Everyone wants to fit in and feel valued. When it comes to the workplace, this is especially true. A strong culture fit can mark the difference between a cohesive, productive team and a toxic, underperforming team with a high turnover rate.
The true definition of Culture Fit
Companies typically have their own defined cultures already. It can be seen in the ways people collaborate with each other, treat each other and work together in the same environment. Hiring for culture fit means finding someone with a working style that matches the company's culture so they can thrive in that unique working environment.
Where does hiring for Culture Fit go wrong?
It's common for recruiters to misunderstand the concept and think that culture fit means hiring an employee that they 'would like to have a drink with,' instead of considering how the candidate's unique work ethics and personality traits align with and bring value to the company.
This misunderstanding can cause hiring managers to pick people because they 'feel right' and are similar to them and the rest of the team. The recruiter may rely on their gut feeling, which could lead to them blindly following any unconscious biases they may hold.
This leads to a company's team members looking and acting alike; and it can exclude diverse talent. As a result, diverse talent (people of a different gender, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, sexual orientation, age, and life experience) will have an arduous time finding employment in their field and the community can be impacted.
The company, becoming aware that they have made the mistake of hiring too many similar people, may then throw away the concept of culture fit to focus only on skills and experience. They could hire qualified people that are different from them just to try and diversify the team, only to find that they have difficulty interacting with the team, have trouble thriving and showing their best work, and end up resigning.
A lack of new ideas and innovation
There can also be a lack of diverse ideas, because the people on your team have similar backgrounds and experiences. They could fall into groupthink during brainstorming sessions and project meetings – a scenario where people in a group tend to lean toward the same decision without using any form of critical thinking.
A lack of creativity will result; and your company will underperform compared to companies that have teams built with people from varied backgrounds, experiences, and affinities.
Toxic work environment
Due to the overwhelming commonalities in beliefs and backgrounds among team members – and in the absence of established core values and workplace ethics – the potential for a toxic work environment is possible.
Common symptoms of a toxic workplace:
- Gossip (conversations excluding the people that don't 'fit' like the others)
- Not allowing everyone the chance to voice their opinion/ideas when the majority is already in alignment
- Peer pressure
- Conversations tend to be negative
- Off-hours communication
- Team members not listening to what you say
- Constant burnout
- Multiple interruptions from colleagues throughout the day
Getting Culture Fit Right by focusing on Values Fit Instead
A more effective and safe way of ensuring you select candidates that truly fit into your company's culture is by embracing the concept of Values Fit.
This is where the focus goes towards the personal characteristics that show how a person behaves in various situations, how they treat and view others, their motivators, and their decision-making process.
- Increased team morale and productivity
- Helping the community thrive (because you're accepting diverse talent)
- Increased progression due to innovative ideas coming from individuals' varied backgrounds and experiences
- A lower turnover rate
- Increased employee satisfaction and retention
How to adopt a values-based recruiting strategy
- Map out what beliefs and standards are important to your company.
How would you like your company to impact society? If it were an individual, what are the characteristics you would use to describe it? These are your company values.
- Define the expected behaviors/actions that stem from the company values.
This prevents ambiguity: individuals may interpret your values in different ways based on their own personal experiences. Making these definitions will serve to clarify the values' true meanings.
- Ensure company values get communicated across all of your job advertisements and postings equally.
This will help to attract the types of candidates your company is looking for and needs.
- Have candidates take personality and aptitude questionnaires.
Here are some of my favorites: 123 Career Test, O*NET Interests Profiler, PathSource, 16 Personalities, and Skills Matcher
- Ask values-based situational judgment questions.
Take the expected behaviors/actions (from #2) and craft questions around them to judge how candidates would react in certain situations. Their answers will help you determine whether they share the same values as your company or not.
A few examples of potential company values
- A commitment to treating people with respect
- An interest in fostering the success of others
- A curiosity and interest in things outside of its academic discipline
- A willingness to commit to expanding its knowledge
Examples of values-based interview questions
- Do you prefer to work by yourself or as part of a team?
- You're busy with your own responsibilities but a team member asks for your help – what would you do?
- How would previous managers and coworkers describe working with you?
- What excites you about this opportunity?
- Do you believe it's more important to work fast or to get the job done right?
- If you had multiple projects and limited time, how would you go about prioritizing?
- How do you manage job-related stress?
- Do you believe in the saying the 'customer is always right?'
- How would you handle an upset customer?
- Your friend's birthday is coming up – how would you go about picking a gift for them?
- Outside of job responsibilities, what do you believe will make you successful in this role?
- If a coworker is bad-mouthing a client, what would you do?
- Describe a time when you weren't pleased with your work and why?
- Tell me something you struggled with early in your career and how you overcame it?
- How do you feel when someone criticizes your work?
- What professional or personal mistakes have you learned the most from?
- What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
- Do you want to become a lead manager in our company?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- What kind of work makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
- What's your dream job?
- Tell me about a time when you helped a coworker improve or become more successful.
- Tell me about a time when you didn't get along with a coworker and how you handled it. What were the results?
- Tell me about a time when you put a coworker or the interest of the company before yourself.
- Tell me about a time you stood up for something you believed in.
- Tell me about a time when you did not agree with something you were asked to do and how you handled it.
- Who are your role models and why?
- In your last position, how was quality measured?
- How do you measure true success at work?
- Describe a time when you felt the greatest sense of accomplishment after finishing a project.
- What goals have you set for yourself this year and how have they changed from last year?
- Tell me about a time you had to change your mind or way of doing things to improve.
- Tell me about a time you received critical feedback from a supervisor and how you made improvements.
Once you have established your company's core values and have hired employees that share those values, the most important step is to actually live these values!
The company values need to be reinforced and employees should be held accountable if they don't uphold the behaviors and actions that support them.
Hiring people who hold values which align with those of your company is key in ensuring how committed to and satisfied employees are with their job, promoting positive team morale, and creating a more prosperous community.