Nicole Padgett The Lee Group

Hiring is one of the most important – and challenging – actions for many companies to take, and there is a plethora of criteria to consider when evaluating a candidate’s potential fit.

Of course, you need to look at relevant job experience and career history, but research increasingly shows that hiring people for “cultural fit,” or seeking out individuals who align with your company’s unique culture and values, is an essential part of effective, strategic hiring.

But, what does “company culture” mean exactly?

To put it simply, company culture is the personality of a company – its identity. Culture can include a variety of elements, such as office environment, company mission, values, ethics and goals.

Think of Google and its casual and innovative work atmosphere or Southwest Airlines with its sometimes over-the-top, bubbly employees known for great customer service. These companies have a firm grasp of their culture and of who they want to work for them.

How do companies determine culture?

While there is no culture 101 guide, the best way to start is to determine or review your company’s mission statement.

What values and beliefs map back to your company’s mission?

Some examples of values to consider include: accountability, commitment to customers, fun, work-life balance, continuous learning, diversity, teamwork and innovation.

What is your company’s position on these values and what are you doing to exemplify these values?

Once you have an understanding of your company’s culture, then you can make better hiring decisions.

Why is company culture important?

Studies find that culture-driven organizations are highly successful and they experience less employee turnover and more productivity. Additionally, a healthy culture encourages employees to stay motivated, stay loyal toward management and form healthy relationships amongst colleagues.

When your culture is clear, different perspectives can gather behind it with a common purpose.

The culture at your organization sets expectations for how people behave and work together, and how well they function as a team.

In this way, culture can break down the boundaries between siloed teams, guide decision-making, and improve workflow overall.

How do you determine if an employee will fit your culture?

When you bring someone new into a team, you want that person to be a long-lasting, valuable employee within your organization. It’s easy to provide the resources and tools to help employees get better at their jobs, but you can’t teach someone to align with your cultural values.

During the interview process, consider the questions you’re asking, and incorporate open-ended questions surrounding the qualities your organization most values. For example:

  • What do you value most at work?
  • What do you like most about working on a team?
  • Can you give an example of when you went out of your way to help a colleague or create a positive experience for a customer?

Another way to determine cultural fit is to change up the interview process. Not all interviews have to take place in a board room or across from a desk. If you want to get to know candidates as people, take them out to chat over a more informal setting, like coffee or lunch.

You can also have candidates meet their prospective colleagues as part of the interview process to see how the team gels before you officially welcome new members into the family.

And remember that interviews are two-way streets. Candidates should demonstrate their capabilities and their values, but interviewers should clearly define the overall mission of their company by emphasizing things such as how your company recognizes achievements or the company’s expectations for working (or not!) overtime or on the weekends.

Remember what culture fit is NOT.

Finally, it’s important to remember where diversity fits into this equation. Hiring for culture fit comes down to making sure employees treat each other with the respect your company expects. What it doesn’t mean is overlooking different cultures and lifestyles, or dismissing personal values you don’t agree with.

Managers should regularly ask HR to review culture fit-based decisions to ensure you’re not accidentally building a team of people who all think, look and act the exact same way.

You want your people to be united by your company’s shared mission.

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