Though the term cultural fit has gaining popularity in recruitment, many employers are still perplexed by its meaning.
So what exactly does a cultural fit mean?
Cultural fit is a congruence between the values and behavioral norms of a company and a candidate. It means that candidate’s core values, actions, and goals match yours.
A certain candidate might have an impressive skillset and valuable experience. However, this candidate won’t be able to perform his best if he doesn’t fit in with your team, department and company culture. This is why it is crucial to assess cultural fit in the selection process.
Long story short — they are both equally important.
However, you should keep in mind that most people can learn specific job-related duties and learn any necessary new skills with relative ease, especially when you invest some time and effort in training them.
On the other hand, learning how to work well with team members and fitting into the company as a whole is much more complicated and a process that even the best training can’t guarantee.
If you have two candidates — one who has the perfect skills and experience and another who has slightly fewer skills and experience, but is a better cultural fit — it’s better to go with the second candidate.
To hire the best candidate, you need to choose the best person not only for the position but also for your company.
According to a psychological study by Kristof-Brown, employees who fit well with their company, colleagues and management team:
A recent analysis of 200 workplace studies, reported by Randstad, found that cultural fit was more important in predicting an employee’s commitment to their employer than any other factor, including skill, talent or experience.
These findings highlight the importance of cultural fit for employee performance and retention.
Employees who embrace your company culture and values perform better and are more likely to stay longer in your company. They also work better with others, boost team morale and positively affect your future recruiting efforts by becoming your company’s brand ambassadors.
On the other hand, employees who are a bad cultural fit can cause disruptions in your company and culture, negatively affect your projects, and hurt client or customer relations.
They are also more likely to leave your company. According to recruitment consultancy Robert Walters survey, “74% of professionals said that they felt demotivated when working for an organization where they were a poor cultural fit” and 69% reported they “wanted to leave the organization ASAP.” According to the same survey, 73% of professionals have left a job because of poor cultural fit! This creates a turnover that leaves companies in a situation where they have to start the recruiting process all over again, wasting time and money.
Though it might seem quite simple, assessing cultural fit is difficult.
For example, it seems obvious that an introverted candidate who enjoys the seclusion of separate cubicles wouldn’t fit into a company that has an open space office and frequently holds loud office parties. It also doesn’t make sense to expect an enthusiastic extrovert to work remotely because this candidate will probably suffer in isolation.
But real-life case scenarios are often much more complicated!
For example, you might have two extroverted candidates who are both very sociable. However, they express their sociability in two completely different ways: One candidate may prefer to chat with colleagues every day as they work, while the other might like to super focus on work tasks alone and then go out with colleagues after work. These two candidates are both sociable; however, their behaviours will have a totally different impact on their colleagues and affect their team in completely different ways.
Obviously, assessing cultural fit has many nuances and requires a thoughtful approach. Consequently, most employers avoid assessing cultural fit in the selection process.
According to a research report published by Development Dimensions International (DDI), an international talent management company, “78% of respondents believe that organizations and hiring managers do not assess for culture fit because they do not know how.”
There are many ways to hire for cultural fit. The easiest way to assess for cultural fit in your selection process is to simply add cultural fit interview questions to your list of standard interview questions.
However, if you really want to check how candidates will fit in your team and your company culture, you should observe them in different situations. Take them on a tour of your office. Let them sit in on a meeting or have them join you for a team lunch. Include them in informal meetings with team members and colleagues or invite them to a pre-employment dinner. Some companies also assess candidates’ cultural fit during a trial work period.
Employers should also consider other methods and tools that can help identify cultural fit. According to recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, only 18% of employers use psychometric tests or other external examinations to assess candidates’ cultural fit. Finally, you should also consider applying equitable and culturally responsive assessment tests to avoid your own biases (conscious or subconscious) and embrace diversity as you select candidates who will be a good fit for your company culture.
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International HR Director for OSF Global Services, Andreea is a veteran recruiter who has seen them all. She developed HR recruiting strategies and retention programs that guarantees the success of the company. She is a people person and she handles very easy new relationships with new employees, but her most interesting challenge is to find the middle way between company’s best interests and employee’s needs. To learn more about Andreea contact her on LinkedIn.