Hands holding two jigsaw puzzle for joining.There is a new paradigm that is really beginning to take hold within recruiting and that is the idea that employers should hire employees who fit the prevailing culture and that this will lead to more effective and harmonious teams. Many employers are recruiting this way and, sensing this, many candidates are beginning to select companies on the basis of culture fit to maximize their chances of getting selected for the job. There is a growing body of research to suggest that culture fit will lead to higher performance with a study by Leadership IQ finding that 46 percent of employees fail within 18 months with the primary reason for this being a lack of culture fit. In fact, only 11 percent fail due to a lack of technical skills.

So, as you can see, there are overwhelming reasons to hire for culture fit, but does this mean case closed? Not necessarily. One simple challenge to this premise would be, “What if the culture is bad?” For example, it could be that there is a negative culture of excessive risk taking, as in the banking sector at one point, or, quite the opposite, not enough risk taking, as in one of the many defunct retail brands, (which we hear about on the news with increasing frequency), that were unable to adapt to the new world of internet and mobile shopping and globalization. These kind of cultural deficits are serious and, as you know, by the number of major brands that have gone down in these areas, can ultimately contribute to the decline of the business down to junk status.

Therefore, it’s clear to me that hiring for culture fit is more than simply hiring more of the same; this is a depressingly simplistic view that simply rides roughshod over the possibility that the current culture may be reducing or hindering the competitiveness of the business.

It seems that before an organization hires for culture fit, it is crucial that the organization first assess whether there is a healthy culture in the first place, which is leading to increased employee engagement, customer engagement and profitability.

There are many ways to assess a company’s culture; you can start with the company’s values and culture statement, but of course there is no guarantee that the stated culture is reflected in your workforce.

So, it’s important to test your culture from time-to-time to see how well it fits the template. There are many ways to do this, the simplest—maybe not the cheapest—is to ask a consultant to do it, but alternately you can do it yourselves by looking at your own business and asking questions like:

  • How do the employees behave? Is it in line with our values?
  • Are there common behaviors?
  • What do your customers, employees and suppliers say about your company culture?
  • What is written about your culture in print, online and social media?

Having done this, you will have have a feeling for your culture and whether it is in line with the stated values.  Even if it is, are your stated values still relevant or do they themselves need to be adapted to? For example, does your company need to see more innovation and creativity? If so, you might need to adjust your stated values accordingly.

Therefore, if the culture is not healthy as a result of a poor value statements, you will need to either define a new desirable and healthy company culture and encourage employees to live it. However, if the culture is not healthy because employees are not aligned with your values, you once again need to encourage your employees to live it. It will most likely be a combination of both.

Hiring for cultural fit or cultural change? You decide.

Naturally, if the culture statement is sound and employees are living and breathing the culture then your business is ready to hire for culture fit.

However, if the culture is not healthy and you need to develop a new culture, you can now set about hiring employees for cultural change or cultural fit to your target culture.

Introducing more employees who reflect the new culture will, through sheer weight of numbers, help the organization move towards and sustain its desired healthy cultural state.

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in Organizational Culture]