Cultural fit
Nov 16, 2016 — TrackFive

Cultural Fit: Hiring Tool or Disguising Bias?

It is hard for a business to be successful without a formidable team helping pave the way. That is why hiring and retaining quality employees is important. When it comes to hiring employees, you always hear about cultural fit or workplace culture playing a major role in their success. Look at Zappos or Google, for example. I’ve even written about creating a work culture to foster innovation. This is not that blog post, however.

There are many that think that a cultural fit is a new form of discrimination. Yes, a positive work environment is beneficial to your company’s productivity. But if everyone thinks and acts the same, who will ever ask the hard questions that spur innovation? More importantly, what is a cultural fit? How does a company quantify or measure something intangible?

A quick Google search will give many definitions from various influencers. Why? Because cultural fit is something that is recognizable, but generally immaterial. Workplace culture is based on behaviors, beliefs, and values. The culture of a company refers to the way things are done. When a company is looking for a fit, they are looking for an alignment between the company’s core values and the candidate’s attributes, skills, and qualities.

Benefits of Hiring for Cultural Fit

Obviously, there are many advantages to hiring a fit culturally. Even if you are not able to really measure it, you know when a new hire is missing that cultural fit. Those that fit into their company will experience greater job satisfaction, perform better, and will likely stay at the same company.

Don’t underestimate the power of hiring an employee that fits. When employers recruit bad hires, it can lead to declines in sales or employee morale, losses in productivity, and added training costs. Lauren Kolbe, founder of KolbeCo has stated, “an employee who is not aligned with the culture and is not committed to living it can wreak havoc pretty quickly, even if they bring a great deal of skill and experience to their craft.”

The idea behind hiring for the right fit is that the manager wants to work with people that are like them. Managers want to mentor people that seem like versions of themselves. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, it is human nature to want to surround yourself with people with the same values or behaviors. So, when does this become an issue?

Unmasking Discrimination in the Workplace

Clearly, there is a need to hire for fit in the workplace, however, it becomes an issue when you are using cultural fit as a reason not to hire someone. If you don’t even know how to measure your company culture, how could you possibly use it to eliminate a potential candidate?

Some companies are using this idea of culture to discriminate against employees based on their gender, class, race, sexual orientation, or education. That is not to say that companies are purposely discriminating against prospective employees. But, when you start letting personal bias get in the way of hiring the right candidates, you are putting your company at risk. Without diversity, you don’t get any out of the box thinking from your team.

While you may be looking to hire someone you would want to drink a beer with, you may be turning away skilled employees that could really help your company because they don’t fit. When everyone in your office thinks the same way, no one will challenge anyone. If no one is challenged in their thinking, you can create a sense of complacency and overconfidence. No one will ask questions about products or processes that will spur innovation and grow your business.

Considerations for Hiring a Cultural Fit

Always remember that you should always be looking to diversify your employees. When you have employees with various life experiences, backgrounds, and values, you have the perfect ingredients to encourage changes that will grow your business. So, how can you still hire for fit, but ensure that you are not turning away quality hires based on biases?

Create two lists. On one of them, write down your organization’s core values. These should be the same values you want to see from every candidate. On the second list, write down your company’s cultural patterns. There is a reason that I want you to make two lists; those values should remain separate. Look for your core values in a candidate first, and then see what cultural patterns fit your company.

Remember that if your corporate culture is open to new ideas, you can build teams that can leverage each other’s differences. By having diversity in your company, your teams will be able to take smart risks and learn new methods of doing things.

Most importantly, make sure that if you are eliminating a candidate for not being a cultural fit, explain that decision. You should be able to look at exactly which values the candidate does not emulate. If you cannot quantify a cultural reason for eliminating a potential hire, do not eliminate that potential hire.

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