Culture Fit

What is “culture fit”? And why should you care? Well, let me explain, and pay close attention, because your company’s success depends on it.

Your Company’s Success Depends On It

by Karen J. Gregory, December 2012

What is “culture fit”?  And why should you care?  Well, let me explain, and pay close attention, because your company’s success depends on it.

You know that dream job candidate – the one with the perfect resumé and stellar credentials, the one that everyone wants to hire?  Well, that one could be the biggest disaster if their values don’t align with your company’s culture.  It has been said, “People are hired for skills, but fired for fit.”

Why Is Culture So Important?

Today, leaders are faced with complex issues in very dynamic working environments.  Some would argue that many of the problems confronting these leaders are due to their failure to examine their company’s culture when hiring new talent.  For example, a new-hire who comes into a company prepared to “shake the place up” often experiences resistance to change and ultimately fails.  Why?  Because they didn’t analyze the company’s existing culture – i.e. the personality of the company – for fit.  It’s similar to that pair of jeans you want to get into.  If they don’t fit, they just don’t fit.  And forcing them to fit will only create disaster.

So what can you do to ensure “fit” in your organization?  And how do you evaluate something as nebulous as culture fit?

Step 1 – For Starters, Examine Your Company’s Current Culture

Start by taking an objective look at your current work atmosphere.  Leaders must correctly analyze the company’s existing culture and evaluate it against the employee attributes needed to achieve their business objectives.

Then, conduct an analysis of the organization’s existing ideologies, values and norms.  Several critical questions that leaders should ask are:

  • Is work based on individual achievement or group performance?
  • Does the environment encourage a formal or informal work atmosphere?  Does everyone go by their first name?
  • Are new ideas welcomed or are they criticized?
  • Does the company value a structured or unstructured environment?
  • Are small decisions made quickly or slowly and deliberately?
  • Are mistakes expected or are they simply unacceptable?
  • Is clear, specific guidance always provided or is more self-directed action the norm?
  • What drives the company?  Are employees expected to be customer-service driven?  Mission driven?  Relationship driven?  Strategic plan driven?
  • What is the work ethic?  Is it an 80-hour week, a predictable work schedule, or totally flexible?  How does the company view flextime, telecommuting, carrying a Blackberry, overnight travel, and working nights and weekends?
  • What are the work/life expectations?  Is your company good for someone seeking work/life balance or is it full throttle, flat out 24/7?

Knowing exactly what your company values will enable you to hone in to the particular attributes of candidates who align with those values.

Step 2 – Hire People Who “Fit” Your Company Culture

Does examining culture fit start before you even hire an employee?  Yes!  Let’s think about this for a minute.  Forget a candidate’s resume and instead ask yourself, “What is our organizational culture?  What type of employees are we looking to hire?  Are they a good cultural fit for the organization?”  You want to attract and hire only candidates whose beliefs and behaviors are congruent with your company’s culture.  An employee who is a good cultural fit will work well within the current workplace environment and culture you have created.  Generally, they will excel because the company’s culture aligns with their own personal values and beliefs.  Employees who fail to fit within the current organizational culture generally leave to find an environment that is more congruent with their own values and beliefs.  However, if they don’t fit and don’t leave, then it is up to you to remove employees who do not demonstrate the desired value base.

Hire talent that is a good cultural fit from the start because culturally incongruent behaviors and turnover produce large associated costs.

Step 3 – Set the Example: Bleed the Company Culture

Leaders must demonstrate behaviors that are congruent with the existing culture of the company.  Are valued behaviors modeled daily – no matter the temptation to circumvent a process or to gain an advantage?  Are leaders attuned to the values of the organization?  Do they provide positive feedback to team members who exude the company culture?  Do leaders keep their promises to their employees?  Leaders must remember to always set the bar high by first modeling the expected values and behaviors themselves.  Secondly, leaders must promptly praise and reward behaviors that reinforce the company culture and redirect behaviors otherwise misaligned.

If you don’t bleed the culture, neither will your team.

Finding a good “fit” is essential to the company-employee relationship.  It is the cornerstone to job satisfaction and performance – for both the company and the employee.  So treat culture fit as if your company’s success depends on it – because it does.



Karen J. Gregory, SPHR, is the president and owner of HRSS Consulting Group, LLC. Contact her at (321) 427-7984 or kgregory@hrssconsultinggroup.com

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