultural fit when hiring someone into an organisation it’s important to ensure that person fits with the overall surroundings, mission, values and personality of the company as these things help to define how people work together and behave towards each other in the workplace.

Why is good cultural fit important?

In the context of recruitment, the short answer to this is, a bad cultural fit isn’t likely to hang around for very long and so you’ll very quickly find yourself starting the recruitment process all over again.

When recruiting a new employee into an organisation it tends to go without saying that they need to have the required knowledge and skills for the role.  However, it can be argued that knowledge and skill sets change over time and people can develop their skills once in a role.  A person’s attitude and values are much harder to change.  Cultural fit cannot be developed, and in hiring someone who does not align to the organisation’s culture you run the risk of negatively impacting both productivity and employee turnover.

Conversely, a new employee who fits into the organisation’s culture is likely to be more effective, working more effectively with other team members and ultimately creating more value.  They are also more likely to stay with the organisation for longer.  Employees with good cultural fit quite quickly become great company ambassadors and provide the perfect example of an engaged employee.

There’s also the basic issue of your own self-satisfaction.  When you’ve invested time and energy in developing a strong team and powerful company culture, you’re likely to regret hiring someone that is going to disrupt the balance.

How can you assess good cultural fit?

When recruiting, some will choose to rely on ‘gut feeling’ when it comes to deciding whether a candidate will be a good cultural fit.  Sadly, these personal instincts are frequently inaccurate and more quantifiable methods can offer a good level of assistance in establishing compatibility.

Asking behavioural questions during the interview process is a key method of measuring cultural fit, and involving more than one person in the interview process helps to overcome individual subjectivity and gain consensus of opinion.  Best practice would be to involve a third party in the recruitment process, someone who can offer an impartial assessment.

Personality profiling can also provide a means of measuring how a person’s attitudes and beliefs map onto those of an organisation.  Overlaying the characteristics and traits displayed by a candidate in such questionnaires, with those of an organisation, will assist in identifying areas of compatibility as well as highlighting areas of potential mismatch which can then be covered off during discussions at interview.

It is also worthwhile investing time in checking over a person’s references, as well as inviting them in for a site visit to give them the opportunity to get a feel for the organisation and a chance to meet with existing employees.

A two-way process

Above all else, it’s important to remember it’s a two-way process.  As the potential new employer, it’s essential to be open and transparent about the true culture within your organisation throughout any recruitment process.  When a new employee joins an organisation, they join with the expectation that the organisation will deliver on the cultural promises made at interview, if these don’t materialise they are unlikely to stay for long.