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Why Determining “Culture Fit” Is So Important in the Hiring Process

Why Determining “Culture Fit” Is So Important in the Hiring Process Blog Feature

Dia Vavruska

Director of Account Management, 10+ Years of Digital Marketing Strategy and Account Management

February 6th, 2019 min read

Hiring a new employee means so much more than adding headcount to your next company meeting. Especially for small to mid-sized companies, every hire you make can impact the dynamic of your organization and individual teams for better or for worse.

So, what makes a great hire? And, how do you identify them in the hiring process?

Is it based on their academic credentials, professional experiences and references, and technical skill set? Those certainly offer a great starting point.

However, checking the boxes on those items won’t help you uncover the intangibles that make for an exceptional employee — that “it” factor and cultural fit that will excite and inspire your team, and drive your organization forward.

As you evaluate your current hiring process and where you’re looking to go as an organization, ask yourself, “Have we truly considered and prioritized making hires that are a fit for our company or just a fit for the position?”

“Do they truly align with our company culture?” And, “Are they going to bring enormous value to the organization and our clients?”

If you’re not sure (or if you’ve experienced a high turnover rate of talent as we once did at IMPACT), then maybe it’s time to revisit your approach to interviewing and the criteria you’re using to vet and select your employees.

Below, we offer insights into why finding a culture fit is so critical to growing your team and business, as well as tips on how you can evolve your current hiring process to make the best possible talent acquisitions (and ensure retention) moving forward.

Why Does Culture Fit Matter?

Your employees spend a substantial portion of their lives dedicated to work and building a career. If they don’t love the work they’re doing and the people they’re working with, that can quickly spiral into an undesirable work environment — which will inevitably lead to employee turnover.

As leaders and hiring managers, it’s important you take this into consideration and understand the impact hiring new employees can have on your existing team, their productivity, and the health and growth potential of your company.

If you’re looking to grow, it should be done with intention and your existing company culture in mind. Otherwise, you run the risk of making a bad investment and hire.

Here are a few critical reasons why making culture fit a priority and finding the “right” hire are so important to your business.

1.) Making a new hire is a major investment. You want to get it right the first time.

Hiring and onboarding a new employee is expensive. How expensive? Well, that cost varies by business, but there are a few factors that are universal.

First, let’s talk about the soft cost of time.

Once you’ve identified a hiring need, you’re probably looking to fill that position sooner than later. Until you are able to do so, this oftentimes means that other members of your team must own those responsibilities until you’ve got the new person in place.

Their time and happiness are important, but so is finding the right person to own that role. So while the need to fill an open position can create pressure to make a quick hire, it’s worth the wait to ensure you’ve made the right hire.

Otherwise, you might not actually provide the relief and support your team needs.

Going through a formal hiring process is time-consuming. Team members spend dozens of hours reviewing applications and resumes, coordinating and conducting interviews. This time compounds as you increase the number of people involved in the hiring process (which you should) to ensure the team working with the new hire feels confident in their capabilities and fit with the company.

Post-hire, the team will also invest significant time onboarding the new team member.

Having recently completed my own onboarding at IMPACT, I can speak first hand to this experience, and the amount of time and effort dedicated by my team to ensure I was set up for success.

Depending on the company and amount of time that can be afforded to getting you ramped up, onboarding can take weeks, if not months, to ensure you’re properly trained and acclimated. It involves multiple teams/departments, including HR, direct managers and peers, and other company leaders who commit to educating you and providing you with critical resources on the company culture, processes, technology, and your core job function.

Now, let’s factor in the hard cost of the financial investment.

Beyond an employee’s compensation package, there are multitudes of other financial commitments associated with bringing on a new person. These could include, but are not limited to:

  • Travel for interviewing and onboarding
  • Relocation/moving expenses
  • Technology and equipment (e.g. laptop, monitor, mobile devices, key fob, another desk, and office supplies, etc.)
  • Swag and more

For example, at IMPACT we not only invest in an on-site, in-person interview at the end of our hiring process to ensure it’s a good fit for company and employee, but we also bring each new hire in for a full week of on-site onboarding with the Connecticut team.

Beyond travel, each new employee is provided the technology needed for their day-to-day work (i.e. laptop, monitor, mouse and keyboard, headset, etc.), as well as some awesome IMPACT swag so they’re outfitted like the rest of the team.

2.) A bad-fit hire creates negative energy and decreased productivity/momentum for the team.

Have you ever worked with someone who just didn’t jibe with the rest of the team? Maybe they didn’t have a team-first mentality, participate in company activities or bring a positive, uplifting attitude to their work?

While it shouldn’t be a requirement that every employee be an A-team player and involved in every aspect of the company, it is important that the team be aligned at some level to share in that collective culture and purpose.

