Company Culture and Cultural Fit: What’s the Big Deal?

Company Culture

In February of 2018, The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published a toolkit titled Understanding and Developing Organizational Culture. Publications including Fortune, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review address the topic regularly.

So what’s the big deal with company culture and hiring for culture fit?

Every day in ways small and large, a company’s culture has an impact both inside and outside the organization. Company culture can impact consumer perception, employee engagement, and talent retention. So it is no wonder that the topic is getting a lot of attention.

And, as companies place more emphasis on maintaining their distinctive organizational culture, it’s no wonder that hiring for culture fit is getting a lot of attention as well.

Is hiring for culture fit really important to an organization’s success?

And, if so, how can employers find hires that are a good fit and still maintain a diverse staff? Some critics have said that hiring for culture fit is just an excuse for hiring bias.

In this article we’ll take a closer look at why cultural fit is important and how employers can get it right.

But first, what exactly is a company or organizational culture?

Company culture is a business’s personal compass

The culture of a company is more than just whether the offices are equipped with bean bag chairs or Aerons. While a company’s work environment and perks may give you a clue as to its culture, they don’t define it.

Instead, a company’s culture is the compass that guides the organization’s behaviors and processes. In its Understanding and Developing Organizational Culture toolkit, SHRM explains that a company’s culture is the set of shared beliefs and values which guide everything the organization does.

This culture defines how employees should behave and interact with one another and with those outside the company. Do communications use formal or casual language? Does the company promote personal achievement or collaboration? Is coffee for closers or is it free and free trade?

As the SHRM toolkit notes, these company-wide values vary from organization to organization, giving each its own unique personality.

When consumers and prospective employees evaluate a company, this company culture (or personality) is one of the factors they consider.

An organization’s culture provides employees with a foundation for their actions and decision making.

Organizational culture guides employee behavior

When properly established, an organization’s culture provides employees with a foundation for their actions and decision making.

Should I delay shipping this package so that the extra item the customer requested can be added? Or, should I ship the package immediately so that it arrives by the promised date? Can I email my concerns about our new product directly to the division head or do I need to contact my manager first?

When an organization’s culture is clearly defined and communicated, employees should be able to solve workplace dilemmas by asking “What would [my company] do?”
Of course, clarity is essential for a company’s culture to be effective. Telling employees that the company motto is “Do good” only works if everyone understands what “good” is.

And, if the employees of an organization don’t agree on the definitions of good and bad, things can get a little complicated. That’s where cultural fit comes into the mix.

What is cultural fit and why does it matter?

In her Harvard Business Review article, Recruiting for Cultural Fit, Katie Bouton defines cultural fit as “the likelihood that someone will reflect and/or be able to adapt to the core beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors” that make up an organization.

Bouton adds that employees who are a good fit are more satisfied with, and more effective at, their jobs. Making a good culture match when hiring is good for both the company’s bottom line and the employee’s mental health.

Perhaps more importantly, employees who don’t fit the company culture may not stick around. In a recent survey about recruitment and retention, Korn Ferry asked respondents if they would stay in a job if they discovered it wasn’t a good fit after they were hired. Eighty-two percent said they’d stick around if the job paid well–but only until they found a replacement. Twenty-six percent of the respondents would leave before they had a new job lined up.

With the costs of onboarding a new employee equaling anywhere from six to nine months’ salary, hiring someone who doesn’t like your company’s style can be a costly mistake.

Clearly, it is worth investing some time to ensure that prospective job candidates understand your company’s culture and will be happy with their new job.

But how can hiring managers ensure that they are finding employees who will “get” the company vibe and thrive?

Hiring for culture fit the right way

First, as SHRM’s Roy Maurer puts it, “Ditch the beer test.” Decisions based on a person’s likeability or whether you’d like to hang out with them after work is a fast track to biased hiring decisions and a company stifled by groupthink.

When evaluating candidates, hiring managers should ask “Does this person share the same goals and values of the organization?” and “How will this person enhance our organizational culture?” not “Will the existing team members like this person?”

Additionally, companies should identify the characteristics and behaviors that will complement their company culture, recommends Melissa Daimler in her article, Why Great Employees Leave “Great Cultures”. By including this information in the ideal candidate profiles shared with recruiters and hiring managers, organizations can ensure that cultural fit doesn’t become a catch-all excuse for rejections.

Enlisting professional help

Not every company is the right fit for every employee. Getting cultural fit right is a big deal because making a successful employer-employee match is good for everyone. If you need help finding candidates who will thrive at organization, call us. Our team of recruitment specialists understands the importance of getting hiring right.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Stincelli