What is Cultural Fit?

10 February 2021
What is Cultural Fit?

‘Cultural fit’ is one of the most commonly heard phrases in the recruitment world today.

It’s also a phrase I hate.

Don’t get me wrong, hiring the right person is the smartest thing you could ever do for the future of your business. The problem I have with it is that cultural fit means different things to different organisations.

From my perspective…

Cultural fit is about hiring people who are on the same ultimate journey as you are. There’s a strong DNA that runs throughout a business. You’ve got a real vision of where you’re going, and you’ve got deeply ingrained core values. Incorporating this DNA into the hiring process is a good idea. It’s likely to result in the recruitment of individuals who perform successfully against the cultural values shared in the interview.

From another perspective…

Cultural fit is about hiring someone you like; someone you get on well with; someone you can have a few pints down the pub with. It’s become an excuse to hire very like-minded people. This may well be good for your social life, but it’s not always good for business. Just because someone supports Manchester United and drinks beer doesn’t mean they can bring diversity in thought, or drive business growth.

Cultural fit in startups and scale-ups

The latter perspective is something I often see from startups and scale-ups. And to be honest, it’s easy to see why. If you’re in startup mode or scale-up mode, it’s natural to have a very focused revenue-product mindset, with organisational values taking a back seat. Many of these businesses haven’t even invested in a chief human resources officer yet. This position is often instrumental in developing a strategic vision.

Startups and scale-ups are relying on having that ‘personal click’ for cultural fit hiring. But it’s time to shift the focus. I’m seeing fintechs that are now approaching being five years old; even ten years old. They’re still using this model, and they’re finding that they’re failing to secure the best possible talent.

Shifting the focus

I believe that we should throw the term ‘cultural fit’ out of the window, and replace it with ‘employee value proposition’. Creating an effective EVP means defining the working environment, understanding the core values of the business, identifying preferences for ways of working and communication, and developing a strong culture. It shifts the emphasis from social culture to workplace culture. Someone that fits in with your business is going to achieve more than someone who fits in with your social circle.

Diversity in recruitment

In recruiting for business fit, rather than personal fit, you’re not going to end up with an organisation filled with clones of yourself. You’re not going to have people that are all a carbon copy of each other. And that’s good.

Recruiting with cultural fit in mind isn’t about creating an office of like-minded friends; it’s about creating greater balance. It’s about looking at what your business lacks and bridging these gaps. It’s about introducing more diversity, not just in terms of background or ethnicity but in terms of ideas and innovation.

At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to drive success.

 

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