Even if a new employee can complete their job functions effectively, a negative attitude, infighting, and other distractions can drag down the rest of the team.

If the team dynamic shifts and creates a negative work environment for other employees, you could end up affecting the happiness of other team members, or worse...losing a valued team member entirely.

3.) Losing a great team member (or having a high employee turnover rate) is bad for team morale and business.

Losing a critical or valued team member is never easy. It not only creates issues from a workflow standpoint, but it can deeply affect the morale of your team and the confidence of your customers/clients.  

Additionally, the longevity of your employee base shows stability and can serve as a strong indicator to future applicants that you offer a career destination versus a job, which is something many employees are looking for when considering an employer. People want to be reassured that they can grow and evolve within your organization.

It’s also not cheap to lose a team member. On average, it costs 150% of a mid-level person’s salary to replace them. So when that $80,000 person isn’t a good hire, it costs the company an about $120,000 to bring in someone else (fingers crossed they’re a good hire!). This is certainly not great for the bottom line.

So why is it so important that you hire for a culture fit? Because making the right hire makes all the difference. Acquiring a great employee brings countless benefits, including:

  • Technical skill and increased team capabilities and expertise,
  • value beyond their core job function,
  • a positive work environment/team dynamic,
  • encouragement and inspiration of excellence, and so on.

How to Determine What “Culture Fit” Looks like at Your Company

Every company is different and should determine what the right “culture fit” looks like for them.

As a starting point, look inward at key company documents and values to place better definition and parameters around what a “culture fit” or ideal employee looks like. Specifically, consider the purpose of your organization and how each employee can contribute to that larger vision.

According to the Mercer Global Talent Trends 2018 Study, “Thriving employees are three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose.” By bringing your mission, vision, purpose, and value forward, prospective employees can gain an understanding of what the company stands for and determine whether or not they’re in alignment.

...”It's so important that we get culture fit correct in the hiring process at IMPACT that we have countless team members donate their time to the interviews. Candidates meet with everyone from the teammates they'd be working with to the CEO and many people in between. If everyone doesn't give a thumbs up on the person for culture fit it's a ‘no’.” - Natalie Davis, VP of Talent at IMPACT

Here are some elements and standards to consider that can inspire and best communicate your company culture to candidates:

  • Mission. Invest in employees who believe in the greater purpose of your organization. They believe that individual contributions enable us to realize that mission each and every day.
  • Vision. Look for team members who are committed to helping you reach and exceed organizational and team goals. Their drive and ideas are critical to growth and innovation.
  • Purpose and Passion. Identify candidates who will show up excited and be present — their energy and positivity are infectious. Fostering intangible passion and purpose, along with the right opportunities and guidance, will inspire your entire organization.
  • Value. Find employees who look to create enormous value — for the organization and those you serve.

While you can discuss these as an executive or leadership team, it may also be a good exercise to take several questions back to the broader team and get their perspective. You may be surprised to see that the company culture has taken on a personality and perspective of its own.

Consider posing the following questions to your current team:

  • What is the tone of our company voice?
  • What do we value as an organization?
  • What qualities do the best employees embody that help make our company an incredible place to work?
  • Describe a time when you felt excited or inspired working with a teammate? What about that experience helped foster those feelings?
  • Where do we want to be five years from now, and who do we need/want on the team that will enable us to get there?

Once you’ve collected thoughtful responses from your team, use their answers to help define the ideal team member and evolve your interview questions accordingly.

Incorporating the Right Questions and Evaluation into Your Hiring Process

As a company leader or HR professional, you’re likely familiar with the standard application and interview process.

Most companies have an established list of role or position-based questions to help you vet the technical capabilities of a candidate, but those basics won’t enable you to cut through the noise and determine whether or not an individual will be a culture fit.

Standard questions won’t help you determine if someone will mesh well with your existing team and customers, be receptive to feedback, exhibit emotional intelligence and professionalism, stick around for more than six months, or contribute to the larger mission and vision of the organization.

Start by reviewing your current list of interview questions, situational-based activities and so forth. You can also check out this helpful resource we created, “24 Interview Questions for Hiring Top-Performing Marketers.”

In summary, evaluate and evolve your hiring process with the following four tips:

  1. Select questions that align with your company mission, vision, purpose, and value statements.

  2. Find ways to determine if the candidate possesses the intangible traits of your best employees.

  3. Involve multiple team members in the hiring process to gain different perspectives and buy-in.

  4. Invest in an employee’s onboarding process to ensure they’re properly trained, educated and connected to the company from the onset. Making an incredible first impression will endear them to your organization.

Hiring new employees is an exciting time for any organization! It means you’re looking to achieve growth and success. And, identifying the best team members to help you get there is essential.

Remember it’s not just about the position and title you’re looking to fill, but rather the people who will make that role successful and bring enormous value to your business, existing team, and partners.

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