The concept of “company culture” isn’t always easy to define, but most people know it when they see it. If someone sees a photo of a workplace with Foosball tables and an on-site masseuse, they’re probably going to think, “tech startup with young employees.” But corporate culture develops whether it’s shaped and directed, or whether it’s allowed to develop on its own, and understanding it is absolutely essential to the hiring process.
If only hiring were this easy!
Your company culture can be assessed by observing the pace of work, the communication style between management and non-management, how team-oriented versus individually oriented it is, and what people consider normal working hours to be. Factors like dress code, average age of the workforce, and how acknowledgement and praise are handed out also influence company culture. What’s your perception of your company culture? Do you think it coincides with the view that your company leadership has?
Risks of Not Considering Company Culture When Hiring
Sometimes you hire people and they simply don’t fit in, even if they have the right qualifications and experience, and it’s a disappointing situation all around. Usually they won’t stay long, and then you have to start the recruiting process all over again, which can be an expensive proposition.
But hiring for cultural fit isn’t a matter of finding “clones” of employees you already have. Nor is it a matter of hiring someone who you think will toe the company line come what may. Hiring for cultural fit is about finding that qualified person whose work style, ethics, and personality complement those of your existing staff. Does their vision and attitude coincide with the overall company values? Do you believe they will help your team move closer to big company goals? These cultural values are as essential as what’s listed on a person’s resume or application.
How to Avoid Cultural Mismatches in Hiring
If you want to avoid making a cultural mismatch when hiring, you have to start by having insight into what your company culture is and being able to articulate it to the people you interview. You know what kind of talent you need, but do you know what makes people succeed in your organization? Look at company leadership, and those you consider to be mentors or advisors. What has made them successful?
The interview process can give you indications about how well a candidate complements your corporate culture. You could ask, for example, about the work environment in which he or she has experienced the most success. Or you could ask for examples of how the candidate has resolved conflicts on the job. You can also learn from talking to a job candidate’s references. It’s OK to say to references, “These are our cultural values. Do you think this person would thrive in our environment?”
Whether you hire in-house or use a recruiter, the interview process can be tailored to assess cultural fit.
You can also use assessment instruments to learn more about cultural fit. But you have to be careful, because if these assessment tools are not validated, they may be inaccurate, or could even cause inadvertent discrimination and the problems that go along with it.
When You Work With a Recruiting Firm
With the enormous range of responsibilities Human Resources specialists have to master and cope with every day, many companies turn to recruiting firms for at least part of the job candidate vetting process. This can be smart and cost-effective if you select your recruiter with care. Only work with a recruiter who takes the time to get to know your company and your company culture. You don’t necessarily need the recruiter with the biggest database, but the one who can zero in on that short list of job candidates with the qualifications and cultural attitudes that work in your corporate environment. Otherwise, working with a recruiter can be an expensive exercise in futility.
Your company culture is like the “operating system” of your business. It influences how employees behave on the job, and their attitudes and morale. Company culture isn’t always easy to define, but it’s important that you do your best to understand what works and what doesn’t as far as moving the organization forward toward its goals.
Organizations develop cultures, that’s a given. Understanding how that culture aligns with goals, and what professional and interpersonal skills work best in that culture are essential when hiring, whether you hire in-house or use a recruiter. Sure, you want to fill that position as soon as possible, but taking the time to get the right cultural fit makes that extra effort and time well worthwhile.