Hire for Culture and Fit

Author:  Rick Weaver, Franchisee

Hire for Culture and Fit

It was a chilly morning as I raced to get to a meeting across town. Along the way I stopped for a quick breakfast. When the food came, I said, “You must enjoy getting people a delicious start to their day.” The reply shocked me.

“I like it, I just wish the food was healthier”.

I immediately thought, “my breakfast isn’t healthy? I thought it was. After all it’s low in sodium and fat. What is wrong with it.”

Was the problem the food, the wait staff, or something else.

Research on the ingredients verified the healthiness of the breakfast. Perhaps the displeasure by my wait staff was because the breakfast was not organic, perhaps because it was not vegan, or perhaps something was going on in the kitchen that was not sanitary.

Whatever it was, I haven’t stopped there for another meal.

Perhaps the real problem was that this member of the team was not aligned with the mission of the restaurant. In short, there was a lack of Cultural fit.

 

What is culture?

Let’s take a quick moment to define what culture means. According to Northwestern University, “culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization.“

Cultures include any cognitive constructs that create a shared set of behaviors, beliefs, or traditions.

“Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with loved ones, and a million other things,” Cristina De Rossi, an anthropologist at Barnet and Southgate College in London, told Live Science.

Two considerations for Cultural Fit

There are two considerations an employer should or must consider when adding to their team: Corporate Culture and Corporate Mission.

Corporate cultures generally fall into two areas: Traditional Management where decisions are made at top levels and strong policies and procedures keep a disciplined approach. The Contemporary Management culture is typically a bottom-up management style where employees are given greater leeway in how they work. In 1985 a joint venture between IBM and Microsoft did not last as IBM’s employees dressed in the required white dress shirts and suits did not mess with Microsoft’s business casual lifestyle.

Many times, a company will hire an employee because of something very successful on their resume. The company feels this individual will be able to replicate that accomplishment at their company. Although a great idea in concept, if the individual was thriving in a culture where the rules were well defined and strong top-down direction allowed for the achievement, the same individual may not be able to thrive in a contemporary environment. Likewise, if creativity was at the basis of the triumph the individual will suffocate it moving from a contemporary to traditional organization.

Corporate Mission is the second area important to cultural fit. In the case of my morning breakfast, there was not a clear fit to the mission at their restaurant. Something was missing. Even though this waitress was excellent at giving great service, the attitude of displeasure to the food being served was harmful to their business. As previously said, I have not been back to this previously favored morning nosh spot.

It is critical for a company to have a mission their employees can align with – one so strong they will brag about it to family, friends, and social media contacts.

Tying the two together

Success in employee engagement and retention is much stronger when the two elements of cultural fit come together with a candidate’s vision and purpose. This reward is strongest when cultural fit occurs in the onboarding process.

Northwestern University cites their own survey finding 43 percent of job seekers say cultural fit was their single most important determining factor in choosing a job. This does not mean the larger 57% justifies not making cultural fit an important element, it simply means these other individuals do not consciously see this as a large factor – yet it is still silently inside them.

So how do you hire for cultural fit?

First, do not fall into the trap of using internal employee referral programs. These programs

According to Forbes, it all starts with asking the right questions in the interview process. They recommend questions that go beyond technical abilities. Perhaps, they suggest, these follow a tour of the workplace, letting them attend a team meeting, or taking them to lunch first.

However you preface the interview, asking probing questions allows you to determine if answers indicate a match to your organization. Here are some examples:

  1. That’s a phenomenon accomplishment. How were you able to achieve it?
  2. Tell me about the best supervisor you have ever worked for.
  3. In our company’s mission statement, what impressed you the most?

As you ask these questions remember to let your culture shine through.

“Candidates are evaluating you, just as you’re evaluating them. People forget that. Our goal was to have every person who came for an interview walk away wanting the job. Even if we hated candidates, we wanted them to think, ‘Wow, that was an incredible experience. It was efficient, it was effective, it was on time, the questions were relevant, everyone was smart, and I was treated with dignity’. I would tell people, ‘Even if this person isn’t the right fit, we might love his next-door neighbor.’” Patty McCord of Netflix wrote in Harvard Business Review.

Zappos is a strong believer in cultural fit. They have ten elements of an “oath” all employees must ascribe to. The company, which has been highly respected for making shoes a viable online product, credit cultural fit to their success. Former CEO Tony Hsieh said, “If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.”

 

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