An organization’s culture includes values, beliefs, assumptions, principles, myths, legends and norms that define how individuals interact, think, make decisions and perform. When organizations ensure that their employees possess technical skills and soft skills, and “culturally fit,” they can better succeed in competitive markets.
“Culture plays a significant role in attracting and keeping great talent, which ultimately has an impact on the organization’s bottom line,” says Simone Gans Barefield, CEO of Gans, Gans & Associates, an executive recruiting firm.
Smart Business asked Gans Barefield about the significance of hiring employees with the right cultural fit.
What does it mean for an employee to be the right ‘fit’ for an organization?
Fit is typically defined in two distinct ways: ‘job fit’ and ‘cultural fit.’ Job fit refers to the degree to which the candidate finds the role’s activities and responsibilities satisfying. Cultural fit refers to the applicant’s compatibility with the organization’s values, mission, environment and daily method of operating.
If someone fits into the organization and demonstrates the propensity to develop, the person’s knowledge and skills will change and grow over time. Values and motivations, on the other hand, are hardwired into us and can be almost impossible to change. Cultural fit cannot be developed.
What problems arise when an individual has the right skills but the wrong style?
In a tight labor market, hiring managers often make speedy decisions and may, consequently, choose individuals who may not be right for their organization. But the same highly talented applicant who is successful in a traditional, conservative, team-oriented organization could be disastrous in a high-flying, autonomous atmosphere. It is important that an incoming employee mirrors the basic character traits of the collective organization or a serious misfit will occur. If individuals do not fit the culture, it can be disruptive, leading to a nonproductive, uncomfortable and, in some cases, hostile work environment. This can ultimately affect the bottom line and lead to attrition of truly valued staff and increased financial resources spent attempting to blend a new team member into an existing style and work flow. The simplest disconnections can also result in difficulty getting cooperation from other teams for mission-critical projects leading to missed deadlines and failed initiatives.
Can hiring managers identify a good match?
The interview is the single most important opportunity to assess the candidate’s fit. Everyone involved in the process must focus on the goal of the interview, which is to reveal the applicant’s true self. To ensure you achieve this goal, the interview team can use the philosophy that past behaviors predict future results. It is important to commit the time and resources necessary to develop the right questions and conduct thorough behavioral interviews. Other effective techniques include panel interviews, reference checking, on-site visits, trial work periods and even pre-employment dinners.
How can employers inform applicants about their culture during the hiring process?
Start by clearly articulating the organizational structure and defining its core values. Talk about clearly defined goals, objectives and simple yet powerful no-tolerance policies, rules and regulations. Speak to why the ‘best of the best’ would want to work for the organization. Explain what the organization offers that is unique and provide literature describing organizational core values, whether it be pamphlets, posters or postings on the company’s Website. Some companies provide realistic job previews or ‘day in the life’ snapshots on their Web sites. Recruitment consultants must thoroughly understand the unique attributes of the organization and the processes used to assess applicants to find the most ‘fit’ candidates.
What benefits arise from employee synergy within an organization?
A good cultural fit between employees and the organization contributes to employee retention, organizational productivity and profit. The most immediately noticeable benefits are excellence in work product, retention, loyalty, cohesiveness and referrals of like employees. There is also a direct relationship between employee satisfaction and synergy and profitability as a result of employees being able to focus on performance and outcomes rather than environmental discomfort. The environmental harmony that results from a perfect fit frees the organization to strategize and focus on higher-level concerns that tie directly to its core mission and values and significantly reduces the amount of hours spent by staff on ‘putting out fires’ and keeping the peace.
Existing employees can, at times, benefit from a refresher or more advanced orientation as the organization’s culture changes and evolves. The performance review process and mentoring teams should also include discussions on cultural fit to help determine how to better blend or mesh employees into the culture.
SIMONE GANS BAREFIELD is CEO of Gans, Gans & Associates, an executive recruiting firm, and board director of TBWA.