Many organizations say that, when it’s time to hire an employee, skills and experience are important but cultural fit matters more. So, what exactly does that mean? Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. Cultural “fit” isn’t supposed to be similar-to-me. Company cultures can thrive with individuals who are different and still “fit”.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that cultural fit is when a candidate is able to get stuff done within the organizational culture. I’ve worked with individuals who were able to get things done, but they alienated people all along the way. That’s not cultural fit. I’ve also worked with people that were well-liked by their colleagues but couldn’t deliver results. That’s also not cultural fit.
The concept of cultural fit is important. Organizations want to know that an employee’s beliefs and values match with the company, so they will be able to engage, collaborate, provide feedback, and even disagree in the proper context. When I think back on my own career, I found as I moved up the corporate ladder, my job interviews were less about “Can you interview? or Do you know how to conduct training?” and more to determine if I “fit” with the senior management team and the organizational culture.
The culture fit conversation should take place during the interview. The real question is, can organizations create ways to determine cultural fit prior to the interview? This would allow job seekers to see the company culture and decide if they are a good “fit”before applying. The answer is yes, we can.
Start with the company’s mission, vision and values (MVV). Specifically, an authentic mission, vision and values. Not one that looks good on the conference room wall and business cards but doesn’t really mean anything on a daily basis.
Use the MVV to create your organizational culture. Company values should be apparent in the actual way the business runs. How meetings are held, decisions are made, and problems are solved.
Let culture drives your employment brand strategy. The company has a consumer brand strategy. It also needs an employment strategy. What does the organization want candidates to think about them as an employer?
Align brand strategy with the candidate experience. This is where the results of the company’s employment brand are felt – in the candidate experience. The brand strategy is what the organization is selling; the candidate experience is what people think their buying. They need to match.
This results in achieving cultural “fit” – job seekers can peek behind the curtain and see the company. They get a realistic job preview. They decide if they are a good fit before they apply. It positions the company to ask a candidate, “Tell me why you feel you’re a good fit for our organization.” If the company has effectively done their part in sharing an authentic view of the workplace, then candidates should be able to answer the question.
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So for any organization that values cultural fit (and really, who doesn’t?), it’s in everyone’s best interest to build a great corporate culture, employment brand strategy, and candidate experience. I know . . . that’s much easier said than done. Because all of these components are unique to your organization. But you can draw on the creativity, best practices, and lessons learned of others.
P.S. I’m facilitating A Society for Human Resource seminar on “Talent Acquisition: Creating Your Organization’s Strategy” that covers every touchpoint in the process. Seminars are available in person and virtually. And they’re approved for recertification credits. If investing in your talent acquisition process is part of the company’s goals this year, you might want to consider checking it out. I’d love to see you there!
Image of Sharlyn Lauby captured after her SHRM Annual Conference presentation in Orlando, FL7