What Does “Hiring for Culture Fit” Actually Mean?

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A friend figured she had made a great hire to join her executive team. The new team member was a close friend of hers (we will call her Sue), had great technical skills, was well liked by their mutual friends, and had a marvelous track record of achievement. Sue was a “no brainer” hire and would hit the ground running. At first, things went well as Sue spent time with each member of the team, asking lots of questions and demonstrating a solid grasp of her profession. In retrospect, it was a great honeymoon, but a bad marriage.

The trouble started as soon as the welcoming rituals were over and the team got to work. The first thing Sue did was to put an “I” in TEAM, so instead of “we” it was all about “me.” Sue had stepped in “it” big time. The “it” turned out to be an unwritten rule about teamwork and “we over me.” Unwritten rules such as this one are inevitably carved in the stone of a company’s culture. Because of this, Sue’s behavior was seen as an attack by a “me over we” lone wolf on the core values of the company.

That’s not surprising when you stop to consider what a company’s culture is: “The values, mindsets, and beliefs about success and how it is achieved that governs the behavior of all employees.” In a very real sense, Sue was messing with the lifeblood of the company and would have to go. For both Sue and the friend that had vouched for her, this was a wrenching event – and one that need not have happened.

Sue was a perfect example of a bad culture fit.  She had the technical skills to do the job, and very likely had the necessary social skills as well.  What she lacked was much simpler than that: She did not share her team’s beliefs about success and how it is achieved. In terms of the team’s system of beliefs, success occurred only in a team environment. No lone wolves need apply. However, from Sue’s view, success was all about stepping up, sounding off, and going for it – and let the chips fall where they may. Had both sides understood this difference, much pain, anguish, and expense could have been avoided.

Hiring for Culture Fit

Many customers approach us wanting to decrease turnover and improve quality of hire – which is a term defined differently by each company.  We define a quality hire as someone who performs their job well, stays for the optimal amount of time, and fits your culture.  Given our definition, we generally start by asking customers: “Why do most people fail?”  This question is often easier to answer than: “What makes someone successful?” One of the most common responses is: “They didn’t fit our culture.”  For most, this is a catch-all statement and they struggle with pin-pointing exactly what culture-fit means. This is where we can help. Corvirtus fully understands what culture is, how to define it, and how to develop employee selection tools to identify quality hires.

We start by quantifying your culture and identifying if the culture you have is the one you need.  Using our CultureMap™, we are able to measure culture in terms of five key dimensions. Our “Big Five” are beliefs about the appropriate results to be achieved, how to behave, how to care, how to compete, and how to be cool and unique. Within each of these five dimensions, sub-dimensions set your standards for excellence and behavior, such as:

  • To what extent does your organization reward the performance of individuals versus teams?
  • Do you de-emphasize status, or are there key distinctions across your hierarchy
  • Are you constantly innovating the customer experience or relying on tried and true ways?
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These differences determine how you live your “Big Five.”  By knowing where you are now and where you want to be within each dimension you can set expectations and standards around your core beliefs about what success is and how it should be achieved.  This understanding can be applied to everything you do: from how you treat vendors and suppliers, to how you evaluate job candidates.

Developing a Culture-Based Selection Process

Once it is clear what culture-fit looks like, we are able to identify the best tools to measure the characteristics and qualities needed for success.

By knowing your values and how you define success we can help you develop and hire a team that can reach that standard.  This can happen through validated hiring assessments that measure a candidate’s values, work styles, preferences, and personality: the stable qualities that determine their attitudes and behavior.  Assessments can also measure a potential manager’s leadership style or the coping strategies linked to managing challenging, but common, customer service scenarios.  The demands of your work environment, whether at the executive or entry-level, may require a requisite level of skill and problem-solving ability that can be assessed through precise measures of cognitive ability.

An understanding of your culture can also be applied to structured interviews: standardized questions you ask every candidate you interview with established ways of evaluating responses.  To go back to the example with Sue, a structured interview could describe common work situations, giving Sue the option to make others be stars through collaboration, or work as a lone wolf.  Her answers to these questions would have helped both her and the organization avoid a difficult and painful situation.

Next Steps

Culture is like an onion: all layers are built upon the center – your core beliefs about success.  Our What is Culture? whitepaper can help you take a closer look at your culture and evaluate if the culture you have is the right one for your business.

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