A 3-Step Process for Cultural Fit Assessment in Hiring
When it comes to important business decisions within your control, hiring likely tops the list. Your people define your organization, and the fewer individuals you hire, the more important the decision to get each one right becomes.
There are many different styles of individuals who have the ability to succeed, the trick is identifying those people who can most effectively achieve your organizations strategic business goals. This means ensuring that the people you hire are passionate about both your business and the organizational culture that defines it. Happiness and cultural fit are integral to employee productivity and strategic innovation. They are thus also both integral to the overall success and upward mobility of your venture.
Use this 3-step cultural competence assessment instrument to help ensure that you hire the most effective people and put them in the right place within your organization.
Step One: Define Your Culture
Step Two: Interview for Fit
Step Three: Tap Successful Employees
Step One: Define Your Culture
1) Rewards - Which best describes your organization’s most common way of rewarding success? Keep in mind this is often communicated in a culture through subtle behaviors - not just bonuses and raises - but what the boss talks about, the “stories of praise” that are circulated most often:
a) All for one, one for all. The team is rewarded and punished together.
b) Heroics. A few great men (women) always pull through for team and everyone knows who they are.
c) Intimidation. We motivate through fear. The guy who puts the numbers on the Board is King, regardless of the trail of dead bodies left behind.
d) Egalitarian. Effort is what counts. Everyone gets an “A.” Extra effort rarely noticed.
e) Benchmark. Fairness is the goal; all rewards are HR-driven to keep pace with industry or competitor standards.
2) Decision Making – Which best describes the most frequent method by which decisions are made in your organization? (*Note: You might substitute “team lead” for the word “boss”).
a) Directive – the boss makes the decision and tells everyone.
b) Consultative – the boss asks a few trusted people and then makes the decision.
c) Democratic – the boss asks people to vote and goes with the majority vote.
d) Consensus – the boss won’t make a decision until everyone has weighed in, usually on every decision. (Meetings may be a smokescreen in which he tips his hand about the decision he wants).
e) 100% agreement - there must be mind-meld agreement among everyone before we act.
f) What decision making? - refer to choice “e”.
3) Growth Goals – Which growth style best represents your organization’s top priority for the next 3 years?
a) Sales/Revenue – Feet on the Street
b) Profit – Slower Topline, Bigger Bottom Line
c) Be everywhere – Secure Customers and Market Share
d) Innovation – New Products and Services
e) Merger – Monopoly All the Way!
4) Communication Style
a) Need to know – leaders decide what people should know when, and share it in some random discretionary way that nobody understands.
b) Don’t need to know – leaders don’t think people should know much about the business, and don’t tell them (usually results in Choice D; the difference is a conscious intention on the part of leaders to keep secrets).
c) Transparent – leaders provide clear line of sight and insight into goals, priorities, and key decisions.
d) Rumor mill – the most trusted form of information is whatever circulates through the social network.
e) Spin – leaders like to share only good news, and bad news always has an angle, which is rarely credible.
5) Leadership Style - Which best describes your organization’s most prevalent leadership style (behaviors leaders are promoted and rewarded most for in your company):
a) Teach people to fish.
b) Tell ‘em the goal and let ‘em sink or swim.
c) Control the purse-strings. Every penny is counted. Classic micro-management.
d) Build self-governing teams and let ‘em do the work.
e) Death by meetings. A wishy-washy leadership style prevails, in which every project or decision requires everyone to attend a meeting. (Often paired with decision styles “d” and “e” in question 2).
f) Us versus Them. Leaders are bosses and employees should be seen and not heard. A lot of gossip and “gotcha” behavior circulates among and about leaders, who are not generally trusted.
6) Cultural Personality - Which word or phrase best describes your organization’s overall personality?
a) Family (And we know who Mom and Dad are!)
b) All Business (We wear suits and probably ties, have formal meetings, never socialize beyond the power lunch).
c) Cool Tech (We play at work, 80% of us are under 30, everyone has Twitter handles).
d) Swarm (We change priorities as often as we change clothes. Maybe more).
e) Straight Laced (Buttoned up and very serious; we don’t talk about personal lives, don’t tell the truth, don’t have much fun around here).
f) King Customer (We do whatever it takes to make ‘em happy).
g) Fill in the Blank: ________________
Use the above questions (or make up your own) to create a short description (50 words or less) of your corporate culture. Be honest! This becomes a template for culture fit in your hiring process.
Step Two: Hire for Cultural Fit. Really.
Cultural Fit and Cultural Competence are crucial. A big part of creating passion and alignment in an organization is when people really feel like they’re part of the same tribe. Most organizations are good at screening for the ability to do the job. Few organizations screen for cultural fit – or better – for culture champions.
Everyone has had a job where they didn’t fit in – even if they did a great job, it just didn’t “feel good” to work there. Everyone has worked with someone who lacked cultural competence within their organization. Recall what a painful experience that was for both sides. I
It's thus integral to supplement your existing hiring processes that focus on job fit and past success (ie, references), with a cultural fit assessment.
Screen for Culture Fit:
1) Know your culture and don’t apologize for it. If you are autocratic or straight-laced and don’t intend to change that, be up front and hire people who like formal processes and/or clear direction.
2) Ask candidates direct Culture Fit questions. “Think of the job where you’ve been most successful. Tell me about the communication … decision … growth … leadership style there.” “What was true about the same for the job in which you felt least successful?” “What is your ideal culture in a team/organization, where you felt most at home? (amazing what this one simple question reveals).
3) Expect a 2-way interview. Don’t be offended if a candidate is asking questions to assess cultural fit for themselves in your company. The best hires will, and that’s a good thing.
4) Let them sell you, not the other way around. Most hiring managers are too quick to try to convince someone with an impressive resume they should want to work in your company. Let them take the lead in convincing you. Even if they’re the perfect fit and exactly what you need, the best dynamic is one in which they’re courting you. If it’s the opposite, proceed cautiously. Why? You want someone working for you who is 100% passionate about your company. Holding back your sales pitch helps you discover if that’s so.
5) Do you like them? This is a simple, often overlooked question. It doesn’t replace assessing their ability to do the job. And, for sure it does not mean hiring people that are exactly like you (you need diversity for the strongest team). Just be sure you like them as a person.
Step Three: Tap Successful Employees
The best way to build for successful cultural fit is for employees to refer people they know. There are so many reasons this is a good idea – primarily because an existing employee doesn’t want the stigma of having recommended a bad egg. It doesn’t always work (ie, for massive periods of growth or very specialized functions) but it is a sound core recruiting strategy.
1) Identify cultural champions in your company. Ideally, a prospective candidate would interview at least two culture champions who are NOT a member of their direct team or whom they won’t report to.
2) Give referral bonuses. Make employees your recruiting team.
3) Always recruit. Keep resumes on file of people you “almost hired” or who sought you out. The worst time to start recruiting is when you need someone yesterday.
4) Trust your gut. We advise clients to sleep on any hiring decision before making an offer. Don’t let impulse lead to buyer’s remorse. If you’re not 100% convinced, delay the decision.
5) Never compromise. Google swears by cultural fit, which for them are really smart AND interesting people. Their founder/CEO still reviews resumes of every prospective hire. Even a key position will remain open – sometimes up to 18 months - until they find the right person.