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How to get cultural fit right

21 Sep 2018 By Chris Platts

Chris Platts explains why employers should base their hiring decisions on more than just gut feeling

The evidence is clear that employees want more from a job than just a fair wage. New research from LinkedIn shows that 71 per cent of employees say they would be happy to take a pay cut if they could work at a place that had values like their own. 47 per cent also say it’s important that they can be themselves at work. The culture of an organisation is becoming increasingly important to attracting talent and ensuring they are happy to stay and grow with the company.

But how do you get employees who identify with your culture through the door? If you get this right and find those people who fit in with the way your organisation works, the knock-on rewards are significant. Hiring well can improve employee engagement, motivation and productivity. It can also potentially save the company from costly recruitment fees while retaining key talent and experience within the organisation, not letting it slip away to the competition.

Our research showed that a huge 96 per cent of organisations agree that hiring for culture fit is important, but only 11 per cent said they were satisfied with how they were doing it. This means almost 9 in 10 companies know they need to improve their processes but are struggling to know where to begin.

77 per cent of those questioned said they measured culture by gut feeling alone. Their assessments are based on how much they like the candidate and how well they think they will fit in with the team and company. This is a very dangerous approach. Judging by gut feeling is purely subjective; it can leave organisations open to bias, only hiring those who are like those already in the business and rejecting candidates who at first sight seem different. It leaves them wide open to accusations of being unfair, leaving little constructive feedback to pass on to unsuccessful candidates. At a time when employer brand is so important, this is woefully short-sighted.

Of those who said that they were taking steps to measure for cultural fit when recruiting, 92 per cent said they use targeted interview questions; 62 per cent use specific competency questions; and 15 per cent said to reduce bias, they get multiple people to interview candidates. These can all help to some extent, but none of them will assess effectively how a candidate works in a real-life situation. 

Every company is different, with a unique culture created by the people in that business. When looking to attract new recruits, why should the hiring process be anything other than customised to that culture? Assessments should be based on three things: a candidate’s ability to do the job; their desire to work for that organisation; and their fit with the culture. Taking all these into account is the most effect way to increase the chances of finding the right person who will thrive in that role. Objective assessments that can accurately measure these elements can provide managers with vital information to improve their hiring decisions, consistency and diversity.

Advances in technology and the developing needs and attitudes of today’s workforce mean that the role of HR is changing. The rise of social media alongside peer-to-peer review sites like Glassdoor mean that employers can no longer completely control their talent brand. They need to find new ways to attract candidates who share their beliefs, values and vision. Employees are actively looking for an environment that fits how they want to work. Employers that show that they are both conscious of their culture and taking active steps to measure and improve it will be the winners in the war for talent now and in the future.

Chris Platts is co-founder of ThriveMap. Read more about ThriveMap in People Management’s run-down of the 10 hottest HR start-ups

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