Culture fit has quickly become a buzz term in human resources, yet many job seekers and employers still lack the understanding of what it means or how to channel it through the workplace. Unlike the experience and your skills listed on a resume, the qualities that make a candidate compatible with an organization’s culture are rarely anticipated. There is also an added challenge for small and mid-size businesses, which are often in the early stages of developing and defining their company values and culture. To start, let’s explore what constitutes culture in the workplace.
To have effective collaboration in the workplace, it’s important for employees to have a shared set of goals and values and to be working towards the same company’s goals and mission. This is where culture comes in, uniting the distinct roles and personalities existing in a company through common beliefs and practices that align with the company’s mission.
Does the company prioritize an open workspace? Is collaborative decision-making an essential part of the job, or does one person make the decisions and the rest follow? The answers to these questions are some of the building blocks of culture. Whether a candidate is a good match for the environment they’ll be working in, indicates if they’re a good culture fit.
However, it’s important to distinguish between recruiting someone who is a good cultural match and hiring people that are too similar. Put this into perspective, the danger of employers focusing on finding someone who will blend well with the team, is that it can lead to the “development of a monoculture in the office”. Instead, many employers are redefining culture fit as ‘culture add’ which aims at recognizing candidates who bring entirely new perspectives and amazing ideas into the workplace.
Understanding and communicating the company’s mission and values
Successful candidates who are passionate about the company’s goals ultimately find greater satisfaction in their roles within that company and ultimately tend to add more value than say someone who is dissatisfied with their role. This is a win for both the employee and employer as it results in greater productivity in the workplace. That’s why it’s becoming essential for applicants to research a company’s goals and mission, history and workplace environment in order to reflect on whether it’s somewhere they really see themselves working. So much so, 58% of job seekers say they chose not to apply to a company because they did not feel they’d be a good culture fit.
Entering a new workplace always comes with challenges and often you learn new things about yourself, discover additional strengths and eventually adapt. However, if an appealing salary is the candidate’s only motivation to work at a company, it will become apparent. Spending a large part of your life at a workplace that doesn’t share your values or support your style, will lead to more altercations between you and your coworkers and it will become a struggle to get along and put a damper on overall company productivity. Ultimately this can put employee careers in jeopardy.
This is where your employer brand comes in. With clearly defined missions, goals and values you can tell a compelling story about your company. This story is what will attract the right talent for your business by motivating candidates that share the same values.
Identifying talent with the right soft skills
A company’s culture is the sum of the behaviours and attitudes expressed by all employees individually. How these manifest themselves in the daily practices within the workplace – teamwork, empathy, flexibility – these practises determine the soft skills prioritized within the workplace.
Soft skills are packaged in the form of subtle intangible qualities that are neither teachable nor trainable but easily noticed when missing. They translate to a candidate’s communication skills and ability to communicate their concerns or feedback constructively to their teammates, to resolve conflicts in a collaborative manner, to show recognition for another’s success. Soft skills are the factor to better interactions with coworkers which is essential for the free flow of ideas within a company. If a candidate is not able to communicate with the team, it means that their amazing ideas that can add extreme value to projects may never be heard and hinder the overall work flow within the company.
However, while practically all companies expect their employees to have the soft skills needed to get along with each other, there has been a shift and companies are now seeking soft skills that distinguish their brand. This can translate to anything from being an empathetic person to providing feedback on your own and others’ work or participating in regular team building activities. Most companies have worked hard to develop a clear framework for identifying soft skills in candidates during the interview process. This means job seekers need to be ready to channel their skills and answer questions that show empathy, effective communication, situational problem-solving skills and creativity. A few questions that offer insight into a candidates soft skills include:
- Tell me about a time when you made someone feel exceptional.
- How did you manage a conflict with a co-worker within the workplace?
- Describe when you proposed a creative solution to a problem.
- How did you approach a disagreement with your supervisor?
Culture fit versus culture add: Bringing a new perspective to the table
An inclusive workplace culture is essential for the influx of new ideas and different ways of solving challenges. While having a common set of values among employees is important, hiring people with the same interests, working styles, hobbies and personality styles is not the aim of most hiring managers. In fact, a growing number of employers are looking for someone who has experience distinct to what the company specializes in and who is not scared to share and bring new opinions to team. This concept is what many are coining as ‘culture add.’ What does it mean in practice? A start-up with a workforce consisting mainly of millennials may look to hire an older candidate with a very different scope of experiences, or an established company with an older work force may bring in someone that just got out of school to get their perspective and experience within the company.
In addition, a company that unites employees of distinct professional and personal backgrounds and connects people from all walks of life, encourages the development of new soft skills in workers. By creating a diverse team of people with varying experiences, employees get to know other people’s perspectives on things and become empathetic to topics that may not have been in the past. Interacting with those that have a different approach or methodology to solving a problem also allows team members to learn from one another.
In the end, for most employers, culture fit does not mean finding a candidate who blends seamlessly with the team, but someone who will add value, perspective and overall enhance the companies’ culture. They want an applicant who knows the company’s mission in-depth and believes in its goals while, at the same time, adding a new outlook. The unifying aspect of culture is attitude, less of what you do and more of how you do it. So, the next time you’re looking for your next great hire, ensure you’re not only communicating your corporate culture, but asking the right questions that will reveal the people who are the best fit for your company.