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Recruiting to Fit your Organisation's Culture

Posted on 23/09/2014 by Jo Hodge

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A common scenario

Imagine you hire a new employee who was fantastic on paper and in interview, with all the right qualifications and experience.  Yet they somehow fail to live up to their initial promise and never truly mesh with the rest of the organisation, leaving themselves and others demoralised and less productive. Their personality, working style and behaviour on the job are simply inconsistent with the values and expectations of your organisation.

This situation can be avoided by taking your organisation’s cultural fit into account in the recruitment stage.

What is cultural fit?

A not for profit organisation’s culture is made up of its vision and values, combined with the individual personalities and experiences of its employees and the way in which they work together.  It includes the work methods and management style employed by an organisation, its mission and methods and often unwritten rules of behaviour.

Cultural fit is the compatibility between an individual employee’s personality traits, work style, beliefs and attitudes and the organisation’s culture.

“Culture encompasses the shared, taken-for-granted assumptions that a group has learned throughout its history - values held in common that extend beyond the framed mission statement hanging in the lobby.” (Damian Zikakis, 2007)

The business case for hiring to fit your culture

When recruiting a new employee, it may appear vital that they have the required knowledge and skills for the role.  However, current knowledge and skill sets change over time and can quickly become redundant – an organisation’s culture is much more fixed and provides an anchor for its employees.  A new member of staff with the right cultural fit can develop their skills in the role, but their attitude and values are much harder to change.  Cultural fit cannot be developed, so it is imperative to take it into account during the recruitment process.

A candidate who fits into your organisation’s culture is likely to be more effective and create more value, and will probably stay longer with that organisation.  A new hire within a team should also help that team to work more effectively if they fit well.  In addition, if a new employee proves a bad cultural fit and leaves after a short period of time, you will have to spend more time and money recruiting again.

How to define your organisation’s culture

Before you can assess a candidate’s potential cultural fit, you have to be sure what your organisation’s culture is.  A not for profit’s culture is linked to its vision and values, so a good place to start is with the Trustees’ opinions on the organisations and their vision for the future.

This can be followed up with a questionnaire for staff members to assess their attitudes towards the organisation and its prospects, and to describe a typical personality type.  When recruiting new staff, you may not want to match this existing personality profile, but it is something you will need to take into account to ensure a good fit between employees.

More information on defining culture.

How to measure cultural fit

When recruiting, don’t just assume that your personal instincts will give you enough information about whether a candidate is likely to be a good cultural fit – these are frequently inaccurate.  There are several quantifiable methods to help you establish compatibility with your organisation’s culture.  Best practice is to involve a neutral third party who will help you make impartial assessments.

  • Obviously, a central part of a charity’s culture is its cause, making passion for that cause a key requirement for any new hire.  This should be relatively easy for a candidate to demonstrate through experience, volunteering and past instances of philanthropy.

  • Personality tests are a good way to measure how a candidate’s attitudes and beliefs mesh with an organisation’s culture.  The candidate fills in a questionnaire about their characteristics and the traits they would find appealing or unappealing in an ideal organisation.  This is then matched against the organisation’s culture to spot areas of alignment or disparity.

  • Asking behavioural questions during the interview process is also a key method of measuring cultural fit.  Candidates are presented with hypothetical dilemmas and asked to comment on how they would solve them, or asked to provide examples of similar situations and how they behaved.  There are many examples of competency-based interview questions on the TPP website.  Panel interviews are generally a good way to get a consensus of opinion on someone’s character, as an individual can easily be subjective.

  • Checking a candidate’s references is also a crucial step in the recruitment process.  You can ask referees the same questions you would ask the candidate in order to judge their cultural fit.

  • Other methods of determining how well a candidate will fit within a team and an organisation include onsite visits, trial work periods on a temporary or contract basis or pre-employment socialising with relevant staff members.

How TPP can help

TPP are experts in hiring for cultural fit.  When beginning each new assignment, our consultants work closely with you and your employees to gain a deep understanding of what skills and motivation the right candidate should have.  We then develop a bespoke package of recruitment solutions, including detailed job and person specifications and advertising options.  We interview all candidates prior to suggesting them to ensure that they have not only the necessary skills and experience, but also the right values and attitudes.

TPP also offer our clients additional psychometric and aptitude testing, to ensure all candidates are a good fit for the organisation prior to interview or offer.