Just like people, businesses have personalities. For example, a company might encourage interactions among employees during office hours so they can develop better ideas. It does this by removing physical barriers such as cubicles in the office space. 

Another company may, on the other hand, prefer employees to devote all their time to work by installing those very cubicles for privacy.

This is an example of business culture. In other words, this is the way things are done in a particular company. This culture must match up with how the employees behave, particularly when hiring new staff. This is sometimes referred to as culture fit.

But what exactly is culture fit? Let’s discuss.

What is Culture Fit?

Culture fit refers to the congruence between the values and behavioral norms of a company and a candidate or employee. Simply put, when a candidate’s core values, actions, and goals match those of the company, there is a culture fit.

But who determines those core values, actions, and goals in the company? 

On the one hand, it’s true that employees bring their experiences to the workplace and therefore influence company culture. However, the managerial team sets the direction and expectations in the office. The employees take the lead and follow. 

Productivity, Commitment, Satisfaction

It is critical to assess culture fit during the hiring process. The skills and experience of a candidate will be of secondary importance if they don’t get along with anyone at the company.

A Job Fit or a Culture Fit?

So what’s more important, culture fit, or having the right skills?

The answer? Both.

A new employee can usually learn the duties and skills needed for a job with relative ease if there is some training involved. However, they can’t just learn how to work well with other members of a team. This process, after all, involves culture, a very complex concept. 

English anthropologist Edward B.Tylor hit the nail on the head. He described culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”  

Based on this definition, no amount of training can guarantee that a candidate will embody that workplace culture and be that perfect fit for your system. This is why cultural fit is so important.

Who Benefits From Culture Fit

When considering your company culture, it’s important to consider the company culture in its entirety. The cultural fit includes visible and invisible elements of your corporate culture.

The Cultural Iceberg Model provides a nice way to think about how your company operates.

Corporate culture

The existence of culture fit benefits both the employer and the employee.

A psychological study by Kristof-Brown, for example, found that employees who fit in the company team and system have higher job satisfaction. These employees also exhibit better job performance, identify more with the company, make overall shift planning easy, and are, therefore, more committed and more likely to stay. 

Culture fit also affects employee commitment and therefore helps reduce staff turnover. In short, culture fit can determine employee performance and retention.

Employees who fit in well with your company perform better. They are more likely to be team players, as they work better with others and boost team morale

Employees who don’t fit in with the company culture are also more likely to leave. Consider the results of Robert Walters survey

  • 74% of professionals said that they felt demotivated when working for an organization where they were a poor culture fit
  • 69% said they wanted to leave the organization as soon as possible
  • 73% of professionals said they left a job because of poor culture fit

When an employee leaves, the company has to start the recruitment process again, and in the process, waste money and valuable time. 

In short, culture fit does matter.

How to Assess A Candidate For Culture Fit

Sometimes, assessing for culture fit is easy. Other times, it is difficult. You can have two people on the hiring panel who can’t agree on the best candidate. It’s an all too common occurrence.

Let’s take a look at two scenarios with varying degrees of difficulty:

In scenario one, you are hiring a secretary. The position requires someone personable and easy to get along with. The secretary will, after all, be the face of the company.

Given this scenario, it’s obvious a candidate who doesn’t talk much and keeps to themselves all the time should not be hired. 

In scenario two, you have two very friendly candidates. One likes to chat with their colleagues. The other likes to go out with friends after work but has little interest in their coworkers. They both appear to have a strong skill set. They can write professional emails and type 200 words a minute.

What do you do?

Real-life situations are more often like scenario two. Here, it is more challenging to identify who would be the best candidate for the job based on cultural fit.

The reason for that is simple: most employers struggle to make these decisions. At least that is the perception, based on research by Development Dimensions International. They found that 78% of respondents believe that organizations do not assess for culture fit because they do not know-how.

The result? Managers get it wrong and hire the wrong candidate.

In the US, the results of a 2019 Monster poll are telling. A whopping 75% of people surveyed said they’ve had a job where they didn’t feel they were a good fit. 

More than half of the respondents said they felt this way in two or more jobs.

Culture Fit in the Hiring Process

There are several ways to hire for culture fit. For example, you can ask and record your candidate interview questions with a view to working out if a candidate’s values will fit with your company. Here are some:

  • Why did you leave your last company?
  • What type of work environment do you feel most productive?
  • What do you value most at work?
  • Do you prefer to work as a team or independently?
  • What was your biggest success at your last job?

You want to ask questions that provide you with insights into a persons’ character.

There are other tools you can use. Psychometric tests and exams can be used to assess culture fit. The great thing about tests is that they should remove the unconscious bias in recruitment.

Similarly, psychometric testing is a way to assess culture fit on a large scale before the interview stage. In turn, this will save vital time and money in the recruitment process.

The importance of Culture Fit

In this article, we discussed the importance of cultural fit in the selection of the right candidate for a job. We saw that job fit and culture fit are equally important when sourcing a candidate. Culture fit, in particular, does impact employee retention and performance.

To eliminate bad fits earlier in the recruitment process, you can adopt psychometric testing for all of your applicants. The most important thing is that you recognize the importance of culture fit and incorporate it into your recruitment process today.