31 July 2014

Recruiting for culture fit

How can you make sure you hire someone who will work well with your team and fit within your organisational culture, as well as having the right skills?

When hiring a new member of staff, the traditional focus has been on their skills and whether they have the experience to do the job well (as well as impeccable references). Increasingly though, employers are putting more emphasis on how prospective staff will fit and contribute to their company culture.  This is what’s known as ‘culture fit’.

The term corporate culture has been around for a long time and it’s often associated with large, well established businesses, such as Microsoft, Google and Starbucks. These large employers have acknowledged the impact their corporate culture has had on their success and spend time and money to develop the right type of culture.  

However, this doesn’t mean that company culture doesn’t apply to smaller businesses.  There’s no point trying to emulate what the big players do, but by defining the culture of your business - whether you’re a start-up or an established small business, you define your mission and how you want your company to be perceived. 

What is your company culture?

There are many definitions for company culture, but a simple one is that it’s the shared attitudes, goals and behaviours that combine to characterise your company.  It’s not so much what you say you want your culture to be, but what your business actually does. Culture is built up over time, by the actions of your staff; it’s not about providing a pool table or funky furniture. However, the environment you create within the company does affect the culture. For example, start-ups often have casual dress codes, a fairly flat management structure and focus on embracing fun and work-life balance.

Having a defined company culture sets tangible expectations on behaviours and attitudes – both internally in terms of how you expect staff to behave and externally through what customers can expect from your business.

At Bizspace, we have reassessed our company culture and developed a mission statement and set of values we think all of our staff should reflect. To generate the values we organised workshops with our staff, so that everyone was involved and got a say in what they thought our values should be as a company.  The workshops gave our directors a real insight into how our staff view the company and it was really interesting to see common themes at the different workshops.

To embed the values within our company, we have quarterly values champions, where staff nominate their colleagues for demonstrating company values. It may sound a little clichéd, but everyone likes to know they’re appreciated for doing good work or for going above and beyond their role. Reminding everyone of our values also helps staff to appreciate one another more too.

Should you hire for attitude or aptitude?

Ideally you want both. It’s costly to hire the wrong person – you want someone who will fit within the company itself and project the right image, but they also need to fit on a personal level with the team they’d be working with and be able to carry out the role you’re recruiting for.

If you hire someone who is well-suited to your company culture but doesn’t have the skills you need, you may spend a disproportionate amount of money on training them to be able to do the job you hired them for, plus manage their workload while they got up to speed. Conversely, if you hire someone based only on their skills, if they don’t meld with your culture, you could end up with someone who creates rifts within the team or who ends up leaving within a year.

Where you place your emphasis may depend on the job role itself. If it’s a highly specific role, skillset may be more important, but if you’re looking for someone who will have a range of responsibilities, their compatibility with your company culture may be more important.

Tips on hiring the right person

  1. Ask behavioural questions in the interview that will allow you to judge the interviewee’s character. These could be to do with their ethics, how they handle mistakes, how they work as a team and how they make difficult decisions.  You could also ask them to informally meet with other team members after the initial interview to see how they interact in a more social situation. You could take this further and include onsite visits. For example, we sometimes ask prospective staff to mystery shop one of our locations, posing as a potential customer.
  2. Communicate the importance you place on your company culture. While this can be done during the interview process, ideally your culture will shine through at all points where the interviewee might have contact with your company. For example, the photos and tone you use on social media can help to paint a picture of what it’s like to work at your company as can the language you use to invite them to the interview and the way this is arranged. Conveying your culture helps to generate the right type of candidates. Plus, according to company Glassdoor, job seekers rate the importance of company culture just under salary, so it’s important for both parties.
  3. Encourage your existing valued staff to recommend candidates. Your employees are more likely to know who would be a good fit. Plus, research has found that people referred by other staff have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate, have higher job satisfaction levels and stay longer at companies.  Take a look at this interesting infographic from the Undercover Recruiter.
  4. Don’t hire just to fill the post. Be patient and only give someone the job if you think they’re right for both the role and the company. Often it’s better in the long run to wait and have the post vacant than hire the wrong person.
  5. Determine which skills are desirable and which ones you absolutely need. If someone has the right company fit and the main skills you need, consider whether you could train them up in the other skills you want them to have.
  6. Check out candidates social media profiles. You may already do this – many companies do. It allows you to see what they’re like outside of the interview setting.

Ultimately, including company culture in the hiring process can help to attract, select and retain the right staff, who will become ambassadors for your brand and help it to succeed and grow.  Did we miss a really good tip? Tweet us to let us know.